Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

  Say goodnight to President Petraeus

Today Gen. David Petraeus was being questioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee about the quagmire in Afghanistan. As John McCain bemoaned that the US was planning not to extend indefinitely the surge Petraeus had wanted (on which see yesterday’s PR blitz by the Pentagon about vast Afghan mineral wealth), the general suddenly gawped and fainted. The hearing was suspended for a day to allow Petraeus to recover. He claimed afterwards that he was simply dehydrated…as if there were no beakers of water around.

With this public relations catastrophe, it’s now much less likely that Petraeus will be able to convert his apparent presidential ambitions into reality. For one thing, it raises further concerns about Petraeus’ physical fitness. Anyhow it’s simply not presidential to faint when you’re being asked difficult questions about your job performance, especially for a general. And, yes, Petraeus is painfully aware that his failure to stem the tide in Afghanistan is going to be a huge obstacle in his further ambitions.

I’ve never bought the hype about Petraeus’ supposed military genius and capabilities.

General Petraeus had built up the local police by recruiting officers who had previously worked for Saddam Hussein's security apparatus.

Although Mosul remained quiet for some months after, the US suffered one of its worse setbacks of the war in November 2004 when insurgents captured most of the city. The 7,000 police recruited by General Petraeus either changed sides or went home. Thirty police stations were captured, 11,000 assault rifles were lost and $41m (£20m) worth of military equipment disappeared. Iraqi army units abandoned their bases.

The general's next job was to oversee the training of a new Iraqi army. As head of the Multinational Security Transition Command, General Petraeus claimed that his efforts were proving successful. In an article in The Washington Post in September 2004, he wrote: "Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being re-established." This optimism turned out be misleading; three years later the Iraqi army is notoriously ineffective and corrupt.

General Petraeus was in charge of the Security Transition Command at the time that the Iraqi procurement budget of $1.2bn was stolen. "It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Iraq's Finance Minister, Ali Allawi, said. "Huge amounts of money disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."


In any case Gen. Petraeus’ regular interference in domestic politics, such as his infamous op-ed published late in the 2004 presidential campaign, and even more his intrusion into the political debates regarding proposed surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been dangerous for our democracy. The Founders of our Republic were rightly worried that military officers’ ambitions would destabilize the nation. Petraeus has not only pushed his ambitions to an extreme not seen perhaps since Douglas MacArthur, he has even gone so far as to provide misleading testimony to Congress to further those ambitions. In his September 2007 testimony on the surge in Iraq, Petraeus used falsified maps that seemed designed specifically to obscure the extent of ethno-sectarian cleansing that had gone on in Bagdad while he was in command. Petraeus has never alerted Congress to that falsification much less publicly corrected his testimony.

I don’t trust the man, and I’ll be happy to see any presidential ambitions go quietly into the night.

crossposted at unbossed.com

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