FADED CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O STILL HAS A FEW FRIENDS LEFT.
BARRY BONDS TOOK TIME OUT FROM, PRESUMABLY, FILING A NEW APPEAL TO HIS LATEST FAILED APPEAL TO OVERTURN HIS CONVICTION, IN ORDER TO SEND BARRY O A CHRISTMAS GREETING.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE . . . BARRY O'S LOOKING LIKE A REAL LOSER.
The Washington Post's David Ignatius looks back on 2014 in terms of Iraq in a column which notes, "The problem, the tribal leader argued, was that because the United States was working so closely with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, Sunnis in Anbar doubted there was any U.S. commitment to giving them more power. Without this political commitment, weapons and even Apache gunships would be of little use."
He's referring to Sahwa.
Also known as "Awakening," "Sons of Iraq" (and it's female counterpart "Daughters of Iraq").
Sahwa's a complex issue that many want to turn simplistic. I'm not referring to David Ignatius, I'm referring to cheerleaders on various sides.
Sahwa was a US government plan to get Sunnis fighters -- resistance -- to big-tent it in Iraq.
By 2007, the Awakening movement was finally getting traction.
However, for over a year prior the US government repeatedly claimed success there when there was no success and many in the press ran with articles about this great new movement that did not exist.
On great. Some tribal leaders were like any other people on the face of the earth -- the mixture of positive attributes and faults. But equally true, some leaders of Sahwa -- at least two noted ones -- were mafia. Iraqi mafia. One, in fact, making big money in the cement industry.
That's part of it too and you can't talk about the history and be dishonest.
That's the leadership.
David Petraeus was a US general who was the top commander in Iraq. By 2008, a number of things were going on in Iraq resulting in a reduction of violence.
Sahwa was one component. Another was the 'surge.'
The 'surge' is something I have a real problem with. As late as 2010, I could hear someone on my side (the left) talk about the surge and dismiss it completely and think we could disagree and that was that. But the reality is, as the years have shown since, this is not an area where people are honest or thoughtful. This is a knee-jerk area with a lot of uninformed stupid people. If that seems simplistic, so does, in 2014, saying "The surge didn't work!"
I opposed the surge, check the archives. I called it out when it was proposed. I called it out when it was started. I said it would be a failure.
I was half-wrong and I was half-right.
The surge was two parts.
(1) Bully Boy Bush was greatly increasing the number of US troops in Iraq and (2) this was being done so that a 'diplomatic surge' would take place -- violence would be reduced and the US troops would be leading on that to allow the Iraqi politicians to focus on the always spoken of but never achieved "political solutions."
The US military did what they were tasked with.
I don't know why some on my side have a problem admitting that.
Check the archives, I said it wouldn't happen. I was wrong. I have no problem admitting that.
But part one, the success, was supposed to create the space for part two and that never happened.
This is a really important point because it's not just history from a few years back, it applies to today when Barack Obama is doing the same thing that Bully Boy Bush did, focusing on the military aspect and just assuming the political will fall into place all by itself.
At any rate, the reduction in violence came about for three reasons. The surge and Sahwa were two of those reasons. The third reason was ethnic cleansing.
Many still want to call it a civil war.
It wasn't and we didn't play like it was in real time.
Baghdad was 'cleansed' and went from an integrated city to one that is predominately Shi'ite.
The bulk of the external refugees of this period were Sunnis. The bulk of the dead were Sunnis.
You can play it off as 'civil war' for however many decades before you're comfortable admitting the US government's role in it.
But that's why violence began to decrease: Sahwa, the surge (the military aspect, the only success) and ethnic cleansing.
The reduction in violence was such a success that it distracted from the political failures which included Nouri al-Maliki -- then prime minister of Iraq and forever thug -- being unable to meet the White House defined benchmarks for success (which Nouri agreed to and signed off on).
To sell the continuation of the illegal war, April 2008 offered a week of The Petraeus and Crocker Show, where the then top-US commander in Iraq Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified to Congress repeatedly. By focusing on violence, they tricked the bulk of Congress (or maybe the bulk of Congress was in on the con? -- certainly some were) into talking about that and ignoring the lack of progress on the political front. (US House Rep Lloyd Doggett was the only one who, that entire week, used his questioning time to bring up the issue of the failed political benchmarks). We were at all the hearings that week and we'll drop back to April 8, 2008 for that day's snapshot:
Today The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour took their act on the road. First stop, the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are supposed to be providing a status report on the Iraq War. They didn't. In fact, Petraeus made clear that the status report would come . . . next September. When the results are this bad, you stall -- which is exactly what Petraeus did.
The most dramatic moment came as committee chair Carl Levin was questioning Petraeus and a man in the gallery began exclaiming "Bring them home!" repeatedly. (He did so at least 16 times before he was escored out). The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up. In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up.
How much lunch money is the US forking over? Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars). By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month. $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost". Again, in this morning's hearings, the top commander in Iraq explained that the US strategy is forking over the lunch money to school yard bullies. What a [proud] moment for the country.
Crocker's entire testimony can be boiled down to a statement he made in his opening statements, "What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible." Which would translate in the real world as nothing has really changed. During questioning from Senator Jack Reed, Crocker would rush to shore up the "Awakening" Council members as well. He would say there were about 90,000 of them and, pay attention, the transitioning of them is delayed due to "illliteracy and physical disabilities."
Sahwa was paid to stop attacking US equipment and US troops -- that was the order Petraeus repeatedly gave that week and where he placed the emphasis.
Could the movement exist without buy-offs?
If the payments stopped would the movement stop?
In 2008, I believed it wouldn't.
I was hugely wrong.
During that week, Senator Barbara Boxer noted the millions being spent on this program and wondered why the US government was footing the bill and not the oil-rich government of Iraq?
This took both Petraeus and Crocker by surprise and, realizing they a potential nightmare on their hands, they basically rewrote policy while testifying by insisting they could and would raise that with the Iraqi government.
Which was Nouri.
Nouri loved Iraqi money. Loved it so much, he took it home and played with it. Also known as embezzlement and theft.
But while he'd grab it for himself (and for his crooked son), he wasn't keen on using it to better Iraq. Which is why there was no improvement to Iraq's crumbling public infrastructure under Nouri -- despite his serving 8 years as prime minister.
He also didn't want to pay Sahwa.
But, more than money, his problem was that they were Sunnis.
When the US insisted on coward Nouri in 2006 -- insisted he become prime minister because the CIA analysis on Nouri argued his paranoia would make him an easily controlled puppet -- they pretty much doomed the country. (Barack sealed the doom by insisting, in 2010, that Nouri get a second term as prime minister even after he lost the election to Ayad Allawi.)
Nouri was back in Iraq not out of love for the country. Love didn't cause the coward to flee either. He hated Sunnis and he wanted revenge.
And though he was being told by the US government that he'd have to pay Sahwa and that he'd have to incorporate them into the Iraqi forces and into the Iraqi government, he had no intention of doing so.
And, in the end, he didn't.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"