Michael Ware, the best war-time correspondent broadcasting from Baghdad, tried to remind his CNN colleagues covering the Petraeus-Crocker extravaganza that “the war is not a campaign event.” During this valiant but vain effort, Ware said: “I have come almost directly from the war…some people are living this thing.”
Ware, who is seldom caught off-guard by events in Iraq, and who’d been briefly held captive by al Qaida, is still a world away from the reality of American politics. The made-for-television event, down to the crush of reporters and canned performances from the presidential candidates, dismayed the tough reporter in that it was “more about the campaigns than about the war itself.”
Against this background, both amusing and macabre, Gen. David H. Petraeus put on a bravura performance. Petraeus, acting as a military man-cum-unelected policy maker, defended a pie-in-the-sky policy over and above an unviable military mission. It was something to behold how Petraeus managed to pull back from the unconstitutional abyss each time he was about to enunciate the policy he was manifestly promoting, if not crafting.
Petraeus’ Princeton smarts, however, did little to pierce his bafflegab about equations, this or the other co-efficient, “battlefield geometry,” and “non-linear” political progress.” All in all, we were informed that security in Iraq was “significantly better,” but still “fragile and reversible.” The surge had worked, but not well enough to allow a significant drawdown of troops. The troops would stay, at least until the changing of the guard in November.
Bush’s boy in Baghdad has given the president the backing for a policy the American people have repudiated. It is well-known that Bush regularly bypasses Petraeus’ superiors, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen. They both understand “the broad view of our national security needs … and the risks posed by stretching the force too thin,” countered Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. To preclude that “broad view,” Bush has habitually sidestepped the chain of command. Chain of command, separation of powers, limited and enumerated powers—winking at those fundamentals is all in a day’s work for W.
But boy, did Clinton corner Ryan Crocker! Hillary exposed the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and his bosses for the extraconstitutional sham they’re running. It transpires that the government of Iraq intends to ask the Iraqi parliament to vote on whether to provide the legal authority for U.S. troops to continue to conduct operations in Iraq. Why in bloody blue blazes, Clinton demanded to know, was this administration not asking the United States Congress to vote on that too?
Had Obama so deftly exposed the way in which the administration is shunting aside the American people and their (lame) representatives, you’d never have heard the end of it. In response, Crocker predictably consigned to the executive branch decisions to be rightfully made by “We the People.” The Decider decides under the Bush administration’s constitutional scheme. The “advise-and-consent procedure” would not be required in this matter, ma’am, quipped Crocker in Orwellian: “We intend to negotiate this as an executive agreement.”
Indeed, Petraeus had already informed the president he’d like to “wait until the summer” before deciding whether to reduce troops or not. Bush has fixed the policy around Petraeus. Both have already shaken hands over the “agreement.”
Most Americans are unaware that there’s anything wrong with the way our executive dictatorship does business on our behalf. What they know about the powers of the people, the separation of powers, and the imperative of checks and balances is positively dangerous—almost as dangerous as McCain’s knowledge of al-Qaida.
When cementing his open-ended commitment to usher in Utopia in Iraq—”a peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic state that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists”—McCain also demonstrated his inability to tell Shiite from Shinola:
McCain: There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view Al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
Petraeus: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
McCain: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall?
Al-Qaida international and Al-Qaida Iraq are Sunni. Call them Wahhabis, Salafis, Takfiris, if you like, but not Shiites!
From then on it was all downhill. Clinton complained that “the longer we stay in Iraq, the more we divert resources not only from Afghanistan, but other international challenges, as well.” The lady would prefer to deficit spend elsewhere in the world; pursue a more Democratic “mission” or “war.”
Obama hedged his words, offering meekly that the US invasion was a “massive strategic blunder.” Is that all it was?
This war was first and foremost an injustice—a massive moral failure. For how else does one describe the wi
llful, unprovoked, ruinous attack on a Third World country, whose military prowess was a fifth of what it was when hobbled during the gulf war, and which had no navy or air force, and was no threat to American national security?
©2008 By Ilana Mercer