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April 27, 2007
What He SaidBy Greyhawk
General Petraeus briefed House and Senate members this week. Perhaps surprisingly, the San Francisco Chronicle offers a fairly straightforward report
Top general in Iraq asks Congress for more timeSome Republicans had hoped to make political hay over the fact that Democrats originally planned to boycott the briefings before voting on their (choose one or more: "funding" "surrender" "massive pork") Bill
The vote came after a classified briefing by Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multi-national forces in Iraq, turned into a public spectacle surrounded by political charges and followed by two press conferences.Back then I pointed out that Republicans had nothing to gain from that.
Likewise, the Democrats have little to fear from attending hearings with General Petraeus. While they might not like what they hear, that will matter very little - because American voters aren't going to hear it anyway.Because the briefing was classified, all attendees are forbidden from sharing the specific details of its content. While they can describe what was said, that leaves us with only their characterization of the content.
WASHINGTON - Hours before the House of Representatives narrowly passed a $124-billion bill to fund the war in Iraq, the commander of the multinational forces there delivered a classified briefing to Congress.But while we can't know some specific details (future plans and operations) that were shared in that briefing, we can review the public briefing General Petraeus gave a few hours later:
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well good morning. It's good to be with you all, and nice to see some familiar faces here this morning. My purpose this morning is to provide a short update on the situation in Iraq, including a brief description of the operational environment, the challenges Iraq faces, and the status of our operations, and then to take your questions. This is similar to my briefings to the House and Senate yesterday afternoon, but without the classified information that I provided to them, obviously.
And we can compare the statements of all parties (or Parties) involved. Statements attributed to "Republicans" and "Democrats" below are from the St Petersburg Times coverage linked above. Quotes from General Petraeus are from the briefing above.
Let's dispense with this one right off. On how the debate in Congress might affect conditions in Iraq:
Democrats: It's helpful. Hoyer said he asked Petraeus about recent comments by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the congressional debate warns the Iraqi government that American patience and resources aren't unlimited. "It seemed to me that Gen. Petraeus certainly did not disagree," Hoyer said.
Republicans: It's harmful. "One thing that he reminded us was, this is a test of wills and he admonished us, reminded us that what we say to the world, to our adversaries and our allies, is listened to by the other side," Hunter said.
GEN. PETRAEUS: I have, as you know, in fact tried to stay clear of the political minefields of various legislative proposals and so forth...
He did add this comment: "Moreover, it is not a government of national unity. Rather, it is one comprised of political leaders from different parties that often default to narrow agendas and a zero-sum approach to legislation." - but he was talking about the Iraqi government.
Now on to the issues.
On the biggest threat to U.S. forces and stability in Iraq:
Republicans: Al-Qaida, the shadowy terrorist group responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and whose involvement with Iraq - later disproved - was cited by President Bush as a key reason to invade four years ago. Iran also is causing trouble.
"Al-Qaida, he made clear, continues to make this the central front in their war with us," Boehner said. "And I would remind everyone that we didn't start this war with al-Qaida, they started it. ... And they are the major foe that we face in Iraq today."
Democrats: Homegrown insurgents and the rampant violence between Sunnis and Shiites.
"Gen. Petraeus made it very clear that the sectarian violence was the most disruptive element," Hoyer said.
GEN. PETRAEUS: "Iraq is, in fact, the central front of al Qaeda's global campaign."
Q: You say that Iraq is now the central focus of al Qaeda's worldwide effort. Are you saying that al Qaeda in Iraq is now the sort of principal enemy of the U.S. forces stationed there?
A: I think it is probably public enemy number one.
On how the bill's timetable for withdrawal and benchmarks for the Iraqi government may affect conditions in Iraq:
Democrats: Positively. "Our belief that we must hold the Iraqis accountable for achieving real progress and establish a timetable for a responsible deployment of American forces was also reinforced" by the briefing, Hoyer said.
Republicans: Negatively. "I believe generally what was said by the general and others is that that would not be helpful to his cause, and, quite frankly, went on to say that it would be - it would hurt the very cause that we seek to win there," Boehner said.
GEN. PETRAEUS:I have, as you know, in fact tried to stay clear of the political minefields of various legislative proposals and so forth...
My sense is that there would be an increase in sectarian violence, a resumption of sectarian violence, were the presence of our forces and Iraqi forces at that time to be reduced and not to be doing what it is that they are doing right now.
On how the war is going, and whether the recent surge of U.S. troops to Baghdad is working:
Democrats: Badly. And it is clear peace will not be achieved militarily.
"This briefing reinforced our view that the solution in Iraq is a political solution," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "Our troops are mired in a civil war with no clear enemy and no clear strategy for success."
Republicans: Tough, but not so bad. "Considering where we are, I think the general feels good about the progress thus far in the reinforcements that are there, in the performance of the Iraqi troops," said Minority Leader John Boehner, D-Ohio.
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, added that the Iraqi military is making progress, and Iraqis soon may replace some Americans.
(And sorry - there's no way to reduce this further because there's a lot of equally important evidence presented) GEN. PETRAEUS: The situation is, in short, exceedingly challenging, though as I will briefly explain, there has been progress in several areas in recent months despite the sensational attacks by al Qaeda, which have, of course, been significant blows to our effort and which cause psychological damage that is typically even greater than their physical damage.
Now, this is not just because they want to fight against al Qaeda. It is also because of a very good and realistic appraisal of this situation, and that is that the Sunni Arabs lost out by not participating in the past. They lost influence in government. They lost influence, if you will, or participation, jobs in the Iraqi security forces, and I think they now recognize that they need to participate, they want to participate. And that is a very, very important development, again. And once again, this never could have -- the progress in Anbar would not have happened without that.
Those responses seem to favor the Republican's characterization of General Petraeus' remarks. So to be fair - the last word goes to Harry Reid:
General Petraeus is going to come to the Hill and make it clear to you that there is progress going on in Iraq, that the so-called surge is working. Will you believe him when he says that?
Posted by Greyhawk / April 27, 2007 11:52 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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