MoveOn, Anbar, and Lantos: Final Thoughts on the Petraeus and Crocker Hearing

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There’s not much I can add to Bruce’s excellent piece on the Petraeus/Crocker hearing, but I’ll throw some things out.

• It looks like MoveOn.org’s full-page ad in the New York Times calling Petraeus “General Betray Us” backfired. The Republicans repeatedly used it to make Democrats look like awful people who hate those in uniform, even though the Democrats joined the Republicans in slathering praise all over Petraeus all day long.

• General Petraeus started his testimony by saying, “This is my testimony… I wrote this testimony myself.” He was aware that people suspect him of carrying water for the administration.

• As the point man for political activity (as opposed to military activity) in Iraq, Ambassador Crocker had a much harder time pointing to successes than did Petraeus. He compared the debates and fights ongoing in the Iraqi government with earlier U.S. debates over civil rights and states’ rights. We shouldn’t ask if the Iraqis have resolved these debates, he said, but instead ask if the way they go about debating shows “seriousness.” Talk about a tough sell.

• After explaining how local leaders and citizens had turned against al Qaeda in Anbar, Crocker said “Shia extremists are also facing rejection.” He is trying to argue, while still remaining cautious, that Anbar’s success is going to be recreated elsewhere.

• Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki for his close ties to Iran. Isn’t this counterproductive to Lantos’ goals of building support for withdrawal? Lantos is more or less admitting that if we leave now, Iran will sweep in, a strong argument for staying the course. Lantos didn’t favor pushing Maliki out immediately, nor did he support waiting around until Maliki is pushed out Democratically. So what did he think would happen with Iran if we withdraw?

I was pondering the subject until I heard Lantos say this: “We need to send Maliki’s government a strong message, loud and clear. Removing a brigade is nothing more than a political whisper.” So that’s the solution – force Maliki to reform his ways by withdrawing troops (more than a brigade, as Petraeus suggests) and showing him America’s commitment to Iraq isn’t open-ended. But withdrawal won’t pressure Maliki to reform his ways; it’ll leave him happier than before, because it will allow him to strengthen the Shiites hold on power and allow his benefactors in Iran to increase their influence in the region.

Perhaps the Dems should drop this talking point? I’m probably too deep in the weeds here. Just thinking out loud.

• Finally, Crocker should win an award for coining the euphemism of the year: “post-kinetic environments.” That is, neighborhoods that have been destroyed by firefights and bombings. As in, “I lost my fruit stand. It was unluckily located in a post-kinetic environment.”

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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