2007-08-28

Morning Report: August 28, 2007

Plus ca change ... Another Bush Administration shakeup, another "pro-family" politician in the slammer for indecency. In Iraq, building a police force proves a daunting task, while Democrats in the US ponder their next move.

Gonzales resigns. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned. 'Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ resignation Monday after months of draining controversy drew expressions of relief from Republicans and a vow from Democrats to pursue their investigation into fired federal prosecutors. President Bush, Gonzales’ most dogged defender, told reporters he had accepted the resignation reluctantly. “His good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons,” Bush said. The president named Paul Clement, the solicitor general, as a temporary replacement. ...' GayPatriot comments: 'AG Gonzo never impressed me much. I just hate that the Democrats invented the “US Attorneys Scandal” which was a lot of wailing about nothing.' Tammy Bruce: 'Good riddance. This will be my segment topic this morning for my usual Fox appearance at 10:20am ET. While the attorney firings which preceded this were completely legal, the handling of the entire episode was inept. The Iraq situation is somewhat parallel to this scenario--going in was the right thing to do, but the aftermath has been handled with rank incompetence. What are the chances the president will take Gonzales lead and resign.'

Idaho's Senator Larry Craig arrested. Senator Larry Craig (R - ID) was arrested following complaints of lewd conduct, and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. 'Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who has voted against gay marriage and opposes extending special protections to gay and lesbian crime victims, finds his political future in doubt after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from complaints of lewd conduct in a men's room.'

Standard: China hacks Berlin. Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard: 'Spiegel reports that Chinese hackers have targeted computer networks operated by the German government. "German security officials managed to stop the theft of 160 gigabytes of data which were in the process of being siphoned off German government computers," the magazine reports. And Chancellor Merkel, who is currently in China, apparently raised the issue with Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao. ... Earlier this year, military officials at the Naval Network Warfare Command told reporters that Chinese hackers "will exploit anything and everything" and that the nature of the attacks makes it "hard to believe it’s not government-driven.” It seems German officials have come to the same conclusion.'

Michael Totten: The future of Iraq. Michael Totten: 'Mushadah is a bad area with bad police and a bad police station. The building itself is filthy and ramshackle. The stairs to the second floor are murderously uneven, not because they’ve been damaged but because they were built by incompetents. I’ve seen dodgy construction in Iraq – even at Saddam’s palaces, believe it or not – but this station was the worst. I’ll spare you a description of the bathroom.' Read the article to find out how corruption and Sunni-Shi'a tensions complicate the mission, why tempers flare when three fuel cans go AWOL, and how life as a US Army officer in an Iraqi police station compares with a career as an investment banker.

Helicopters on the roof. Neo-neocon:
But something funny happened on the way to General Petraeus’s September 2007 report to Congress: the surge began to work.

And now the Democrats face a different prospect if the trend continues: they may have to acknowledge that they were wrong in opposing the surge (in certain cases, in writing it off before it truly began). They might even lose the 2008 election as a result. Or, if victorious, they would have to make tough decisions about how to prosecute the rest of the war. If the latter occurs they will, ironically, find themselves in what might be called “the Nixon position”—that is, they’ll have to decide how to finish a difficult war that another party’s administration began.

Iraq has been rife with Vietnam analogies from the start, and Congress’s evaluation of the surge’s chances is no exception. A key image from Vietnam was that of the famous helicopters on the roof, a scene representing the chaotic and shameful abandonment of our allies there.

That memory was invoked early on in Iraq by none other than Saddam Hussein who, according to this article by Melvin Laird, played the images over and over on Iraqi television during the buildup to the Iraq war in order to remind his population not to trust a United States that had a history of abandoning those whom it sought to liberate.

The same image was recalled by Sen. Joseph Biden when the surge was being proposed in January of 2007. Biden was adamantly against the troop increase, stating his concern that the Bush administration’s motive for the change in policy was to postpone the bitter end in Iraq so that the next President (presumably a Democrat?) would “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.”
Now that the Democrats—including the Presidential candidates—are beginning to realize that the war is probably going to last until at least the January 2009 inauguration to which they’ve been counting down so vigorously and so hopefully, it behooves them to consider how they will handle the situation if they are in charge of Congress and/or the Presidency at that time.


Commentary. I'm going to come back to Michael's post, which he titles simply "The Future of Iraq." One of the themes that keeps coming through is that while individual assessments of the overall situation vary, those people with the most "boots-on-the-ground" experience seem to be the most upbeat.
“I am optimistic,” [Col. Steele] said. “But only for one single reason. Because I talk to the average Joe in Iraq. I meet the children and parents. Iraqi parents love their children as much as I love mine.”

I knew what he meant. Counterintuitive and contradictory as it may seem, I never felt more optimistic in Iraq than I did when I walked the streets and interacted with average Iraqis. Iraq looks more doomed from inside the base than it does outside on the street, and it looks more doomed from across the Atlantic than it does from inside the base.

And:
“Are you optimistic about [the Iraqi Police]?” I said.

“Oh, absolutely,” [an International Police Advisor] said. “The Iraqi Police are like sponges. It’s all new to them.”

“Lots of American soldiers I’ve talked to about the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police don’t think very highly of them,” I said.

“Look,” he said. “The other contractors I know who train the police are also optimistic. Many file extensions to stay longer because they feel like they’re making a difference. I never hear anything negative from any of them. We watch the Iraqis progress over time because we work with them daily. Most American soldiers don’t see the progress because they observe the Iraqis from more of a distance. You yourself are only seeing a snapshot in time. If you think it looks bad now, you should have been here two months ago.”