Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Get ready for the spin ahead of Gen. Petraeus' September report. The LA Times' headline talks about "pullbacks," but if you read the article, it's not what you'd think when you hear the word "pullbacks" in the current context of discussions about the Iraq war. The pullbacks may occur in selected areas throughout Iraq, and the troops will simply be reassigned to other areas within Iraq. We are being softened up in the hopes that we'll accept whatever the report says.

But that is not the part of the article I wanted to post about this morning. It's the paragraphs at the end of the article that really caught my eye. For starters, the report will be written by the White House. Read on. (I've posted only the last few paragraphs of the article. If you want to read the whole thing, click on the headline.)

Top general may propose pullbacks

Petraeus is expected to tell Congress that Iraqis can assume duties in some areas, freeing U.S. troops for other uses.
Copyright: Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
August 15, 2007


"Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

The senior administration official said the process had created "uncomfortable positions" for the White House because of debates over what constitutes "satisfactory progress."

During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq's oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.

"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,' " the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to . . . just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.' "

The Defense official skeptical of the troop buildup said he expected Petraeus to emphasize military accomplishments, including improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods and a slight reduction in the number of suicide bomb attacks. But the official said he did not believe such security improvements would translate into political progress or improvements in the daily lives of most Iraqis.

"Who cares how many neighborhoods of Baghdad are secured?" the official said. "Let's talk about the rest of the country: How come they have electricity twice a day, how come there is no running water?"