Dumb like a Maliki?

by Jeff Huber

Remember when we all thought Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Malachi was just another Ahmed Pyle fresh off the bus from Palookadad?Now look at him: he’s a Machiavelli-class political operative, the head of a propped up state who just told his masters to drive it up their exit ramps by demanding that they honor the Status of Forces Agreement whether they like it or not.

Keep in mind, though, that in 1980 Saddam Hussein sentenced Maliki to death.Now Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death and executed, and Maliki has his job.How about them apples?Maliki is so powerful today, in fact, that he may be the only political figure who can help Barack Obama—the head of state of the most powerful nation in history—out of the crack he’s wiggled himself into.

The warmongery that controls the Pentagon and Congress never did take any of that Iraq withdrawal timeline jive seriously.Defense secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, National Security Adviser James Jones, “King David” Petraeus and Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno are all on record as having said withdrawal timelines are a bad idea.Odierno has, through Petraeus publicist Tom Ricks, broadly expressed his desire to see 35,000 or more troops in Iraq through 2015, Status of Forces Agreement and Obama campaign promises be damned.Early in April, Odierno put out the word that he might ignore the June 30 deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities, and it looked like another domino was about to drop in the Pentagon’s “hell no, we won’t go” strategy.Then Maliki said “not so fast,” and told Babe Odierno to have his troops out of Mosul and the rest of the cities by the end of June and that they couldn’t go back without a hall pass.

Two aspects of this event should shock every American.First is that Odierno, who is four levels down in the chain of command (under Obama, Gates and Petraeus) announced he might unilaterally abrogate an occupation arrangement agreed to at a level higher than his.Second, and perhaps more alarming, is that the only guy who threw the bull plop flag about it was the prime minister of the occupied country.Nobody in the White House or Congress did anything but put palm prints on the seats of their pants. The military’s take over of America is now so complete that the Buck Turgidsons and Jack D. Rippers can do whatever they want and the rest of the body politic demurs as if it’s the Pentagon’s Constitutional right to dictate policy to the executive and the legislature.

There’s one political journalist, though, who’s willing to pretend the Obama administration hasn’t been rolled flat by the military industrial cash caisson.With his article in the May 14 edition of Rolling Stone, Robert Dreyfus has become for Team Obama what Tom Ricks is for Team Petraeus and what Joseph Goebbels was for you-know-who.“Obama’s Chess Masters” is as a stunning a piece of White House propaganda as anything Dick Cheney’s minions ever filtered through the New York Times.“The president has assembled a trusted circle of advisers to oversee all aspects of national security from the White House,” Dreyfus blares in the lede.“It’s the most centralized decision-making I’ve ever seen,” one source tells him.G.W. Bush let Cheney and Rummy run the show and make all the decisions, Dreyfus reports, but not Obama.No sir.Obama is the, uh…decider in this administration.

Dreyfus manages to make Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller of the New York Times look like real journalists in comparison.His sources include “a well-connected defense and intelligence consultant,” “a senior Capitol Hill staffer,” “an insider,” “several insiders,” “one veteran of both the State Department and the Pentagon” and—perhaps the most credible voice in the article—“the Washington rumor mill.”

The piece’s named sources are so blatantly sleeping in the commander in chief’s tent that Dreyfus might as well have just asked Michelle who she thought was running the show.Leslie Gelb, who hasn’t been right about a single aspect of U.S. foreign policy from Vietnam on, avows that, “They’re making decisions there, at the White House.On everything.”Dreyfus paints National Security Adviser Jones as the kind of hard-boiled hawk the neocons better not mess with.“He’s pro nuclear” Dreyfus relates.“He likes oil drilling.”As if those right wing crackers credentials weren’t sufficiently malignant, Dreyfus throws in “He was on the boards of Boeing and Chevron.”Shudder.

William Cohen, whose chief accomplishment as Bill Clinton’s defense secretary was to hide in his office while his generals cocked up the Kosovo War, testifies that during his tenure he wanted James Jones on his team because “he knew where the bodies were buried, and I wanted to make sure that mine wasn’t among them.”It sounds like Cohen is still afraid enough of Jones to play ball with Obama’s spin merchants and make the guy sound like a Cheney-class leg breaker.Scary, huh kids?

From Dreyfus himself (supposedly) we hear that “The foreign policy vision that animates Obama and his team might be described best as a ‘Goldilocks’ approach: not too hot, not too cold.It’s a just-right philosophy.”Jesus, Larry and Curly.Do you think they had to waterboard Dreyfus to get him to paste that piffle into the article?

All this smoke about Obama’s national security team being large and in charge would be well and good except that they’ve already revealed themselves to be a team of bus riding Bozos.Their most spectacular pratfall has been their mumbling, bumbling, tumbling, fumbling Bananastan strategy.Get this:

During the campaign, Obama screws up and says that whatever success the surge in Iraq might have had (it really had none), it got in the way of putting enough troops into Afghanistan to “get the job done.”The Pentagon’s long war mafia chortles with glee, and the next thing you know, David McKiernan, the general in charge of the Bananastan bungle, says he needs at least 30,000 more troops for five more years or so.Gates and Mullen and the Joint Chiefs say, Yeah, yeah, he really, really needs those troops, give them to him, okay?So Obama asks the Joint Chiefs what they see as the “end game” in Afghanistan and they start staring at something a thousand yards behind Obama’s head.Obama calls McKiernan in Afghanistan and asks him what he plans to do with the 30,000 extra troops and McKiernan says, “Hey, somebody’s at the door.”

Then Obama hunkers down with his chess club, and they decide that the best compromise between doing nothing to doing something stupid is doing something half-baked.Obama agrees to send McKiernan a little over half the troops he wants—17,000—and tells his team to come up with a strategy for the generals who are apparently so busy fighting wars they can’t be bothered with planning them.

On March 17, Obama’s national security team releases the new strategy for the Bananastans; it’s an eye-watering compendium of fog, friction and humbug.It features an array of “realistic and achievable objectives,” none of which are realistic or achievable or particularly connected to national security.

The New York Times quoted “A dozen officials who were involved in the debate” as saying the new strategy does not involve nation building, even though its aims include things like “promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan” and “developing increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces” and “assisting efforts to enhance civilian control and stable constitutional government in Pakistan.”You know—nation building.The strategy also speaks of denying al Qaeda and other Islamofabulists “sanctuary” from which they can launch terror attacks.The notion that evildoers need a physical sanctuary is quainter than a tea cozy.Given the global proliferation of cheap communication equipment and even cheaper extremists eager to blow themselves to smithereens, the top terror guys can plan and execute attacks from a bleacher seat in the Himalayas or the Cannes Film Festival or the far side of the moon.

As Obama transitions from his 100-day honeymoon into his permanent bubble, I can’t help but wonder whether he knows he’s surrounded by fools and fanatics or if he’s been in the puzzle palace long enough now to have become as puzzled as everyone else in it.

Does he take what his loonies say seriously?I really want to think he puts on an elaborate show of listening to what they say, then shoos them out of the office, and calls up guys like al Maliki and says, “Listen, I need you to do me a favor.”

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy(Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff’s novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

15 replies »

  1. So Pakistan has a really strong army and can defend its nuclear capability adequately from Taliban and related forces. But what happens if the political ideology of the Taliban reaches political ascendancy in Pakistan and starts to call the shots big time? I have yet to reach a stage where I think the ‘loonies’ in and around Obama are more to be feared than the loonies inside and over the borders of Pakistan.

  2. As I commented at Pen & Sword, that was one red-hot article. That sure doesn’t sound like Dreyfuss. I wonder if he’s soft-pedaling his usual progressive reporting to get back into the good graces of Rolling Stone, for which he was once its national security columnist. (When Taibbi panned out in a big way, maybe RS didn’t think it was big enough for the two of them.)

    Now I don’t want him back.

  3. Elaine,

    I didn’t get around to mentioning it in this article, but Team Obama’s Bananastan strategy doesn’t say jack about nukes, so my point about the chess club and its plans is, I think, still valid.

  4. Elaine, the situation in Pakistan is far more complicated than what comes through the media filter. To gain control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the Taliban would have to either take over Pakistan or gain ascendancy across both religious and ethnic divides. (With the former requiring the latter.)

    Besides, the military-industrial-executive decision complex that Jeff wrote about wants you to be terrified of the Taliban (a term so broad in media usage as to be useless) and the idea of them getting Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. If you fear it, you’ll accept them doing “whatever’s necessary” to keep you safe…which means permanent war half way around the world.

    Besides that, the Taliban have – traditionally – shown little interest in anything outside of Afghanistan. (and the Pashtun provinces of Pakistan) The connection between the Taliban and the bogeymen we call Al Queada has always been tenuous…right back to the Soviet War. Moreover, the haven that the Taliban (a somewhat different Taliban than we’re currently fighting) gave to bin Laden is also more complicated than the standard media narrative.

    You’ll be better served by taking what Jeff says so humorously very seriously and assuming that what you get from “the media” is a pack of MIC serving lies. Some portions of the US government do not change with an election…

    • Lex – isn’t the Pakistan issue less about the nuclear weapons and more about the basic, raw nuclear material? (Which, of course, you can still raise all kinds of hell with?)

  5. Jeff

    Your article is excellent – no doubt.

    However, Obama has access to the best intelligence, the most up to date information, the best technology, the best analysts available…and is in charge of American National Security. You and the media do not know what he/they know. I take Obama’s stewardship of National/Western Security on trust – he was legitimately voted in and he has popular worldwide support. As he (O) is neither stupid, ignorant or cynical I think his judgement cannot be sullied at this stage of the game.

    Nukes is the number 1 security concern even if not mentioned. Sure, if your local backwoodsman living in the mountains is throwing stones, killing women and stopping progress only in his little area and is contained then National/World Security issues for every other country are not really an issue.

    …but backwoodsmen multiply and pass on their idiotic/dangerous views and get into politics all the time.

    Wonder how the Bush is doing…

  6. For the amount of hell you can raise with nuclear material–i.e., build a dirty bomb–you can raise a lot easier without exposing yourself to the material.

  7. Sam, i believe that the issue is about both…but that’s only if i’m reading the articles correctly.

    Elaine, if you’re going to take it on faith then there’s no reason for me to argue with you because information (current or historical) and rationality have nothing to do with it. However, the “best analysts, information, etc.” is something of a stretch. This is the same structure that couldn’t see the fall of the USSR coming, couldn’t see 9/11 coming, convinced America that Iraq had WMD, and a list along these lines that could keep me typing all day long.

    But i’m sure that President Obama is happy to have you support for the Long War. Leaders always appreciate unquestioning subjects who don’t bother with facts.

  8. ‘scuse me if I fail to see the evils in the current administration.

    If you have no faith at all in Obama and his people then I cannot even begin a dialogue with you. Until Obama actually does something that causes a breach of trust/faith with regard to his legitimate mandate then he will continue to have the majority support and goodwill (and how important that is right now when making judgement calls on our modern day Goliath) worldwide.

  9. Ok, no dialogue then. By “his people” i’ll assume that you mean men like Secretary Gates of Iran-Contra fame. Obama and his people certainly have the goodwill of the neocons; they love his AfPak plan and have said so publicly.

    Now, the Pakistanis who’ve lost hundreds to Obma’s Predator strikes inside a sovereign nation (that’s an act of war, btw) might not fall into that majority support and goodwill…but they don’t really count, do they? And i’m sure that none of that has anything to do with destabilizing Pakistan…how could it with Obama being such an uncynical, intelligent man of good will. The Pakistanis are probably comforted by Obama being surrounded by the best intelligence and analysts in the world…so good that they manage to blow up three weddings for every “Al Queada” suspect.

    It was said that the British AfPak policy during the Great Game was the result of “half-hearted Imperialists and uninformed Liberals”. Funny how history repeats itself, no?

    No worries, i understand that you don’t really want a dialogue but to be made to feel better about Obama. Best not to look too deeply at matters and things will be fine.

  10. Lex, try and refrain from being too personal…it rather defeats any attempt of establishing an objective argument/dialogue…

    …and as I stated previously I have no argument with Obama and his leadership.

    But I shall keep swimming in the water – you never know I may attempt the deepest oceans any moment now.

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