Ground Truth in Iraq

Among all the posturing by General Petraeus last week, the testimony of another General (Ret.) William Odom before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee did not receive much attention. That’s unfortunate, because Odom is very close to many of the ground commanders in Iraq. He spoke, in the vernacular, “the ground truth.” Here’s a little of what he said.

On the Sunni Awakening Councils:

Their break with al Qaeda should give us little comfort. The Sunnis welcomed anyone who would help them kill Americans,including al Qaeda. The concern we hear the president and his aides express about a residual base left for al Qaeda if we withdraw is utter nonsense. The Sunnis will soon destroy al Qaeda if we leave Iraq. The Kurds do not allow them in their region, and the Shiites,like the Iranians, detest al Qaeda. To understand why, one need only take note of the al Qaeda public diplomacy campaign over the past year or so on internet blogs. They implore the United States to bomb and invade Iran and destroy this apostate Shiite regime.
As an aside, it gives me pause to learn that our vice president and some members of the Senate are aligned with al Qaeda on spreading the war to Iran.

Let me emphasize that our new Sunni friends insist on being paid for their loyalty. I have heard, for example, a rough estimate that the cost in one area of about 100 square kilometers is $250,000 per day. And periodically they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased. You might want to find out the total costs for these deals forecasted for the next several years, because they are not small and they do not promise to end. Remember, we do not own these people. We merely rent them. And they can break the lease at any moment. At the same time, this deal protects them to some degree from the government’s troops and police, hardly a sign of political reconciliation.

On the President’s Victory Scenario:

We are being asked by the president to believe that this shift of so much power and finance to so many local chieftains is the road to political centralization. He describes the process as building the state from the bottom up. I challenge you to press the administration’s witnesses this week to explain this absurdity.Ask them to name a single historical case where power has been aggregated successfully from local strong men to a central government except through bloody violence leading to a single winner, most often a dictator. That is the history of feudal Europe’s transformation to the age of absolute monarchy. It is the story of the American colonization of the west and our Civil War. It took England 800 years to subdue clan rule on what is now the English-Scottish border. And it is the source of violence in Bosnia and Kosovo.

How can our leaders celebrate this diffusion of power as effective state building? More accurately described, it has placed the United States astride several civil wars. And it allows all sides to consolidate, rearm, and refill their financial coffers at the US expense.

Odom believes we must withdraw “rapidly, but in good order”. To those who say chaos will follow, he responds.

We heard that argument as the “domino theory” in Vietnam. Even so, the path to political stability will be bloody regardless of whether we withdraw or not. The idea that the United States has a moral responsibility to prevent this ignores that reality. We are certainly to blame for it, but we do not have the physical means to prevent it. American leaders who insist that it is in our power to do so are misleading both the public and themselves if they believe it. The real moral question is whether to risk the lives of more Americans. Unlike preventing chaos, we have the physical means to stop sending more troops where many will be killed or wounded. That is the moral responsibility to our country which no American leaders seems willing to assume.

Third, nay sayers insist that our withdrawal will create regional instability. This confuses cause with effect. Our forces in Iraq and our threat to change Iran’s regime are making the region unstable. Those who link instability with a US withdrawal have it exactly backwards. Our ostrich strategy of keeping our heads buried in the sands of Iraq has done nothing but advance our enemies’ interest.

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0 Responses to Ground Truth in Iraq

  1. STS says:

    This truth has been staring us in the face for five years now. But nothing avails the kingdom when a fool wears the crown.

  2. Morgan Warstler says:

    I’d be much more likely to weigh Odom’s views if they were new.

    It seems obvious to all concerned the facts on the ground are different than 2005 and 2007, when Odom was less vociferous than today.

    That makes no sense to me, why get louder about the problems when there are less of them?

  3. Dan says:

    He puts his finger on the central point: We pay them, a lot, not to kill each other, or us.

    That’s our idea of state building. After FIVE YEARS.

    Does anybody remember the rhetoric from the right in 2004 and 2005? In a nutshell: The press won’t cover the good news in Iraq, like, all the roads and schools and clinics and hospitals and bridges and libraries we’re building.

    I think we know where that public construction money went.

  4. P. Cross says:

    I believe that it was General Giap that said that the best division he had during the war was the anti-war movement in the US and how incouraged they were by it. Hanoi Jane now has a lot of company on that anti-aircraft gun.

    This is not to say she was right or wrong, it is what it is and we all have to live with it. Again

    One of the things that was best about gulf war one was that it was over before politicians could screw it up. Actually they screwed it up by ending it.

    I don’t understand how Dick Cheney missed that, actually If he had still been in charge of the defense department I don’t think it would have happen the way it did.

    That oughta do it. Know who wants to win this war?

  5. P. Cross says:

    Whoops, my bad, Now who wants to win this war?

  6. Zhirem says:


    You stated: “The press won’t cover the good news in Iraq, like, all the roads and schools and clinics and hospitals and bridges and libraries we’re building.”

    Well, that was because the insurgents kept blowing them up before the news crews could get on-site and get the lights set up and the cameras rolling.

    P. Cross – Perhaps I am under-caffeinated this morning, and am missing your point. Are you saying that the American people should not be against this war?

    Also, the politicians screwed up the Gulf War by ending it? Actually, that may have been one of the more salient things George H. W. Bush ever did. He knew that if he went into Baghdad it would be bloody, street-to-street, urban warfare. Lots of boots in bodybags. Please enlighten me as to what you mean by the screwed it up by ending it? The collective armies and forces aligned against Iraq for one purpose: kicking them out of Kuwait. We did that. Then we came home. And the American people did *not* foot most of the bill. Please inform me on what level you see that as screwed-up?

    Lastly, would you please, give me an idea of what a ‘win’ looks like with this war? Dumbya certainly never has given the American people a view of what ‘win this war’ looks like. Sure we had the flight deck landing of Commander Codpiece, and the banner of truth up on the tower of that ship, but I (for at least one American), would like to know what ‘win’ is. What does it look like? What are the conditions for it? When can we make the calculation that the conditions represent ‘win’ and we can bring home our troops and stop the pouring of our collective wealth, gold and spirit into the endlessly thirsty sands of Mesopotamia?

    Morgan – I wonder if any of us really know the ‘facts on the ground’. I mean in any real sense, enough to provide worthwhile commentary. One of the more sage sources of information that I have found on Iraq is Juan Cole. It is listed in Jon’s blogroll on the right side of the page here.

    Violence in some aspects is down (respectively), and that is true. Deaths of American troops are down (respectively), and that is true. Could some of that be attributed to the stratification of the society, and the establishment of impromptu enclaves of like religious / societal peoples?

    I am not looking for the road-apple in the strawberry patch. I just don’t trust the ‘leaders’ in charge on any side to tell us the God’s honest truth anymore. Not the press. Not a uniformed military. Certainly not my President.

    However, I do suppose that this administration has done *some* good, in the very least sense of the word: they have refined and honed the skeptical nature of countless Americans, myself included.

    – Zhirem

  7. Armand Asante says:

    Morgan Warstler:
    “It seems obvious to all concerned the facts on the ground are different than 2005 and 2007, when Odom was less vociferous than today.”

    That makes no sense to me, why get louder about the problems when there are less of them?

    Maybe because he can see beyond this current lull – such as it is.
    maybe ’cause things have NOT gotten better since 2005 and 2007.
    Or he figured the only thing left to say now is the truth. And that it needs to be said bluntly – because no one listened in 2005 or 2007 when he “was less vociferous than today”.

    I’m sorry, but that statement of yours deserves a non-argument prize of some sort.
    Even you don’t sound like you believe there’s any merit to it.

  8. pond says:

    Morgan Warstler:

    “It seems obvious to all concerned the facts on the ground are different than 2005 and 2007, when Odom was less vociferous than today.”

    The comments re: ‘Awakening Councils’ are based on what has happened since spring 07. When President Bush announced his escalation of the war in January 07, the tactic of buying local tribal leaders had been in place for a couple of months. Since then, Odom says, it has grown — and the tribal leaders have been asking for more cash and weapons.

    It would have been, maybe, a success and an aid to ‘reconciliation’ had it been brief and limited; violence goes down, the Shiite parties accommodate the Sunni Arabs a bit more, fold them into the national army, and so on. But this (per Odom) has not been happening. Instead a sort of ‘Kurdistan of the West’ has been created, as we give the Sunni Arabs more weapons and money, and they in turn agitate for more autonomy just like the Kurds have in the north. This leads to Senator Biden’s ‘soft partition’ which might work, but is more likely to lead to a lot more warfare and strife.

    This sort of triple partition might come about in the end, but as Odom notes, history points the other way: some tyrant killing and subjugating his rivals by force of arms, and ruling the whole country with thugs and armies. Saddam II if you will.

    I do expect Kurdistan to be declared, but along the way is the stumble over Kirkuk. A referendum was legally required to be held in Kirkuk last December, it was put off to July I think, and it might be put off yet again.

    The Sunni Arabs are still waiting for the promised changes to the Constitution.

  9. Ken Ballweg says:

    There are WarHawks, and ChickenHawks, is it possible that there are OstrichHawks?

    What sort of brain damage is required to prevent people from learning from history? America was not hurt by withdrawing from Vietnam. Yes there was human damage, but the notion that America suffered as a result is disingenuous at best, delusional at worst. People were re-educated, imprisoned, dislocated, but a hell of a lot less Vietnamese were killed after the fall of Siagon than before.

    As for damage to the US?? Some bozos who think of life in terms of sports aphroisms (i.e. winning is everything) are still bemoaning the failure of the US to totally crush the North Vietnamese by any means possible. As with the current administration, your genocide is bad, my genocide is partiotic. Your war crimes are reprehensible, mine are patriotic. What tripe.

    Again, how did the US get harmed by shutting down the waste of lives, equipment, and pointless debt by pulling out of Vietnam? Were you personally impacted in any way other than your jingoistic pride?

    Granted, if you are a Viet Vet, your frustration for the lack of support at home is understandable, but if you didn’t actually serve in that war, tell me specifically what damage ending it did to the country.

  10. P. Cross says:

    Winning = being victorious. The wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, sons and daughters that were ground into hamburger on 911. How do you think they would define winning? Maybe when all the terrorist are dead and sprayed with pigs blood. Maybe that’s too insensitive, but I did have a flash back to Americans jumping to their death instead of being burned alive.

    One of the arguments put forth by the left is that we had to few troops on the ground to get the job done this time. This would not have been and issue in the 1st. Gulf war. Not going to Baghdad was tantamount to stopping at the French border in WW2. This was a decision based on PC. I feel it demonstrated a fundamental weakness on “W’s”/our part. We don’t seem to realize that the Moslems spell negotiation “nuts”

    Body bags eh! Well they could have stacked them right next to thousands of body bags from the first 100 hrs.

    We have a duty to question but when the shooting starts we should very careful how we do it. With our rights also come responsibilities.
    We as individuals have to live with our decisions. You and I can disagree, no harm no foul. When from day one of this war, and it started on 911, the left started in on Bush, he just sat there when informed of the attacks, he flew to Nebraska instead of Washington, Etc, Etc. To members of congress standing on the steps of the congress declaring that we are losing the war. With America’s sons and daughters fighting and dying in Iraq they don’t seem to give a rats (***) about anything but their own power. They don’t have the Nuts, liberal or conservative, to take a stand and cut off funding to bring them home now if that’s their desire. They won’t because they know the ramifications of those actions.

    The press ????

    I am not a Bush fan, he is a one worlder but he dose have his convictions. The left just doesn’t understand this. Dick Cheney, well he doesn’t give a rats(***) what you think. This includes everyone except “W”. He’s read the constitution and knows this is not Democracy, Thank you very much. This makes the left crazy.

    Tyranny of the majority was coined because of political opportunists that thrive in a democracy.

    Other than that I am totally oblivious to the whole business.

  11. Morgan Warstler says:

    Zhirem, all I can say is go read. It isn’t leaders I keep quoting here, I’m dragging notes from reporters covering on the ground there. I’m using them, because if I use the multitude of real comments you get from our forces there, you folks will poo-poo them because either they are too dumb, or forced to say that stuff.

    The recent NYT article where the reporter failed to quote McCain, is something all liberals should be apologizing for profusely.

    The real upshot is clear. Things are WAY better there. Unbelievably better. Watch two NYT reporters, John Burns and Dexter Filkins discussing Iraq last week on Charlie Rose:

    Watch it. These are two serious boots on the ground Iraq exerts from the liberal voice of record, the NYT, Jon’s favorite source, being interviewed by Rose, who goes out of his way to lead them down a path, they refuse to budge on.

    Thats where I get my information from, when I say it seems odd that Odom isn’t more impressed with the gains we’ve made there – infact he seems even louder.

    The only point I’ll make is the obvious one, you don’t want to be the old guy who was proven wrong. Whether you are McCain or Odom.

    And whether anyone here likes it or not, we are going to see this played out in such a way, that IF the next 14 months show gains in Iraq (political and military) as improved as the last 14 months – McCain was right and Odom was wrong. Period.

  12. Another Jon says:

    Ok, ok….I will bite.

    P. Cross….that was the most lucid (see: remedial and poorly written) overview of the last 20 years of U.S history. So kudos. I knew you would find your way here eventually.

    I will take this a step further though. This war did not begin on 9-11. It began in the Old Testament. The Book of Job. A story that tries to reconcile the co-existence of evil and God..or something like that. This is something the stupid Moslems can not understand. I think Job was in the Keran too, but he had some weirdly spelled name.

    But I digress…in Elohiym’s response to Job he asks him if he, Job, knows what the experience of being responsible for the world is like. Does he understand the responsibility of being responsible for a wide variety of creatures where the hunger of some can only be quenched by the deaths of others. He reiterates his sovereignty on creating and maintaining the world and says that since he is King of the world he is not subject to questioning from men and answers all questions posed by saying “I am the Decider..err…Lord.” Now some people see this story as being an argument for rational investigation into religion instead of blind faith. But not me and you P. Cross….we know better. You know why…because Moxzlems are nuts.

    Nuff said.

  13. Zhirem says:

    Hmmm… Morgan advising me to go read….


    Don’t be insulting. You are better than that. It is obvious that we both read. Just as it is equally obvious that we don’t read the same things.

    That said, it is always good advice to – read *more*. Or (Sky-Wizard forbid), list a link to all these notes from reporters that you bring to your arguments and blog posts. I think (IMHO) that if you did that, and the links were from collectively respected journalists, you would gain more traction and trust.

    Personally, I think that *YOU* should advise our president on the Iraqi pull-out. Tell him to give a speech to the nation – an introduction, or a quotation of a previous president or poster, then make an irrational or better yet, unfathomable argument, do not support it, make a few more outlandish claims, comment upon the idiocy of your opposition, and then claim victory as if the matter were clearly decided and settled.

    Works for you?

    – Zhirem

  14. P. Cross says:

    Morgan, This is some really good stuff. I feel better all the time.

    Another Jon, Damn, My cousin, a retired British Lit. Prof. at Edinburgh and York Universities said my writing was both unique and challenging. Ditto uh.

  15. Jon Taplin says:

    P.Cross-Your British cousin no doubt would have told you that the British in the 1845 thought they could “win” in Afghanistan. But when they finally pulled out of Kandahar in 1882, they realized that victory consisted of leaving the damn tribes to work out their wars without more British blood and treasure lost in vain.

    Ask him if he and his fellow citizen miss the burdens of empire which you seem so anxious to embrace for young American men and women to shoulder on your behalf.

  16. Morgan Warstler says:

    Zhirem, ya know its funny, guys I used to debate with in college are both advising Obama and defending Tony Rezko.

    And I’m sorry I know you read, I meant here at the site, in the last Iraqi Oil thread, I was bringing in stuff to that thread:

    Here’s an example:

    “I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.

    The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about “””

    See I read that, or watch the NYT reporters on Charlie Rose, or read the oil production reports (highest oil production in 20 years in Iraq – already!), and it just sounds to me like things might be getting better over there.

    Now I realize, NYT reporters may lie, as may Iraqi boys, and oil reports can be trumped up – but c’mon man – that data I’m giving you is real.

    I’m just asking, wouldn’t be fantastic, if the next 14 months, go as the last 14 months have gone?

  17. P. Cross says:

    Jon, It’s of no importance but he is an ex-patriot who got off a tramp steamer 45 yrs ago in Scotland and never came home. That alone should mean his opinion is wrong, right?
    Alas if only.

    Jon, I think the realities of our world are much different. What do you think the British would have done if a group of Afghan terrorist showed up in downtown London and butchered 3000 or so British subjects? I dare say to the extent they could the British would have scorched the earth and made Afghanistan uninhabitable. . I don’t believe that opium was as important to their economy as oil is to ours. May have been but most likely it was not. I don’t believe that Afghanistan posed a strategic threat to their security, to their empire maybe, not their security. In our History no event compares with 911 except maybe Pearl Harbor and it portends terrible events in our future if we don’t deal with that threat. What could possibly make you believe other wise.

    I was in a castle in Germany a few years ago and in this very large hall was a Tapestry , a very long & tall Tapestry. Depicted on this large wall hung rug was a battle ,14th century I believe, between German Knights and Moslem’s. This battle was in Germany not Baghdad. They are serious when the say we are to be subjugated, converted or killed. This war has been going on for a long time, only a fool believes we can negotiate it away. or postpone it . Or should we wait until they do have nukes just to make it fair.

    How can anyone believe you can negotiate with people that rejoice when their children blow themselves up. I for one just want to be left alone by government and jihadists. If they come after my children and grandchildren as well as yours, if I could I would eradicate them. The jihadist not the government, that is a subject for another day.

    In no way are they equivalent.

  18. Jon Taplin says:

    P Cross- How can you continue to conflate the actions of Al Qaeda and the Iraq War? Please. You know this is the big lie that took us into Iraq–that Saddam was responsible for 9/11.

    You must try to separate Afghanistan from Iraq. The former was a just (though bungled) attempt to bring Bin Laden. The latter was an excuse by Cheney and the New American Century cabal to invade a sovreign nation to capture their oil. That it has turned out to be such a disaster is something that you should acknowledge. That way progrssives and conservatives can return to a consensus on foreign policy: go after the Jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  19. Morgan Warstler says:

    Whoa! The hits just keep on coming…

    “BASRA, Iraq (AFP) — Three weeks after Iraqi troops swarmed into the southern city of Basra to take on armed militiamen who had overrun the streets, many residents say they feel safer and that their lives have improved.

    The fierce fighting which marked the first week of Operation Sawlat al-Fursan (Charge of the Knights) has given way to slower, more focused house-by-house searches by Iraqi troops, which led on Monday to the freeing of an abducted British journalist.

    Residents say the streets have been cleared of gunmen, markets have reopened, basic services have been resumed and a measure of normality has returned to the oil-rich city.

    The port of Umm Qasr is in the hands of the Iraqi forces who wrested control of the facility from Shiite militiamen, and according to the British military it is operational once again.”

    “axi driver Samir Hashim, 35, said he now felt safer driving through the city’s streets and was willing to put up with the traffic jams caused by the many security checkpoints.

    “We feel secure. Assassinations have ended, organised crime is finished and armed groups are no longer on the streets,” said Hashim.

    “I think Basra will be the best city in Iraq,” he added optimistically. “We are finally beginning to feel there is law in Basra.”

    “We feel comfortable and safe and secure,” said civil servant Alah Mustapha.

    “The situation in Basra is stable. The Iraqi army controls the city and there are no longer armed groups on the streets.””

    “The latest exchange included a pledge for a “final battle” by Sadr’s spokesman Bahaa Aaraji and an assertion by Maliki that the government will not stop pursuing gangs militarily and politically. Telling Sadr that his movement cannot take part in elections unless he disbands his militias and surrenders weapons is a turning point in Iraqi politics, especially because a broad political front including leading Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish powers emerged to back this new trend in dealing with this issue.

    I think what encouraged Maliki to push the limits of the conflict to this unprecedented level was the first-of-a-kind success of the Political Council for National Security — an entity that includes the president, PM, and leaders of major parliamentary blocs — to reach consensus on a decision. This entity managed for the first time a week ago to overcome the impotence that had halted its mission since its inception. Evidence of the newfound potency of this entity is that Ayad Allawi, who had refused being part of it for a long time, is now sending delegates to negotiate terms for his membership.”

  20. P. Cross says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to put a pin or two in a map to identify were the bad guys are, let’s see Afghanistan, no that won’t work only the leadership lives there right now or are they in Pakistan today. Let’s say we start with the countries of origin, known terrorist, say Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Indonesia maybe, the Philippines, terrorist have been active there for a long time. How about Iraq, seems to be a lot of activity there but that’s our fault, Syria maybe. Better yet let’s ask the press to identify where exactly to place the pins. Crawford and Jackson Hole, possibly, isn’t that where they feel the real problem is. Reliable Sources, Right

    I’m not trying to make light of a deadly situation. How in the world can we trust the press to tell the truth about anything? They have their own agenda, which is great if it’s your agenda and that’s all you care about. Terrorist operate in secret for a reason, they don’t want to be found until it’s too late.

    Ever watch a prairie dog hunt? “Rhetorical” You have to go to where they are and even then you have to wait for them to stick their heads up or find a way to force them out of the ground. If you can do that they scurry around presenting a much better target. Personally I never enjoyed it but if you don’t deal with them they will make what’s yours theirs.

    I love this word processor it won’t let me misspell words.

    I am to old for a terrorist hunt, I would just get in the way, but I would enjoy it.

    As an aside, when I met my cousin again after fifty years, my brother warned him against discussing these things with me. We had a wonderful time. He was delightful. Brother is very liberal as was I at one time.

  21. Another Jon says:

    Be vewy, vewy quiet.
    P.Cross is huntin tehwowists.

    I could not resist.

    I really am trying to take you seriously….

  22. John Hurt says:

    P Cross

    What do you know about market segmentation?

  23. Zhirem says:


    I like John Burns. I feel that he is relatively straightforward and honest. Charlie Rose on the other hand, used to be fantstic, but I think he lets a lot of misinformation go when it comes out of the mouths of his guests. I have watched the show (used to religiously), and was dumbstruck that he let some things go without challenging obviously false statements or complete ignorance on a matter.

    That said, I am glad you are providing some links to content you reference. I will try to start doing more of the same.

    – Zhirem

  24. P. Cross says:

    Another jon, I did leave the door open. I have been accused of being a little to intense, I like your sense of humor, I’ll smile about that for the rest of the day, Thanks

    John Hurt, are we talking promoting the breed or creating mass hysteria, focus groups, what exactly?

  25. “That makes no sense to me, why get louder about the problems when there are less of them?”

    Because you are being lulled to sleep and need a good whack in the head if you think any future administration is going to get out of this quagmire without Americans in the streets, mad as hell about gas prices – without the taxes.

  26. Morgan Warstler says:

    Ok now that we’ve settled this, can’t we all just agree this Iraqi war thing looks like it is getting better?

    The we can get on to the real issues of the day: Let’s round up the people who’ve been cheering for us to lose and have a Battlestar airlock tribunal.

  27. Hi Morgan,

    There are many parents and spouses of service men and women who have waited too long for them to come home.

    This war is supported by politicians who are far removed from death, maiming, and any sort of danger. They pretend to be patriots and are scared of being painted by their competition as weak.

    War-profiteering corporations – including those in China, the US, and other countries – are motivated to cheer on endless war no matter what happens to our service people and our social services.

    Whatever you might say about winning this or that battle, our troops do not have a war to win, and they will never come home until the draft is on, at which time the sh*t will hit the fan just like it did in the 60s.

    Meanwhile ExxonMobil’s bonus program is paying rather nicely.


  28. Jon Taplin says:

    Morgan- I promised my self I wouldn’t take your bait, but I couldn’t resist.

    “A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias. The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.

    Capt. Logan Veath, a company commander in the 25th Infantry Division, pleaded with the Iraqi major who was leading his troops away from the Sadr City fight, urging him to return to the front.”

    John Burns was a supporter of the invasion of Iraq from the start, wrote many articles after the invasion about “the liberation” and could bring himself to say he was wrong. Eventually the Times had to pull him out of Iraq and give him another beat.

    Somehow you and P.Cross cannot envision that those of us who want us to cut our losses and leave the Iraqi tribes to work out their own dynamic–are the true patriots. We see America heading into a dark corner, isolated at the very moment we need the world’s support (and cash credit).

    We have a lot of work to do my friend and until we stop the bleeding of our young soldiers and our treasure we will not be able to startt the rebuilding that we all agree needs to happen.

  29. Morgan Warstler says:

    Now you’re talking about Sadr city. Where every household “has a member of the Mahdi army.” It strikes me that may be another Basra, bad news for a while, then better news. But if we hear in two weeks the “Sadr” city is better off, and say the 1300 guys fired don’t get rehired, can we please stop talking about why you think we are losing?

    I don’t really think you are being un-patriotic, but you aren’t true patriots. Thats some weird neo-speak, right? Most servicemen say clearly, they are in it to win it, and they’d prefer the public simply stand resolutely behind them. They’d like to see war gardens, they certainly don’t need to see protests.

    My hunch is that you are pretty much ambivalent about the war. You once saw it is fodder for political debate to win elections, and now have a vested interest, which is unfortunate, in needing it to go badly. If it goes badly, your political goals are more achievable – I get it – but, it is disappointing.

    As you have begun now to focus on the “cost of the war,” appealing to the greedy “needs” of the voters in the face of a slow economy – you have as much interest in the war going bad as you do the economy getting worse.

    Ultimately, the money has all been spent. Any new taxes go purely to pay off the debt. There is a limit to how much we can take from the economy, so there is a limit to how much we can give.

    “Ipod Government” should be our focus. Leave the war stuff alone. It’ll play out soon enough and we’ll see who was right. If the next 14 months, go as the last 14 months, it’ll be me. If it all goes to hell, it’ll be you.

    Now since there is no more money to spend for new social progams, let’s root to win for this short time period, and if it isn’t working, it will be obvious in the election. And no matter who is elected, let’s focus on making government more efficent, so we don’t have to cut too many entitelments to get rid of the debt.

  30. John Hurt says:

    “If the next 14 months, go as the last 14 months, it’ll be me. If it all goes to hell, it’ll be you.”

    If the next 14 months go as the last 14 months, where exactly will we be? That is the reward.

    If it all goes to hell in the next 14 months, that is the risk.

  31. Rachel says:

    “Most servicemen say clearly, they are in it to win it, and they’d prefer the public simply stand resolutely behind them. ”

    That’s a weird non-sequitur, Morgan – and a really cheap shot. You need to rise above it, and remember that criticising policy is not criticising the people charged with carrying it out.

    You need to stop setting up straw men. It might make you feel important, but it’s not constructive, and it’s not much fun to read, either.

    This blog used to be civilised. Now it sounds like a bad “Crossfire” program. As Jon Stewart said: stop. You’re hurting America.

    Some of us would like to have a civilised conversation. If you can’t have one without slandering peoples intentions, please find another sandbox.

  32. P. Cross says:

    Now I know my location, we are in an alternate universe where the Jane Fonda’s are the true patriots. Morgan I think they’ve been wound up enough.

    Shes taking it real personal.

    John Stewart huh, really

  33. Morgan Warstler says:


    “That’s a weird non-sequitur, Morgan – and a really cheap shot.”

    I don’t know why you’d take it as such. I talk to soldiers, they aren’t real happy with people pretending this is the 60’s. They think they are doing a good job over there. Though, they’d like shorter stints, they want to see it through. They think there is a point.

    My bigger observation which I guess you find to be a cheap shot, is that I trust their opinion more than people who’s main reason for not winning a war, is that they want to spend money on themselves.

    I don’t discount that you’d rather spend the money on yourself. You are free to want that. But when our fighting forces say the tide is turning, and there’s progress on the ground, political progress in Iraq, and our national security is tied up in a successful campaign, I wonder why you don’t see this side of it too.

    Rachel, I’m not here for your amusement, I’m here to poke holes in arguments that need deflated. And, I’m being very civilised as I do it.


    As I said earlier, in 14 months, we should be on our way to 3.5-4M bpd. The Iraqi army should be 3x its current size and doing almost all its own fighting, ALL 18 of the 18 political requirements should be met, (right now 12 are). And we should be drawing troops levels down. Right?

    I’m NOT saying, if in 14 months, that stuff isn’t happening, let’s do another 14 the same way. I’m saying we have progress right here in our hands, reports of land after many years at sea. What un-heroic Frenchman gives up the ship, when there is sight of land?

  34. John Hurt says:

    “I’m NOT saying, if in 14 months, that stuff isn’t happening, let’s do another 14 the same way. ”

    That has, of course, been said, several times now.

    So what happens in 14 months when ALL 18 of the political requirements have not been met? And the violence escalates. What then?

    (And, if you don’t mind an observation, old timer, you are quite right that your job around here is to poke holes in arguments. That is a very valuable role to play in this kind of deal. You could, however, be a little more civilized, as you say. You seem to lean on a lot of ad hominem type stuff, and all these other fallacies like guilt by association, straw men, false assumptions, scapegoating, those sorts of things.)

    And P Cross, your saying you “think they have been wound up enough”, makes you sound very much like a troll. This isn’t a great place to do that kind of work. Everyone in the world is wound up enough. There is no honor in winding people up. When I think of it, I have to say, you sound pretty damned tweaked yourself.

  35. Rachel says:

    Morgan – “you aren’t true patriots”. That’s about as cheap as it gets.

    In this case Jon gave you a counter argument, and instead of responding to his argument (by “poking holes in it”) you questioned his motives, and his patriotism.

  36. P. Cross says:

    John Hurt , I’ll bet you drive a prius and think Algore is the cats posterior.

    Or are you just one of those little Yorkies that yaps and bites people on the ankles .

    Actually a cross between a Troll and a Chigger,
    a Trigger if you will. Hybrid Vigor explains the rest.

  37. Morgan Warstler says:

    “That has, of course, been said, several times now. ”

    C’mon John. No it hasn’t. There was a new policy – a “surge,” and since that time, there’s been lots of screaming, “it isn’t working,” all the while, things have gotten better.

    Let me make this point clear: If the last 14 months HAD NOT worked, if people who were there and are there now were not STUNNED by the progress now, I’d be advocating 3 states. If US death tolls INCREASED, I’d be advocating 3 states.

    “So what happens in 14 months when ALL 18 of the political requirements have not been met? And the violence escalates. What then?”

    Well if what we call escalations is a handful of Basra and Sadr City situations, then I’m sure you’ll agree with me. But if say, the Iraqi parliament declares war on us and the Iraqi army turns on us, we better leave right the hell away.

    Lastly, bring forth ad hominem type stuff, so that I might lean on it!

    John, I make it personal, but I don’t attack the person. Watch this basic logic flow:

    Jon wanted to lay claim to being “true patriots.”

    I responded he wasn’t unpatriotic, I don’t think he hates the country, so I gave a clear explanation of why I think he has vested interest in looking for bad news where it gets harder and harder to find. Today isn’t of course isn’t great news compared to “peace”, but by comparison, todays news is awesome next to 34,24,14 months ago. Anyone not admitting that must have a serious ulterior motive past the truth.

    Then I defined what a “true patriot” is… and I defined it in a regular guy way as supporting the troops in the way they themselves would like to be supported, being on their team, taking their cues, following their playbook. And the majority of them, as far as I see it, want us, all of us, even Jon, to go into war garden stance, make personal sacrifices so that they can win quicker and come home heroes.

    Most of them do not agree with Jon’s view of the war, and there’s no way in hell that’s being the “true patriot,” I’m sure the marines and army, find great comfort that Jon and others won’t admit they are making real progress.

  38. Morgan Warstler says:

    Rachel, this is unfortunately now a definitional debate. Jon put forward the definition, “true patriot” that attempts to grab a power word and align himself with it personally, by re-defining the word, into something Perry mentions – Jane Fonda is a partiot!

    I then say: That’s not the definition of true patriot, and put forward a better more cogent definition that the masses, the majority would agree with. I did so. And thus Jon isn’t a true patriot, at least not by the argument he chose to make.

    Simply, he didn’t have to assert it. But I had to respond.

  39. P. Cross says:

    In an alternate universe, not the one I live in.
    P. Cross aka, Three billy goats gruff

  40. John Hurt says:

    Actually I drive a car I had commissioned. Incredibly fuel efficient. Runs on the blood of slaughtered grouse. Zero to sixty in four point six seconds. In reverse.

    And I wish you would get your mind out of the gutter as far as the posterior of any cat goes. That is simply disgusting. President Reagan, Ronnie, teaching fellatio. You have been posting absolute filth all day.

    Good thing you are a hell of a motivational speaker. You would not have made a very good clairvoyant or weatherman or any of those spooky type remote viewing sort of professions.

    Oh. Sorry. My car has arrived.

  41. John Hurt says:

    Morgan, you have coined a great new word- partiot.

    1 A person who drinks to much at a social gathering, becoming “irresistible”.
    2 A person who has been driven into a stupor by a political party.

    You have found your calling. Now I really must be going.

  42. P. Cross says:

    John Hurt, watch those cracks

    Three Billy Goats Gruff

  43. Ken Ballweg says:


    What was the cost to the US of withdrawing from Vietnam?

    PS: Morgan, you are a paid troll aren’t you? The Fox News style is evident, and the RNC talking points are too familiar. Granted the college debater piece could account for it all, but there is a relentlessness to your persistence that speaks of someone doing a job. “Oh damn, new post by Jon, got to clock in.”

  44. P. Cross says:

    Morgan, Welcome, meet you by the bridge.

    Three Billie Goats Gruff

  45. Morgan Warstler says:


    It doesn’t actually take much time, Jon’s on the old Opera Speed Dial.

    And mine are not the RNC talking points, I’m a free market, free speech guy. But, I am just as prepared for Obama to be president as McCain. I know it bugs people when I say this, but frankly there isn’t much difference, and we all know it.

    Mostly, my business right now is thankfully politics. And it is as non-partisan a business as it gets. My partners are liberal stalwarts. And I follow Jon and the folks here because it is the most reasoned left-leaning group I know of, that is small enough for dialogue.

    Jon reads and quotes the NYT everyday and I read, so pulling counter arguments takes a cut and a paste, but mostly I am testing out some arguments for my own fun and enjoyment. Frankly, if Jon read some other sources, and covered the opposing view in his own posts, we get through some of this stuff much faster.

  46. Jon Taplin says:

    Morgan- I’m not a reporter “covering opposing views”. I’m going to put out my opinion on the page.

    I’ll be honest with you, my problem with libertarians is that a lot of hippies I knew in high end communes in Taos in 1973 were harder core libertarians than you are. And everyone of those communes collapsed from their anarchy.

    Read what Stewart Brand, the father of the commune movement said about your philosophy ” Self Sufficiency is an idea which has done more harm than good. On close conceptual examination it is flawed at the root. More importantly, it works badly in practice.”

    What we must do, is decide what we could agree on. After all, both sides understand that things have to change in America. And if we can’t even agree on that, then it’s just a waste of time.

  47. Morgan Warstler says:

    Jon, I’m not some weird old hippie you once knew. I’ve read Stewart Brand. You go read Wittgenstein.

    And while steeped in anarcho-capitalism during my youth, what I advocate here is pretty simple, it is very much post-politics, post-republic, and post-democracy:

    1. We agree that $MAX exists, the amount that can taken from the population, before tax receipts fall. That is the ceiling, we agree we will never go higher than that, because that is the moment we know CATEGORICALLY government has failed.

    2. You accept, that you are now historically on the losing end of the budget deficit. Which means you have to sacrifice Keynes. I know long ago, he made it easy to spend money to buy votes, but now that idea is used to gut you and your governments everytime you get your kind of administration in office.

    Wow. You do those two things, and order is found in chaos. Policy distinctions can be real. And the glorious confusion of competing wants isn’t made impossible to decipher by debt interest payments and an expanding money supply, and “hurry up and spend it before the Dems buy votes,” or “in times of crisis, the government must invest.”

    The rest of it only sounds to you like libertarian thinking, because I’m a libertarian who has already given my half-a-loaf.

    I’m ACCEPTING that there will be government and that will take $MAX, from that moment on, it becomes easy to shoot accurately from the peanut gallery.

    And if you can’t agree on those two things, it will always feel to you like a waste of time.

  48. John Hurt says:

    He’s a pro.

  49. John Hurt says:

    Pentagon institute calls Iraq war ‘a major debacle’ with outcome ‘in doubt’

    By Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott | McClatchy Newspapers

    Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2008

    WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become “a major debacle” and the outcome “is in doubt” despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon’s premier military educational institute.

    The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush’s projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.

    The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.

    It was published by the university’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department research center.

    “Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle,” says the report’s opening line.

  50. John Hurt says:

    The report also singles out the Bush administration’s national security apparatus and implicitly President Bush and both of his national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, saying that “senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect.”

    Collins ends his report by quoting Winston Churchill, who said: “Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. … Always remember, however sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think that he also had a chance.”

    Here is the full report by the National Defense University

  51. Jon Taplin says:

    There have been several accusations that Morgan and P. Cross are “paid trolls”. I just want to go on record that they are not paid by me. :)

    Morgan- I agree that there are top marginal tax rates, above which wealthy people move to other countries or invest in the most aggressive tax-sheltering strategies. I am not sure how the VAT plays into this dynamic. If our society had overstressed consumption over savings (and thus put us in our current hole) it seemes like a consumption based tax might have salutory effect. That’s why I still think that Tom Friedman’s Patriot tax of $1 per gallon on gas, with 70% of the proceeds going directly to the states, 20% into a new alt. energy version of DARPA for deep research and the other 10% to the general federal treasury–is a great near term solution. Since every country in the world except Venezuela and Saudi Arabia already has higher gas taxes than this, we would be at no global competitive disadvantage and we would see fuel consumption drop quickly.

  52. John Hurt says:

    Okay, I admit it, I am paying Morgan, and it is beginning to run into money. I understand why he doesn’t want taxes raised on the highest bracket. Not exactly hedge fund manager money, but this kind of commentary does not come cheap, I can tell you that right now. The LexisNexis bill alone is killing me.

    I an not, however, employing the impostor P Cross. He just doesn’t give you the same bang for your buck.

  53. Morgan Warstler says:

    I barely know what even to say about this:

    “BASRA, Iraq (AFP) — Iraqi troops were in a tense standoff with radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s supporters on Friday after they surrounded an office block occupied by the group in the southern city of Basra.

    The move was blasted by Sadr’s supporters as a “provocation” but the Iraqi government said the operation only aimed to recover offices unfairly occupied by political groups.

    The incident comes only weeks after bloody fighting broke out on March 25 between Iraqi forces and Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown on Shiite militiamen in the port city.

    The clashes spread to other Shiite regions of Iraq, killing and wounding hundreds of people.

    “The police and the army have laid siege to Sadr’s office in Basra,” office head Sheikh Harith al-Athari told AFP. “They have also stopped people from attending Friday prayers.

    “The forces, backed by armoured vehicles, have asked us to leave the building,” he added.

    Journalists reported Sadr supporters had refused to leave the office block in the oil city, which lies about 550 kilometres (340 miles) south of the capital.

    Interior ministry spokesman General Abdel Karim Khalaf told AFP the operation had been approved by Maliki and aimed to “recover official buildings that were being occupied.”

    It reminds me of Texas, except the women have on bonnets.

  54. John Hurt says:

    There are many angles to this thing, Morgan. What do you think about Sophocles? Have you read some any of his stuff?

  55. Morgan Warstler says:

    Not really, surely long ago, but I have seen the movie Antigone.

    Are you a fan of old stuff?

  56. John Hurt says:

    And, Morgan, what are your thoughts on the Pentagon institute, the National Defense University report, calling the Iraq War “a major debacle” as posted above?

    This is, of course, not something that any of us wanted, but maybe it is time to stop the dewy-eyed ingenue routine, get off the rope-a-dope, and chunk.

  57. John Hurt says:

    I am not a fan of anything.

    But Sophocles is foundational. Crucial.

  58. STS says:

    Very thought provoking talk by Thomas Barnett at TED about “The Pentagon’s new map for war and peace.” I’m not sure I share his enthusiasm for intervention, but he offers a lot of insight into the differences in mission between war fighting and peace keeping.

    Whether you agree or not, it’s a hoot to watch.

  59. Morgan Warstler says:

    STS, great stuff. We’ll be much better in the next Iraq, wherever it may be.

    Continuing good news:

    “BASRA, Iraq, April 19 (Reuters) – Iraqi government troops said they captured a stronghold of fighters loyal to anti-U.S. Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Basra on Saturday after a big show of force by U.S. warplanes and British artillery.

    In Baghdad, fighting continued through the night after fierce clashes late on Friday in the Sadr City slum, the cleric’s power base in the capital. Police said 12 people had been killed and hospitals received more than 130 wounded.

    In the southern oil hub of Basra, thundering explosions and gunfire could be heard at dawn in the heaviest bombardment since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown on Sadr’s followers late last month in the southern city.

    The commander of Iraqi forces in Basra, Lieutenant-General Mohan al-Furaiji, told Reuters his troops had seized the centre of the Hayaniya neighbourhood, one of the main strongholds of Sadr’s Mehdi Army fighters.

    “Our troops moved in there, and now they have reached the centre of Hayaniya. Now there are no confrontations, and anyone carrying weapons will be arrested,” he said.”

    “The prime minister, himself a Shi’ite, has since threatened to ban Sadr’s mass movement from political life if the cleric does not disband the Mehdi Army. In response, Sadr threatened to formally scrap a ceasefire he imposed on his militia last August, a move that could trigger a full-scale uprising.”

    Anyone want to make a bet on whether the Mehdi Army gets disbanded? I’m on pins and needles.

  60. John Hurt says:

    STS That was a very interesting presentation type deal. Thank you for posting that. And Morgan, thanks for continuing to post good news from Hell. It looks almost certain that it is soon to freeze over, ending the tedious global warming debate once and for all.

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