Friday, June 10, 2011

And how 'bout those fingers?





Meanwhile this morning the Senate Armed Services Committee heard from the head of the CIA, Leoan Panetta, who has now been nominated to become the Secretary of Defense. Before the hearing started, several members of CodePink were present asking, "Mr. Panetta, will you pledge to bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq" and carrying signs which read "DIPLOMACY NOT WAR!!" and "NO MORE WAR!" The Committee has posted [PDF format warning] "Advance Policy Questions for the Honorable Leon Panetta Nominee to be Secretary of Defense" which is a series of written questions Panetta has responded to -- 79 pages of a Q & A. As disclosed before, I know Leon Panetta. I like him but, for example, pages 13 through 14 is bulls**t. He is asked about dwell time. He is asked specifically about what he will do to see that they are all meeting the prescribed dwell time. He notes that the Army and the Reserve Component are not meeting it and states, "If confirmed, I will continue to work toward the goal of a 1:5 dwell time ratio for the Reserve Component" and, for Army, "If confirmed, I will continue to monitor this issue closely." That's what you would do?
No, that is your JOB DUTY. So he's answered (in question 18) nothing more than, "I will do the duties my job demands."
What do you believe are the major lessons learned from the Iraq invasion and the ongoing effort to stabilize the country?
[Panetta:] One of the most important lessons is the U.S. government must train and plan for post-combat operations. Conflict can occur along a spectrum. Our military must be prepared for combat, but also may have a role in shaping the political, cultural and economic factors that can fuel conflict. The U.S. military must plan and train with civilian counterparts, be prepared to operate effectively in all phases of conflict, and develop better awareness of political, cultural, and economic factors to ensure that our actions will meet our objectives.
What is your understanding and assessment, if any, of the Department's adaptations or changes in policy, programs, force structure, or operational concepts based upon these lessons learned?
[Panetta:] I understand that lessons learned from Iraq and other recent engagements have led to deep and wide-ranging changes in doctrine, organization, training, and policy. For example, the counterinsurgency doctrine has been completely revised, culminating in the publication of Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. The development of Advise and Assist Brigades and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance units are examples of force structures.
So, for any who didn't know already, he's a counter-insurgency supporter. Counter-insurgeny is war on a native people -- in this country, it was used against the Native Americans, it was most infamously used in Vietnam to the outrage of millions and millions of people around the world. Such are the times that today few bother to object the unethical and illegal nature of counter-insurgency and one-time journalists rush to disgrace their profession and their own names to become cheerleaders for a policy they damn well should know is criminal.
While maintaining that he supports a drawdown of all US troops by the end of the year, he writes, "Iraqi leaders and U.S. officials have acknowledged that there will be gaps in Iraqi Security Forces' capabilities after 2011, especially in external defense. I believe the United States should consider a request from the Government of Iraq to remain in Iraq for a limited period of time to provide limited assistance to fill these gaps." He gets credit for grasping the Kirkuk issue. That may seem an obvious issue but it wasn't that long ago that Chris Hill (the thankfully former US Ambassador to Iraq) and didn't have a clue -- even after extensive tutoring -- about the issue of Kirkuk. ("A land dispute" was as deep as he could go.) On Iraq today, he writes, "Iraq still faces dangerous and determined enemies, but these enemies do not have the support of the Iraqi people. Although occasional high-profile attacks still occur, the underlying security situation in Iraq remains stable and these attacks have not sparked a return to widespread insurgency or civil war." Those are the key sections on Iraq in the 79 pages. (Anyone wondering about contractors should know he takes a pass on the issue of whether they are being over-utilized insisting he is not currently in the position to be able to make that call.)
In testimony, he showed a subserviance that was disgusting. Asked by John McCain whether or not the Congress had the right to cut off funds (as they did during Vietnam), Panetta gave an indirect response praising the president and "his" powers. Congress has control of the purse and Panetta, a former member of Congress, knows that. It was embarrassing to see that and alarming because maybe he meant it. (It wasn't said in order to cinch the post -- he's a former member of Congress, he knows that's an automatic in before you even factor in that he sailed through the nomination process in 2009.) In the final half-hour of the nearly four hour hearing (I'm counting Panetta's break that he took which was longer than five minutes), Senator Jim Webb would raise the issue and note that Panetta served in Congress. Panetta would dance around the question and use language that portrayed Congressional power as weak and presidential power as higher and more powerful -- has Leon forgotten about the three branches of the federal goverment and the concept of separation of powers?
Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain is the Ranking Member. We'll note this from Chair Levin's opening remarks:
The next Secretary of Defense will face a complex, extraordinary set of demands on our Armed Forces. Foremost among them, the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Between these two conflicts, we continue to have approximately 150,000 troops deployed, the US military is also providing support to NATO operations in Libya. In addition, even after the extraordinary raid that killed Osama bin Laden, terrorist threats against our homeland continue to eminate from Pakistan, Yemen, Somolia and elsewhere. The risk of a terrorist organization getting their hands on detonating an improvised nuclear device or other weapon of mass destruction remains one of the gravest possible threats to the United States. To counter this threat, the Defense Dept is working with the Departments of State, Energy, Homeland Security and other US government agencies to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, fiscile materials and dangerous technologies. A number of key national security decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks and months. Even as the drawdown of US forces in Iraq is on track recent signs of instability may lead Iraq's political leadership to ask for some kind of continuing US military presence beyond the December 31st withdrawal deadline agreed to by President Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki in the 2008 security agreement between our countries.
We'll also note this exchange on Iraq.
Ranking Member John McCain: On the subject of Iraq, if the Afghan [he meant Iraqi] government and all its elements agree that there should be a residual US military presence in Iraq, particularly in three areas, air,defense, intelligence capabilities and security in the areas around Kirkuk and that part of Iraq where there has been significant tensions, would you agree that that would be a wise thing for us to do?
CIA Director Leon Panetta: I-I believe that if, uh, Prime Minister Maliki, the Iraqi government uh requests that we uh that we maintain a presence there that that ought to be seriously considered by the president
Ranking Member John McCain: Do you think it would be in our interests to do that given the situation --
CIA Director Leon Panetta: Senator, I have to tell you, there are a thousand al Qaeda that are still in Iraq. We saw the attack that was made just the other day. It too continues to be a fragile situation. And I believe that uh we-we should take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that we protect whatever progress we've made there.
An interesting exchange but do reporters give a damn about US troops staying beyond 2011? Let's look at Reuters reporter Missy Ryan's real time reaction on her Twitter feed to the hearing -- and apparently that's the only exchange that stood out to her:
Missy Ryan
Missy Ryan
Missy Ryan
Missy Ryan
Missy Ryan appears to have gotten lost in that 1,000 figure. I have no idea why. It's not as though the US government has an al Qaeda membership list and daily uses it to conduct a roll call. It's a guess. It may be accurate, it may not be. More than likely, it's not. Why is Missy Ryan -- and the rest of the press -- obsessed with that number. In the exchange above, was 1,000 really the key moment? I don't think so but it's the sort of minor trivia that the press can run with and obsess over. It's trivia which is so much easier for small minds to cover as opposed to ideas. And if people don't like that -- Missy Ryan's hardly the only reporter running with "1,000!" as news from the hearing -- maybe they might try rising to a higher level? 6 is a number that Missy and Reuters didn't obsess over but 6 is the number of US soldiers who have died in Iraq this week. And whether or not the troops leave Iraq at the end of the year will determine whether or not that number increases after 2011. And considering the very poor job Reuters did reporting on the Status Of Forces Agreement in real time, I think it could be argued that they need to do remedial reporting on this issue. (They are far from alone on that.) But by all means, obsess over 1,000 -- a guess and an inflated one at that. If 6 US soldiers die in Iraq in the first six months of 2012, I'm sure that we'll all be so thrilled that the obsession from today's hearing was over 1,000 -- I'm sure we'll all feel that was time well spent by the circus freaks passing themselves off as the press.
Back to the hearing for a brief excerpt.
Senator Lindsey Graham: When it comes to Iraq, if the Iraqis ask us to provide some troops in 2012, Secretary Gates says he thinks that would be smart. Do you think that would be smart to say yes.
CIA Director Leon Panetta: Yes.
This is an issue, maybe not to Missy Ryan, but to Iraqis and Americans, this is an issue. Aswat al-Iraq reports that MP Maha al-Douri is on a campaign to collect a million signatures to a petition calling on the US to leave Iraq. Three days ago, Fatih Abdulsalam (Azzaman) wrote about how "Arabs are divided over the spate of popular revolutions rocking their regimes. But it is clear that many of them will prefer to be crushed under the armored vehicles of their regimes than being 'liberated' by the U.S. [. . .] U.S. 'liberation' of Iraq has brought horrendous results and led to ruinous consequences. Its outcome has been corrupt local administrations (governments) immersed in filthy sectarianism." You could argue that, around the world, the issue of whether or not the US military stays in Iraq beyond 2011 matters to a large number of people -- even if those people aren't in the US press corps. Of course, not all US reporters missed the point. This is from the strong report by Lolita C. Baldor and Donna Cassata (AP):
"I think it's clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of presence to remain there," Panetta said, adding that it was contingent on what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki requests. "I have every confidence that a request like that is something that I think will be forthcoming at some point."
We'll note the exchange the above quote came in.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: I know earlier you were asked about Iraq and whether we would continue to stay in Iraq if asked. And, like others, I have been concerned about increasing violence in Iraq, about the recent casualties. We just lost someone from New Hampshire in the attack over the weekend. And so I wonder if you can talk to what we need to do in order to keep our focus on the efforts in Iraq and, um, assuming that we are not asked to stay, how we will deal with drawing down the remaining troops that are there.
CIA Director Leon Panetta: Well we are at the present time on track to withdrawing our forces at the end of 2011 but I think that, uh, it's clear to me that Iraq is -- is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of presence to remain there. And-and-and it really is dependent on uh the prime minister and on the government of Iraq to present to us, uh, what, uh, you know what is it that they need and over what period of time in order to make sure that the gains we've made in Iraq are sustained. I-I have every confidence that, uh, that, uh, you know, that a request like that, you know, is something that I think will be forthcoming at some point.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: My time has expired. I would like to explore that more later.

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