Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 23, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

MORE IRAQ WEIRDNESS....Simon Tisdall is a busy guy on the Iraq front suddenly. Today he's back on the front page of the Guardian with yet another report about Iraq that's very nearly single-sourced, this time from a "former senior administration official who is familiar with administration thinking." In a nutshell, this source says that George Bush is planning to (a) get the UN involved in Iraq, (b) drum up more support for the Maliki government from neighboring Arab countries, and (c) draw down U.S. troops from "frontline combat duties."

If anything, this report is even weirder than yesterday's. Bush is planning to ask for "a UN command and flag to supplant the US coalition command"? Rilly? Does that sound even remotely plausible? And then Tisdall's source adds this:

"Internally, the plan is for US forces to help isolate takfirists (fundamentalist Salafi jihadis), peel off Sunnis from the insurgency, contain hardcore elements of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, and halt Iranian and trans-Syrian infiltration of troops and materiel."

That sounds like a great plan. All we need now is the Wizard of Oz to help us pull it off.

I really don't know what to think of this. Tisdall is an experienced journalist and the Guardian is a serious newspaper, but this stuff is just loony. There's no way George Bush is going to turn over military command of Iraq to the UN and there's no way the UN would touch it even if he did. Neighboring Arab states might be talked into supporting Maliki more strongly, but we've been trying to talk them into that for a long time without much sign of success. And the other stuff is just moonshine. If we had the capability to do any of it, we would have done it long ago.

There's obviously something very strange going on here. Either Tisdall has gotten suckered or else he's living in a different quantum reality from the rest of us. That said, though, I'll admit that this part of the story sounds pretty plausible:

In a sign that personal as well as governmental damage limitation is under way, key Bush administration figures appear to be distancing themselves from current policy. National security adviser Stephen Hadley is expected to hand over many Iraq-related duties to Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, who some in Washington are already describing as a fall guy.

Similar senior-level role changes involving officials dealing with Iraq at the state department and Pentagon has fed speculation that people who helped launch Gen Petraeus's "sinking ship" are now abandoning it.

Sounds about right. The real question is why Lute hasn't figured this out too?

Kevin Drum 12:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Comments

Why Lute hasn't figured out he's the fall guy:
Cuz, he's dumb enough to be the fall guy?

You got to be pretty dumb to outdumb old BushCo.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on May 23, 2007 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

The real question is why Lute hasn't figured this out too?

He knows. How could he not? He got the job when he lost a round of Musical Chairs.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 23, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Brecht: Sure, that's what it sounds like, just like yesterday's piece. But Tisdall isn't an idiot. He'd know if he was being obviously played, and this looks awfully obvious.

The motivation is also obscure. Why would anyone think it was in their interest to suggest something so plainly bizarre as the possibility that George Bush was planning to turn over military command in Iraq to the UN? Even partially? That's just crazy.

I'm stumped.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on May 23, 2007 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

The real question is why Lute hasn't figured this out too?

Who says he hasn't? The retired generals Bush asked all declined. So Bush went to a lower-ranking active duty officer he could order to take the job of War Czar. I guess Lute could have resigned or something drastic, but as things stand he can't publicly explain what a raving egomaniacal loony incompetent massive failure of a president Bush is. Maybe Lute will retire and write a book in a few years.

Posted by: bob on May 23, 2007 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, what Bob said.

Posted by: kvenlander on May 23, 2007 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the Decider-in-Chief dangled a fourth star at the end of the rainbow for Lute? Hell, nothing this Admin does would surprise me now.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on May 23, 2007 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's easy to find true believers like Lute, Goodling, and the majority of CPA staffers. They watch their heroes from the sideline and buy every word of it. When they get an invitation to come aboard the boat, the offer is too good to refuse.

I suspect there is some real weirdness coming up later this year. Bush isn't going to let the Dems push him around on Iraq. He'd rather hand it over to the UN before giving it to Pelosi & Reid or a Dem President. Or he'll go for another Surge, but he's going to keep control of the situation for as long as possible. He is The Decider after all.

Posted by: Tuna on May 23, 2007 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, I don't know if there is a tie-in anywhere here, but Lute's wife is a career UN administrator - I figured that fact alone would have the wingnuts in a lather over his appointment, but it has been largely overlooked. Now this bit of (most likely) fantasy about turning over the reins of power to the UN surfaces?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 23, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

I would not put Lute in that group of "true believers."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 23, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

But Tisdall isn't an idiot. He'd know if he was being obviously played, and this looks awfully obvious.

As I said yesterday, /The Guardian/ knows full well that the story is obvious propaganda. That is precisely why they printed it -- to show what obvious propaganda is spewing forth from the WH.

Sometimes the best way to hang a person is to give them some rope.

Posted by: Disputo on May 23, 2007 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

Tuna: It's 12:30 and I'm too damned tired to rehash. Here is a post about Lute.

He seems strangely grounded in reality for this gaggle of goons, and it did not escape my notice that his appointment transpired while Cheney was out of the country.

Just sayin'...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 23, 2007 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Four interesting pieces of fact:

1. Many Iraqi leaders are either going on vacation or leaving the country
2. American officer in Baghdad says he is expecting Iran to 'lead an al-Qaida offensive' this summer which may lead to pushback
3. Senior former WH official says Bush is planning to hand off Iran to a collection of scapegoats, including Lute and the UN.
4. Bush & Co. are delusional have no concept of what is happening or what is doable in Iraq.

How to fit it all together? I say 4. trumps all. Therefore, 2. is one fragment of the incoherent Bush vision of what's happening in Iraq, leaked by a source who either believes it or doesn't believe it and is freaking out over the notion that his superiors do believe it. 3. is another half-assed plan, probably originating from Condi Rice, and the source for 3. is pretending that Bush will follow Condi's advice - which is probably not true. And 1. is due to the fact that the Iraqis in the know are freaking out over 4. and the fact that the Americans are willing to say things like 2. and 3.

Posted by: lampwick on May 23, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

Isnt Monica Goodling the real reason that all these AlQueda/Iraq rumors are coming out yesterday and today? If the MSM evening news opens with speculation about BinLaden moving to Iraq, rather than Monica's testimony, then Gonzo wins? I smell a diversion.

Posted by: troglodyte on May 23, 2007 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Brecht: Did you read the comments section at The Blotter? Good gawd, the Wurlitzer was cranking. Wouldn't have any problem finding an executioner for Robespierre in that crowd.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 23, 2007 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

What Tuna said.

This is perfect timing. Dubya is desperately trying to throw this hot potato to someone else. He's thinking if he does hand it off to the UN that the Dems will support it and get suckered into a failing deal-cause even Dubya knows it's all lost. I seriously doubt if he even gives a shit anymore. Something about the Door's line about "I want to have my kicks, before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" comes to mind. He's probably playing some of their stuff in the White House lately maybe with a little help from his friends. This has turned into a hoo-haw theatre for him at this point.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 23, 2007 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

Bush could do it.

I mean, he's a wonderful Wiz.

A veritable wiz of a Wiz, if ever a Wiz there was.

Posted by: pansauce on May 23, 2007 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

More food for thought from Brecht. He's a shorter version of my last post:

1. Condi Rice and State have a grandiose rescue plan for Iraq which involves taking power away from Cheney (hence the hiring of Lute) and doing some serious internationalizing.

2. Cheney has a grandiose rescue plan for Iraq which involves provoking a clumsy covert war with Iran based on delusional intelligence

3. Bushl, with his usual inability to perceive contradictions, has somehow said 'yes' to both plans, thus causing both of them to stumble forward into a botched and incoherent implementation.

Posted by: lampwick on May 23, 2007 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

I can't fathom of some of the shit these mendacious fuckwits pull on a regular basis.

I'll think about it tomorrow when I get back to Tara...

G'night all...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 23, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

All we need is the right kind of solution (chloride or fluoride - I can't remember off the top of my head), something to work as a catalyst (platinum, maybe?), and then we just need to move some neutrons and protons around, peel off a few electrons, mix in some neutrinos or quarks or something, and we've turned lead into gold.

And, yes, we should be able to get this done by September.

Posted by: DNS on May 23, 2007 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

It looks to me like there is an attempt by SAO's (senior administration officials) to somehow distance themselves from the current "strategy". To that end, they're calling up reporters and offering them scoops. The reporters show up to report the scoops, but the SAO's don't actually have anything coherent to say; all their "new" strategies are scarcely differentiable from the "old" strategies. Because this sudden urge to distance oneself from the "surge" strategy isn't connected to any new analysis; it's just connected to the sickening recognition that the surge really isn't working, and anyone who gets stuck as a surge supporter within a couple of months is gonna be screwed.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on May 23, 2007 at 4:27 AM | PERMALINK

"The real question is why Lute hasn't figured this out too?"

Like George W. Bush, he's proud to not read the paper.

Posted by: Kenji on May 23, 2007 at 4:47 AM | PERMALINK

Lute smoot arut Mox Nix:
Fund the war and blow the world to hell....There is more stupidity than hydrogen so it must be the building block of the Universe.
Let's face it girls and boys escalating the region will bring more player
The Cabal can sell more arms... the perpetual war for profit and poverty
STOP THE MADNESS VOTE NO ON THE FUNDING

Posted by: big brother on May 23, 2007 at 5:37 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "The real question is why Lute hasn't figured [out he's the fall guy] too?"

Please note that Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute is active-duty personnel, and not retired.

Therefore, taking into consideration the obvious lack of volunteers from the civilian or retired ranks, one could reasonably assume that Lute was probably ordered by the president himself to assume the position, literally and metaphorically.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 23, 2007 at 5:59 AM | PERMALINK

Tisdall doesn't usually do a lot of hard news - he writes the "World Briefing" news-anal column, which is usually pretty underwhelming.

Posted by: Alex on May 23, 2007 at 6:09 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, there's a difference between having a plan and being able to carry out the plan. The Bush malAdministration may very well have a plan as described in the Guardian, but the likelihood of them being able to carry it out is very low.

Posted by: raj on May 23, 2007 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

Possibly the best advice being given in Baghdad today, comes from Tony Dodge, who told the architects of our new US Embassy building, to make sure it has a very large roof.

The one in Saigon was a tad too small.

Oh, and include many more ladders.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 23, 2007 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

I'm planning to (a) get Bill Gates to pay off my debts, (b) drum up more support for my campaign to be declared King of Chile, and (c) transform myself into an elf resembling Orlando Bloom.

I expect my plan to be completed in September of 2007, or maybe 2020.

Posted by: cowalker on May 23, 2007 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

"There's no way George Bush is going to turn over military command of Iraq to the UN and there's no way the UN would touch it even if he did."

. . . and there's no way the extra chromosome crowd is going to stand for Our Boys taking orders from a Pakistani general in a blue beret. Look to see some lawsuits, refusals, mutinies that aren't mutinies, egged on by the Ruby Ridge Rangers.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on May 23, 2007 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

""There's no way George Bush is going to turn over military command of Iraq to the UN "

Don't be too sure about that.

Holding power trumps all other concerns of the Rovians. When push comes to shove they will do anything... rest assured that all options are 'on the table'.

Posted by: Buford on May 23, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Like Kevin, I find Tisdall's story weird and hard to believe. Unlike Kevin, I have little respect fot the Guardian. As I see it, most likely this is just one more inaccurate story from this leftist rag.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 23, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

""There's no way George Bush is going to turn over military command of Iraq to the UN "

Don't be too sure about that.

Holding power trumps all other concerns of the Rovians. When push comes to shove they will do anything... rest assured that all options are 'on the table'.
Posted by: Buford on May 23, 2007 at 9:55 AM

I agree. I think they will float the idea and make it look serious. IF they have come to the conclusion that this ship is going to sink no matter what, this is the last decent hand they can play. If it works, they take the cred for solving it. If it doesn't work (most likely), then it is the UN's (and likely the Dems fault for supporting the process) for why it failed. But maybe more importantly it will be the "UN" not really us that is getting the hell out in a hurry later on.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 23, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Don't be too sure about that.

Oh, I can be pretty sure, because there's no way the UN is going to take anything the US attempts to give them. These aren't stupid people, and they're certainly not stupid enough to play "catch the grenade!" with George Bush.

Posted by: Stefan on May 23, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Money is power.

They've already gotten away with robbing the treasury.

They'll probably bail like they did after Nixon, and come back again after 8 years of Democrats repairs the damage and restocks the treasury.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 23, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Well, lets see...when asked to get involved in Iraq our NATO allies said, "Uh, wait, we'll think about it, and oh btw, it's no!"
Then he asked them help in Afghanistan, which oddly enough, lol, they said no to that as well.
In fact, the Arabs have said...Uh...no, and no matter where Little Boots goes to, all he's told is "Um, no."
So, anyone here want's to take a guess as to what the UN will say when Bush goes hat in hand to ask for help?

Posted by: sheerahkahn on May 23, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh, I can be pretty sure, because there's no way the UN is going to take anything the US attempts to give them. These aren't stupid people, and they're certainly not stupid enough to play "catch the grenade!" with George Bush."
Posted by: Stefan on May 23, 2007 at 11:42 AM

Stefan, That might depend a lot on the answers to "What's in it for us?" being satisfactory for them (UN member nations). In the past-we wanted everything our way-that's not so important now. Bush just has 17 months left on the clock. All this surge crap isn't going to come near to covering it and he knows it. We would likely promise a LOT to get the UN tangled up in it so he can run out that clock. This also might make it more difficult for the southern Iraqi Shia to align themselves more closely with Iran and to possibly defuse tension between the Turks and the Kurds. This also buys time for the US to maintain influence in the area. IF the UN signs on to it after we make major concessions to the other members, they are still going to *need* us around you see.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 23, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

some in Washington

Now there's a reliable source.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 23, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

from the original: The former official, who is familiar with administration thinking, predicted Mr Bush would instead ask Congress to agree a six-month extension of the surge after Gen Petraeus presented his "progress report" in early September.

That sounds more like Bush, doesn't it?

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 23, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Lute must know he's being asked to fall on his sword. But loyalty to the institution and esprit de corps can move you to do this, sadly enough.

Posted by: Michael on May 23, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

The real question is why Lute hasn't figured this out too?

There are always some people who think that the work is worth the risk even when everyone else thinks the probablility of success is low.

Not purely incidentally, Bush has managed to get new and enthusiastic members of his team, as he was advised to do after the 2006 election losses. Hadley has probably had enough of Iraq to last his whole lifetime, and there are not a lot of people cheering and saying what a swell job he did.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 23, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

marler: There are always some people who think that the work is worth the risk even when everyone else thinks the probablility of success is low.


in other words...the radical fringe

Posted by: mr. irony on May 24, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

mr. irony: the radical fringe

Or as I like to call them...

suckers..

Posted by: G.W. Bush on May 24, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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