Wednesday, March 28, 2012

About the McGurk nomination . . .

brett mcgurk

Since Laura Rozen broke the news that Brett McGurk (above) was the White House choice for the next US Ambassador to Iraq, a number of stories have been filed. Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reported this yesterday:

What the White House didn't mention is that McGurk was the lead negotiator for the 2008 U.S.-Iraq security agreement that extended the U.S. troop presence there until the end of 2011 and he led the failed negotiations in 2011 to extend the U.S. troop presence in Iraq even longer.

McGurk's perceived closeness to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during those two sets of negotiations is both an asset and a detriment as his nomination moves forward. The Washington office of the main Iraqi opposition bloc, Al Iraqiya, penned a letter to all members of Congress Monday stating that its members would have nothing to do with McGurk if he is confirmed as the U.S. envoy to Baghdad.

"I would like to inform you that Aliraqia Bloc and the liberal trend will not deal with new assigned ambassador to Iraq Mr. Brett Mcgurk for his loyalty and bounds with the Islamic party," wrote Waheed Al Sammarraie, the D.C. representiative of the office of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the leader of the opposition.

Last night, when we were speaking to a college group, Rogin's report was raised. (I hadn't read it and wasn't aware of it.) Why weren't people talking about the OSFA and McGurk? I offered the guess that it was because most people already knew that (and didn't need the White House to offer it in order to know about it). Stressing that I hadn't read the article and was going on the summary we were being provided by a student, I stated the news was that Iraqiya was saying that they would not interact with him if he was chosen. I'll ammend that this morning by stating the Iraqiya is news but the 2011 failure negotiations is also news. Though the administration has whispered many names for why they were unable to close a deal before the end of the year, McGurk's name wasn't one of the ones being floated.

Of course Senator John McCain will oppose McGurk and do so for that reason alone. And, whether you supported US troops staying in Iraq or not (I didn't), McCain's correct. That was a huge failure. Such a failure, in fact, that McCain has even floated the notion that the failure was intentional. November 15, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing. From that day's snapshot:

Senator John McCain: Since you brought up regrettably, General Dempsey, 2003 and 2004. The fact is that you did not support the surge and said that it would fail. Secretary Panetta was part of the Iraq Study Group which recommended withdrawal from Iraq and opposed the surge. And so we're all responsible for the judgments that we make and obviously that effects the crediblity of the judgments that we make now on Iraq. I regret that you had to bring that up, General Dempsey. The fact is that there were some of us who were over there in those years you talked about, in fact, maybe even had other members of their family there and saw that it was failing and that we needed to have the surge and the surge succeeded. And the fact is that we could have given sovereign immunity as we have in other countries to keep our troops there and give them the immunity that they needed. We have other agreements with other countries that guarantee sovereign immunity. The fact is, that every military leader recommended that we have residual forces at minimum of 10,000 and usually around 20,000. That was the recommendations made before this committee by General [Ray] Odierno, recommendations made by General [David] Petraeus, recommendations made by even lower ranking military who had spent, as you mentioned a great amount of time there and did not want to see that service and sacrifice all wasted away because of our inability and lack of desire to reach an agreement with Iraqis. As I said in my opening statement, Iraqis are largely responsible as well. But the fact is that when Senator Lieberman, Senator Graham and I were there the Iraqis were ready to deal. And what was the administration's response? They didn't have a number last May as to our residual force in Iraq. So as things happen in that country, things fell apart. Now can you tell the Committee, General Dempsey, if there was any military commander who recommended that we completely withdraw from Iraq?

General Martin Dempsey: Uh, no, Senator. None of us recommended that we completely withdraw from Iraq.

Senator John McCain: When did we come up with the number of uh troops that we wanted to remain in Iraq? Do you know when that final decision was made as to exact numbers that we wanted?

General Martin Dempsey: Uh, it to my knowledge the process started in Augustof [20]10 and, as you know, there was a series of possibilities or options that started at about 16,000 and ended up with about 10[000] and then migrated to 3[000] and then we ended up with [cross talk] --

Senator John McCain: Do you know when the final decision on numbers was reached?

General Martin Dempsey: Well the final decision of focusing on the Office of Security Cooperation was based on a conversation between our president and president Maliki. [C.I. note: Nouri al-Maliki is the prime minister of Iraq. He is not the president. Jalal Talabani holds the ceremonial post of president.] Prior to that, I don't know.

Senator John McCain: The reason I thnk you don't know because there never was an exact number and missions articulated by our government which would have been a concrete proposal for the Iraqi government. So to say that the Iraqi government didn't want us when they didn't know the number and missions that we wanted as a residual force makes it understandable why we didn't reach an understanding with them. And, as you mentioned, it cascaded down from 20,000 to the ridiculously low number of 3. So, Secretary Panetta, we're now going to have a residual presence in Iraq of 16,000 American Embassy personnel and workers, isn't that correct.

If McGurk was responsible for the failure -- in part or in whole -- there's really no way that a number of senators will sign off on his nomination.

The big question is whether this is an isolated move to torpedo the nomination or a departmental move?

Josh Rogin's State Dept source is well known in DC and has been for some time. (When he broke the rules of journalism by allowing the source to attack without being named is when Rogin's source began to be named on the DC party circuit.) Was he fed this story just by the source or was it part of a larger effort on the part of State to kill McGurk's nomination?

While that gets pondered and with the chance that the nomination may be killed, we should pause a moment to consider something else. Dropping back to the March 13th snapshot:

From the Congress to diplomacy, Laura Rozen (Yahoo's The Envoy) reports that Brett McGurk is being whispered to be the new nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.
For those keeping track, McGurk would become the fourth US Ambassador to Iraq since Barack was sworn in. US Ambassador Ryan Crocker was already in the spot in 2009 but agreed to stay on while they scrambled to find a replacement -- that they had to scramble demonstrates how little Iraq ever really mattered. They manic depressive Christopher Hill was next. Third was the present US Ambassador James Jeffrey. For those wondering, no that is not normal. Some would even make the case that it's unacceptable and that the post needs stability not constant fluxuation.

McGurk would be the fourth US Ambassador to Iraq since Barack was sworn in, if he's confirmed. Regardless of whether he's confirmed or not, he's the third nominee for the post by Barack.

How does it help Iraq?

How does it help the people of Iraq?

Here's Hillary speaking at the Women in the World Summit this month (link is text and video and includes Meryl Streep's introduction):

Now, we can tell stories all night and we can talk about the women who have inspired us. But what inspires me is not just who they are, but what they do. They roll their sleeves up and they get to work. And this has such important implications for our own country and for our national security, because our most important goals – from making peace and countering extremism to broadening prosperity and advancing democracy – depend to a very large degree on the participation and partnership of women.
Nations that invest in women’s employment, health, and education are just more likely to have better outcomes. Their children will be healthier and better educated. And all over the world, we’ve seen what women do when they get involved in helping to bring peace. So this is not just the right thing to do for us to hold up these women, to support them, to encourage their involvement; this is a strategic imperative.
And that’s why at the State Department, I’ve made women a cornerstone of American foreign policy. I’ve instructed our diplomats and development experts to partner with women, to find ways to engage and build on their unique strengths, help women start businesses, help girls attend school, push that women activists will be involved in peace talks and elections. It also means taking on discrimination, marginalization, rape as a tactic of war. I have seen the terrible abuses and what that does to the lives of women, and I know that we cannot rest until it is ended.

It's a shame the President doesn't feel the same pressing need the Secretary of State does.

Ava and I made the argument to several members of the transition team that Barack should nominate a woman for the post of US Ambassador to Iraq. We argued it would send a message and it would allow modeling of behavior. We noted that Iraq didn't pick women for ambassadors to other countries. It would be a statement and a powerful one.

Why is it that three times Barack has thought of a nominee and three times it hasn't been a woman?

This is especially critical as he tries to play friend to woman in public and there was this ridiculous report on Morning Edition (NPR) this morning (listen to the report -- or later read the transcript -- the summary says "women's groups" which would be good, however, the reporter reduced it to conservative women's groups in her 'report') and how Barack supposedly calls out all sexist remarks and didn't support them. I must have missed that policy change from the man who excludes women from his golf and basketball games (someone's overcompensating to try to appear manly, aren't they?). That policy certainly wasn't in place in 2008. From Marie Cocco's "Obama's Abortion Stance When 'Feeling Blue'" (Washington Post Writers Group July 8, 2008):

Obama says that these women should not be able to obtain a late-term abortion, because just "feeling blue" isn't the same as suffering "serious clinical mental health diseases." True enough. And totally infuriating.
During the recent Obama pander tour -- the one in which he spent about a week trying to win over conservative religious voters -- the presumptive Democratic nominee unnecessarily endorsed President Bush's faith-based initiative, a sort of patronage program that rewards religious activists for their political support with public grants. Then in a St. Louis speech, Obama declared that "I let Jesus Christ into my life." That's fine, but we already have a president who believes this was a qualification for the Oval Office, and look where that's gotten us.Obama's verbal meanderings on the issue of late-term abortion go further. He has muddied his position. Whether this is a mistake or deliberate triangulation, only Obama knows for sure.

One thing is certain: Obama has backhandedly given credibility to the right-wing narrative that women who have abortions -- even those who go through the physically and mentally wrenching experience of a late-term abortion -- are frivolous and selfish creatures who might perhaps undergo this ordeal because they are "feeling blue."

The White House is insisting Barack doesn't have to distance himself from Bill Maher's long history of offensive comments about women. It's cute the way that works. If he'd made those comments about any other group of people, the White House would have already distanced themselves. If he were a female comic, the White House would have already distanced themselves. I make that last comment in reference to John Kerry's campaign rushing to distance themselves from Whoopi Golberg during his presidential run. For those who've forgotten, Whoopi was among the celebrities providing entertainment at a fundraiser and she made a joke about Bush using his last name. (Think about it.) By the next day, less than 24 hours later, the Kerry campaign was apologizing for the joke and distancing themselves from Whoopi.

Again, Barack's nominated three people. Not one of them has been a woman. That says a great deal. There are many qualified women. And realizing how Barack loves to nominate right wingers, it's surely surprising that he hasn't nominated Condi Rice.

The following community sites -- plus CSPAN and -- updated last night and this morning:

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes this which is taking place today:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
TOMORROW: Senator Murray to Question Army Surgeon General on the Handling of Mental Wounds of War
At Hearing of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Veterans Chairman Murray will press the Army Surgeon General on troubled PTSD unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and whether similar problems exist at other bases.
(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, will question Army Surgeon General Lieutenant General Patricia Horoho on recent shortcomings in the Army's efforts to properly diagnose and treat the invisible wounds of war. Specifically, Murray will discuss the forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord that is under investigation for taking the cost of PTSD into consideration when making diagnosing decisions. The Army is currently reevaluating over 300 servicemembers and veterans who have had their PTSD diagnoses changed by that unit since 2007. Murray will ask whether similar problems are happening at Army bases nationwide.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray
WHAT: Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing -- DoD Health Programs
WHEN: TOMORROW -- Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
10:00 AM EST/ 7:00 AM PST -- Hearing start time
WHERE: Dirksen 192

Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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