Tuesday, November 19, 2013

USA Today misses the point of Odierno's comments


Gen Ray Odierno is the Chief of Staff of the Army.  Earlier became the top US commander in Iraq from September 2008 through September 2010.

He replaced David Petraeus.  When Petraeus was in charge, we regularly had e-mails complaining about our coverage of him.  Some were written at his direction -- as I noted back then, I knew someone serving under Peraeus and that's why, while the press fawned, we knew Petraeus was not all that.  When he finally fell, after he'd gone into civilian life. the press was beating their chests but you'll note not a lot of people who served under the former General David Petraeus stepped forward to speak of the 'tragedy.'

Petraeus was responsible for rejoicing once . . . when he left Iraq.  As we noted about six months into Odierno's term, he helped morale and he ended the days of the diva that Petraeus was so known for.  I think the last time we heard from Petraeus and his team  was a long whine in the summer of 2010 about how unfair we'd been to him and how we were fawning over Odierno.

In fairness to Petraeus, no one raked him over the coals more than we did.  That wasn't just me, it was Isaiah's hilarious comics and Cedric and Wally.

Cedric and Wally, of course, were ripped off by MoveOn which specializes in 'claiming' ideas and running with them.  MoveOn's big moment with Petraeus was their "betray us" campaign of September 2007.  Of course Wally's"THIS JUST IN! US SAYS: 'PETREAUS WILL BETRAY US!'" and Cedric's "Petreaus wet & wild moment haunts him " predate that and that's just one example.

But the point is, while the press were treating Petraeus to hand jobs, this community offered reality.

There was one complaint of our coverage -- one e-mail complaint -- of Odierno which did get a response from me in e-mail and did have me asking friends who _____ was?  He was a new assistant for Petraeus.

Okay, that made sense.

Among the things Odierno doesn't get credit for was the morale boost he provided.  The press never wanted you to know how much Petraeus (and his various antics) depressed morale.  The press couldn't tell you that because your next question might be, "Then why all the fawning coverage of him?"

Odierno is not the great left general (he's not left at all and Petraeus was actually more of a lefty).  We didn't present him as such or embrace him as such but we did give him credit for what he did with morale and for having a great deal of common sense.  Petraeus' beloved counter-insurgency (embraced by many of the academic and wacko left who see people as toys and villages as labs to play in) didn't work.  The military had learned that the hard way during Vietnam.  But Frankenstein monsters like Sarah Sewall (oooh, there's another who can never stop e-mailing, no wonder she and Petraeus were so tight) have no respect for human life.  (Sarah Sewer is currently hoping to move from the Defense Board to the State Dept -- and while it's laughable that she knows anything about human rights, the less time that trash has to spend at Harvard infecting young minds, the better.)

Odierno brought common sense to the US approach in Iraq.  That included grasping what Petraeus never could: Death squads were part of the problem, not the solution.

We have been around online way too long.  I'd really hoped to end this site in November 2008.  And said it would end then in the summer of 2005 -- then Ava and I were writing a piece for Third and mentioned that we'd promised friends with the TV show Fringe that we'd wait until the spring to review their then-new show because the problems we had with the show were being addressed -- we promised we'd review in the spring of 2009 and hadn't even thought about how the site was ending.  No one at Third caught it either and it was only when readers wrote in that we realized we'd extended our time online.  Then Stan wanted to start his site but didn't want to do it if everyone else in the community was about to shut down.  Then . . .

Point being, I would love to be offline now.  One of the benefits of not being is that when context is missing in an Iraq story, we usually can provide it.

Jim Michaels (USA Today) files a brief and bad report on Odierno today.

Odierno is quoted stating, "I still believe they can be a great country but they have to solve their differences between the different factions.  They need leadership that allows them to do that. That's what I worry about."

What's he saying?

To read Michaels' brief and bad report, not much.

To grasp that Odierno sees Nouri as a tyrant, he's saying a great deal.

To know that Odierno offered a worst-case-scenario ahead of the 2010 elections, that quote has serious meaning.

In 2010, the ridiculous Chris Hill -- who'll we'll probably jump the gun and note on Friday -- was the US Ambassador to Iraq.  He was off the rails, to put it nicely.  Naps in the office -- under his desk for 'safety' (yeah, in the case of a mortar attack -- highly unlikely in the Green Zone -- napping under your desk would save you), bi-polar madness, paranoia that everyone -- American and Iraqi -- was out to get him and so much more.  Hill wasn't up for the job.  Hill oversaw the destruction of Iraq in many ways.

When not insulting Iraq (in front of Iraqis -- if he thought they didn't understand English, why did he think they were working for the US?), Hill was always throwing one tantrum after another.

One of his tantrums was that he didn't get enough love -- not from the press, not from the White House.  Instead of having the brains to immediately recall and replace Hill, the White House backed him.  Not only did they tell Odierno to stop granting interviews to the press, they also stopped listening to Odierno.

And it's at this time when Hill's insisting Nouri is 'western' and 'humane' and all this other crap, it's at this time that Odierno offers that Nouri could lose the 2010 parliamentary elections (which did happen, State of Law came in second) and that Nouri might refuse to step down as prime minister.  That one also happened.  Leading Iraq to then set a record for longest time after an election without a government -- for over eight months, Nouri refused to step down.  (Barack ordered US officials to broker The Erbil Agreement; that legal contract circumvented democracy, voters and the Iraqi Constitution to give Nouri a second term.)

Too late, the White House learned what an idiot Hill was.  Hill would be replaced, by James Jeffrey, in the midst of the political stalemate.  He had spent months already telling the White House that the stalemate would be over in a matter of weeks.

To get to the point where Barack grasped he had nominated a fool, Odierno had to go to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and loop then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in.  Gates and Clinton then went to the president and told him that Hill's rosy scenarios were not reality.

Asked by Barack, Odierno responded that a second term for Nouri would be an insult to the Iraqi voters and might cause a loss of faith in the voting process.  He also noted that Nouri had failed to unite Iraq in his first term and his actions in the lead up to the vote indicated Nouri would make even less of an effort if given a second term.  Samantha The Problem From Hell Power, however, insisted that a drawdown of US troops required Nouri for various reasons (including keeping US troops in Iraq) and that to not give Nouri the second term he wanted would make it appear that the Iraq War was a failure.  The US-installed Nouri and they had to keep him, she argued, to demonstrate that it was the right move (to install him in the first place).  That Power's is known for human rights is one of the great cons of the 21st century.

We could go into more but the point is Nouri wants a third term.  He's destroyed the country.  He's failed to improve Iraq lives.  But he wants a third term.  And he came to DC and, November 1st, went to the White House in an attempt to get Barack's blessing.  (Barack's still considering the issue, I'm told.)

In this context, Odierno's words matter in ways that USA Today doesn't seem to grasp.

Still I sent up my prayer
Wondering where it had to go
With heaven full of astronauts
And the Lord on death row
While the millions of his lost and lonely ones
Call out and clamour to be found
Caught in their struggle for higher positions
And their search for love that sticks around

-- "The Same Situation," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Court & Spark

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