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Wednesday, June 04, 2008


petraeus as the tool of the white house

the politicization of the military is something every american, regardless of political affiliation, should fear and oppose as though the lives of their descendents depended upon it. and yet it seems that it has become a central theme of american politics in recent years.

the use of david petraeus in his capacity in iraq as a political tool of the administration was clear from early on, when in anticipation of his overhyped congressional testimony i could write:

that petraeus would fabricate most anything he needed to make the administration case for perpetuating the imperial occupation and (they hope) slow pacification of iraq and its vital energy resources -- all the more valuable in the advancing age of peak oil -- is hardly a revolutionary concept, the undue reverence of jingoistic and economically illiterate americans notwithstanding. moreover, he is certainly in a position to make uncontested and unverifiable statements about conditions on the ground in iraq. it should be well understood that the administration has purged military leadership repeatedly to get the yes-men they want in place, with names like shinseki and abizaid finding even slight dissent impolitic and career-ending. petraeus was never in any danger of being candid before congress; at best, he might rise to the level of 'plausible'.

perhaps worse is his adoption of the casual republican meme that 'things would get worse if we left'. to be sure, they very well might. but they well might if we stay, and they may indeed improve if we leave. what would be sure, however, is that american troops would not be slowly decimated amidst the civil war that the administration so irresponsibly used them to enable. petraeus has utterly no idea how or if continuing the american presence in iraq makes things better or worse, and his pretending that he does undermines his credibility completely and makes him out to be the republican shill he is.

but that his obfuscation points so clearly at the intended next step -- to open a heretofore covert war -- is no less horrifying for his lack of candor and perspective. having lost in iraq, the bush administration would expand a war they can't win, a war that is gradually bankrupting the nation, a war that is tearing the volunteer military asunder, a war that has exposed the united states as just another evil empire, a war that has riven the homeland with fear and political animosity.

there is, moreover, something more subtle but no less sinister. the use of petraeus as an administration salesman is another step back toward the open politicization of the military, a trend in american development that had (previously to the bush administration) largely recessed from the american scene since vietnam and westmoreland, retracing from the perilous high point of eisenhower and macarthur. this must be an unwelcome trend in any democracy, but particularly one committed to a global empire and harboring a monstrous military-industrial-energy complex.

these views later receivd confirmation as petraeus funneled information to right-wing media outlets. they have grown ever more prominent as petraeus has spearheaded the administration's counterfactual propoganda push to instigate a first-strike attack of iran.

the disgusting promotion of petraeus on the back of his willingness to be the pawn of the administration back in february 2007 -- just as chalmers johnson was trenchantly distilling the essence of the latest bout of the political military -- has received an excellent history in the asia times, where historian gareth porter assembles the chronology of last winter.

The initial draft of the proposed military briefing on the issue of EFPs, which asserted flatly that [explosively formed projectiles] EFPs were being manufactured and smuggled to Iraqi Shi'ite groups directly by the Iranian regime, was met with unanimous objection from the State Department, Defense Department and National Security Council staff, as administration officials themselves stated publicly.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley tried to push back against Cheney's proposed line because they recognized it as an effort to go well beyond the compromise policy toward Iran that had been worked out in December and early January. The compromise policy had been to focus on networks working on procuring EFPs within Iraq and not to target Iran as directly responsible.

... But Cheney had a surprise for the opponents of his hard line on Iran. When White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked on February 9 [2007] about when the briefing would be held, she replied, "Decisions on that are being made out in Baghdad."

That announcement came just as General George W Casey was to be replaced by Petraeus as the new commander. Petraeus had only arrived in Iraq the day before and the changeover ceremony came on February 10.

The day after the ceremony, three military officers presented a briefing to the press which not only asserted that the EFPs could only have been manufactured in Iran but that Iran's Quds Force was behind the smuggling of those weapons into Iraq. They strongly suggested, moreover, that the Iranian government knew about the smuggling.

Cheney had used the compliant Petraeus to do an end-run around the national security bureaucracy. Petraeus had already reached agreement with the White House to take Cheney's line on the EFPs issue and to present the briefing immediately without consulting State or Defense.

this coincided with the sea change within american foreign policy outlined by sy hersh, whence the administration recognized that they had broken the balance of power in the middle east (of which they had apparently been previously either ignorant or dismissive) and given shia-led iran a broad avenue to regional dominance.

of this stage-managed convergence of military leadership with polarized political agenda of the office of the vice president, i have said:

this is an essential element in the final consolidation of the imperial presidency -- just as adolph hitler had to co-opt hindenburg and the prussian officer corps to secure his political fortune in 1933, just as benito mussolini had to intimidate king victor emmanuel iii with blackshirt gangs of veterans and the implicit support of the italian armed forces, so must any party that aspires to rule the united states without the constitution in the longer term have deep support in the american military command structure.

as an american-led first-strike attack upon iran grows closer, this is something to ruminate upon. we have arrived at this position by a slow process of institutional degradation which has its origins in the second world war and the military-industrial complex it spawned. over time, the barriers which have separated a political executive from an apolitical military have been eroded by our unfortunate inheritance of anglophone imperialism. we have already arrived at the point where the political views of military men must be accounted for, because they will impact political events.

but the political body will not long dominate or even control the military should we go further down this path -- to believe so is to confuse the power structure of government. the political body requires the support of the military to maintain power in spite of its circumvention of law and/or the dissent of the people. the military is under no such obligation. the threat presented to representative govenrment by this line of events as it increases the military's involvement in politics should be clear.

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