Bush 'Divorced From Reality'
- Former Senator blasts US occupation during lively television debate on
Bush 'Divorced From Reality'
Analysts and media op-ed writers have spent the past couple of days
dissecting and digesting the Iraq War Report Card presented by the US
military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and his State
Department sidekick Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Perhaps the two most significant points that those who watched the
testimony will remember are (1) no plans for a troop withdrawal for
the time being, and (2) Iran is to blame for everything that has gone
The testimony also contrasted sharply with earlier statements by
President George W. Bush and General Petraeus about how "astonishingly
normal things have become in Baghdad." One of course has to speculate
on what benchmark of normalcy Washington is working to.
At the time of writing, a correspondent colleague of mine had just
described by MSN a mad dash out of the Sadr City district of Baghdad
after a firefight exploded not 10 feet from where she and other
journalists were standing. The word "normalcy" did not feature in her
description of events.
Coming as it does against this dramatic increase in violence in
Baghdad and elsewhere, the Petraeus-Crocker testimony paints a very
odd picture of normalcy -- one that in their words is "fragile and
In fact, with the exception of rhetoric-filled speeches from Bush
himself, the one word we rarely, if ever hear, is that the road to
peace, democracy and stability in Iraq is "irreversible."
Appearing on PressTV's political discussion program, "Middle East
Today," former Senator Mike Gravel said what struck him the most was
the repeated reference to "fragile and reversible."
"Obviously the tactic of bribing the Sunni warlords will fail the
minute we stop bribing them. And then of course the cowardly act of
blaming Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki for the failure in Basra, of
saying it was all his initiative when we were totally complicit."
Gravel said the forces loyal to anti-occupation cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
had proven to be much stronger than anticipated and blamed a lack of
intelligence for the failure.
Astonishingly, Gravel said, there have been cases where professional
Arabic and Farsi linguists have been discharged from the military
because they were gay and as a consequence "our intelligence is
Sabrina Schaeffer, a Washington-based political analyst said there are
possibly two things that could be taken away from the report.
"The first is that we are making a lot of progress both politically
and militarily on the ground. And second that a premature withdrawal
would be a disaster, and would overturn what they described as a
fragile and reversible situation on the ground," she said.
Sabah Jawad, secretary of the London-based Iraqi Democrats Against
War, dismissed reports of progress.
"While there may have been some changes in the months immediately
after the surge in US troop levels, in the past few days we have seen
some 17 American soldiers killed since Sunday."
He said the United States is still in a quagmire in Iraq and is trying
to solve its problems by flexing its muscles and urging the al-Maliki
government to take stronger action, especially in the south of Iraq.
Senator Gravel also took issue with Schaeffer's upbeat assessment.
"I really don't understand how Sabrina can come and say there's
progress," he said. "But what is worse is the outright lies presented
to the American people that Iran is responsible for what is going on."
Gravel said Washington is trying to develop a concept of a proxy war
being waged between Iran and Iraq.
"There is no evidence, none at all," he said, "And if you go in deeper
into the American military, you have army officers, captains, majors,
colonels, who will tell you there is no evidence at all about anything
coming over the Iranian border into Iraq. But then you get Petraeus
and other generals making these statements."
Gravel wondered how they could make statements that the mortars used
on the heavily fortified Green Zone, for example, are coming from
Iran. "These are outright lies," he said.
Gravel said he could see the same policy being employed now that was
used by the US to widen the war in South East Asia some 40 years ago.
"This is what happened in Vietnam. We went in and attacked Cambodia
and Laos. They had nothing to do with what was going on in Vietnam.
All it did was expand a murderous part of the South East Asian War."
Gravel said Iran is a natural ally of the United States, "Iran has
been helping us stabilize the situation in Iraq until we can come to
our senses and get out. Our guest here Sabrina says she sees progress,
but even Petraeus admitted he sees no light at the end of the tunnel."
Schaeffer took the floor to clarify what she says are some of the
"I think Petraeus did an excellent job of explaining this incident in
Basra, but overall we have seen a reduction in both ethnic and
sectarian violence, terrorist attacks are down, the Iraqis are
controlling half of their 18 provinces, and we are seeing that
al-Qaida in Iraq has significantly diminished," she said, "And I think
we can give credit to the troop surge and Petraeus' experience in
counterinsurgency intelligence. So I don't think we can underestimate
the improvements that are taking place on the ground."
The recent surge in violence, especially in Sadr City that continued
over the weekend would not immediately support these views, with
correspondents on the scene saying that for the first time they are
quite openly seeing snipers on the roofs of buildings and more
disturbances on the streets.
Gravel dismissed suggestions that the surge or Petraeus' expertise was
responsible for the pre-Basra reduction in the insurgency across Iraq.
Gravel said the reduction had been bought with US taxpayer money and
that the relative calm would end as quickly as the money did.
"Do you know how much money Petraeus has been handing out to Sunni
warlords?" he asked. "To suppress the violence. Do you really have any
Schaeffer said she acknowledged there is an impulse to want to put a
price tag on the cost of the war, but that doing so, or putting a
timeline on how long the war would take, "is just irresponsible."
Jawad, taking much the same line as Gravel, was deaf to any claims of
"I will tell you of the successes in Iraq," he said, "One million
killed by the US occupation, five million dispersed people internally
and externally. More than a million widows, five million orphans,
150,000 people arrested in centers run by the United States in Iraq,
and there is a catalogue of catastrophes inflicted on the people of
Iraq by this war. And the sooner they withdraw," he added, "the better
for all of us."
Schaeffer argued that the picture being painted that the US forces
were universally unwelcome was misleading and pointed out that the
Iraqi government has vocalized and demonstrated its long-term
commitment to cooperation to achieve final and lasting peace and
democracy in Iraq.
Gravel, citing independent opinion polls, begged to differ.
"This is an army of occupation, and if you look at the polls the
people of Iraq overwhelmingly want us to leave," he said, "and we
should honor that."
Gravel said the United States invaded Iraq on the back of fraud and
lies by the Bush administration: "This is criminal of the order that
should go to the world criminal court."
The former Senator from Alaska said the only way to achieve stability
would be for the United States to admit error, and then go to Iraq's
neighbors, including Iran, and ask for their help in bringing
stability to Iraq.
"Here you have President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who I don't have any
particular truck with by the way, but he goes to Iraq and he is more
popular than any American official."
The American leader, Gravel said, goes to Iraq and he has to sneak
around in the dark of night with total security. "Ahmadinejad goes in
there and he is treated as a friend, does that not communicate
something to anyone?"
Continuing the war under the illusion that progress is being made,
Gravel said, is indicative of how out of touch Bush really is.
"George Bush is not on this planet, truthfully," Gravel said, "He
really has no sense of reality of what is going on. Last week he told
the American people we are not in a recession, while Alan Greenspan a
day later said we were, and this is something the American people
know. Bush is divorced from reality whether it's about Iraq, Iran or
the economy. He is not plugged into reality."
Gravel said Washington's apparent policy to attack Iran could possibly
trigger a nuclear exchange.
Gravel's concerns were shared by Schaeffer, "I think the point that
attacking Iran might trigger a nuclear war is what's concerning the
Bush administration. We have to take the actions and rhetoric of
President Ahmadinejad very seriously. It would be irresponsible not to
do so. And I think we have to remember this is a man who has called
for Israel to be wiped off the map, a man who has denied the Holocaust."
She said here is a man who has vowed to knock down global powers, and
we have to assume that he's pointing his finger at the United States.
Schaeffer's comment regarding "wiping Israel off the map" is an
oft-quoted mistranslation, but one frequently used to attack Iran's
president and his policies.
"Actually he did not say he would wipe Israel off the map," Jawad
explained. "This statement has been corrected but it is still repeated
by US officials. He did not say this, but I am not surprised to hear
this repeated all the time."
The actual statement made by Ahmadinejad called for the "removal of
the Zionist regime in Jerusalem from the pages of history." Many
experts say that you can "assume" or "infer" Ahmadinejad's real
intentions are to wipe Israel off the map, but the simple fact
remains, he did not say it. They point out that Washington's aim in
invading Iraq was to wipe the Baathist regime in Baghdad from the
pages of history, but not to wipe Iraq off the map.
One of the cornerstones of the Petraeus-Crocker report was what they
described as the "malign Iranian involvement in Iraq" and Tehran's
support for special groups that target American troops and other
coalition interests in the country.
President Bush later told a select group at a press conference that
America would do what was necessary to prevent Iranian interference in
Iraq, a thinly veiled threat of military action.
But Gravel said to his knowledge, there is still no substantiated
evidence that Iran is playing a military role in the insurgency.
"It is being fabricated by the White House and being bought into by
some of these senior military leaders. This is all part of the neocon
plan to gain hegemony, economic hegemony in the Middle East, and that
is American imperialism that we have to reverse."
Schaeffer acknowledges that the engagement and cooperation of Iraq's
neighbors is an important factor in the eventual stabilization of Iraq
and its efforts to achieve peace and democracy.
"But I think, for instance, when Senator Obama talks about opening up
diplomatic channels with President Ahmadinejad, I think just helps to
legitimize a leader that unfortunately has been irresponsible in his
But as Senator Gravel pointed out earlier in the discussion, being
irresponsible in his rhetoric is a description that could just as
easily be applied to Bush.
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