General Petraeus is no Doug MacArthur either, and that’s a good thing. He’s not likely to repeat the insubordinate nonsense that brought down Stan. On the other hand, I’m concerned about his health. A week ago he collapsed in front of the Senate. What caused it? Dehydration? Stress? Did he have some foreshadowing of the fate that would soon befall his subordinate? If so, was he stressing about the demotion he would have to take in order to set things right?
Three years ago MoveOn sponsored a controversial ad regarding Petraeus’ performance in Iraq. The ad said,
General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts. In 2004, just before the election, he said there was “tangible progress” in Iraq and that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” And last week Petraeus, the architect of the escalation of troops in Iraq, said, “We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress.”
Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed. Yet the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. According to the Associated Press, there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there. We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed. Most importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war. We may hear of a plan to withdraw a few thousand American troops. But we won’t hear what Americans are desperate to hear: a timetable for withdrawing all our troops. General Petraeus has actually said American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years.
The substance of the ad was never questioned, but the appropriateness brought a world of hurt down on MoveOn. Someone in the MoveOn camp discovered the unfortunate rhyme of “Petraeus” with “betray us,” and, with McChrystal-like adolescent glee, MoveOn hooked their criticism to that silly rhyme and lost the power of the argument.