President Bush failed to see the irony in using
a financial metaphor to explain his new benchmark for withdrawing troops from
Iraq. He says the more we succeed in places like Anbar province, the more troops
we can bring home. He calls the policy "return on success."
Only, "success" in Anbar is really just a return on U.S. financial
inducements to tribal sheiks. Instead of dropping bombs in Iraq, we're now
dropping bundles of cash in the laps of insurgents who without the crude
bribes would no doubt return to ambushing our troops.
If the surge has worked, it's due in large part to a surge in bribes, not
troops. And that kind of success cannot last.
But no matter. U.S. Commanding Gen. David Petraeus is now applying the "successful"
Anbar formula to other areas, including Shi'ite neighborhoods. "Anbar
progress spreads to Diyala," blares a recent lead story in USA Today.
What's spreading, more accurately, is millions in dinars, and they're being
used to buy the temporary loyalty of insurgents to give the appearance of
"progress" in Iraq. Some 25 tribes in Diyala province now have men
branded "terrorists" on the U.S. payroll.
The neocons dismiss as apocryphal firsthand,
on-the-ground reports of U.S. cash payments to tribal sheiks. They say Sunni
sheiks switched sides because, as Bush clucked, "we're kicking ass."
They also allegedly were "sick" of pushy al-Qaeda foreigners.
In fact, the reports of payments have been confirmed by Petraeus himself. He
didn't acknowledge it in his own report to Congress. He let it slip out,
ironically, in an "interview" with Fox News.
Only, Fox News anchor Brit Hume was too busy guiding Petraeus through his
PowerPoint presentation of propaganda to notice. Let's go to the transcript:
PETRAEUS: The tribes and the sheiks decided to say no more to al-Qaeda.
They were tired of the indiscriminate violence, tired of the Taliban-like ideology
and other practices.
HUME: And they're Sunnis, right?
PETRAEUS: They are Sunni Arabs rising up against a largely Sunni Arab al-Qaeda
Iraq. And, again, you can see just a plummeting [in violence]. From the height
back in October, somewhere in there is where one of the key sheiks [now dead]
stood up and said, "Would it be OK with you, would you support us, in fact,
if we, instead of pointing our weapons at you, pointed them at al-Qaeda?"
And we obviously supported that.
But then I will tell you: We have not armed tribes. Initially, the sheiks
paid their men themselves. We eventually did help with that. But then we have
tried to transition them to legitimate Iraqi security force institutions.
So, the general concedes that "we eventually did" bankroll the sheiks
their men, formerly known as "terrorists." A red-blooded journalist
have pounced on the news, but Hume didn't bother to follow up. Apparently he
didn't want such messy details complicating the heroic Anbar success story
he was helping sell.
Then in the same "exclusive" Fox interview, the U.S. ambassador
to Iraq, who had accompanied Petraeus, revealed that the client government we
set up in Baghdad has been paying millions in "compensation" to the
tribal sheiks in Anbar.
"In the case of Anbar, just a few days ago, when I was out there,"
said ambassador Ryan Crocker, "central government representatives brought
out a package to Ramadi, the capital city, an additional $70 million for their
capital budget, a 70 percent increase, and $50 million for compensation for
damages suffered in the struggle against al-Qaeda."
So there you have it. This is how Anbar became safe for presidential photo-ops.
Dinar by dinar, greenback by greenback, the Bush administration has quietly
been expanding the green zone.
Again, Hume didn't seize on the news from Crocker and moved right on to Iran
and Syria, the next areas of propaganda.
Bush followed Petraeus with a press conference, in which he repeatedly praised
"the success in Anbar" and the "blow" it delivered to al-Qaeda,
which he made sure to mention no less than 12 times.
The local sheiks "pledged they would never let al-Qaeda return,"
the president said, and "they can count on the continued to support of
the United States."
What he didn't say is that they'd signed contracts to cooperate with our
operations in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars each, paid in
bricks of dinars worth $40,000 each, so that they can eventually finance
their own personal armies.
He also neglected to mention suspicions shared among U.S. commanders in Anbar
that those who vowed never to let al-Qaeda return were aiding and abetting "al-Qaeda"
all along. This explains the sudden drop in attacks more than anything. No wonder
they were so confident of their pledges.
"They used to want to kill me," said Army Capt. Henry Moltz, who has
out bricks of cash to Sunni tribal leaders. "Now they want to sign a
contract with me."
"It's hard to get your head around," he added, "but it is working."
Sure, as long as we keep stuffing their pockets. But what happens when the
protection money dries up?
How long before these Sunni fighters, who formerly resisted the American
"crusaders," turn on us as a fifth column in the Iraqi police and
where they'll be read in on intelligence concerning troop movements and gain
access to secure areas?
This is the devil in the details of the success story we're being sold about
the surge. The assertion that al-Qaeda is the main source of violence, the principal
enemy, in Iraq is more sleight of hand.
According to former Pentagon analyst Anthony Cordesman, so-called "al-Qaeda
in Iraq" (as opposed to al-Qaeda central in Pakistan) was responsible for
only 15 percent of this year's attacks there. He got the figure from a recent
U.S. military background brief in Iraq. Even then, the military uses a loose
But don't listen to me. Let Gen. Petraeus tell it in his own words. Here's
another moment of unexpected candor from that Fox interview.
HUME: Is this, in an ultimate sense, turned out to be, more than anything
else, a war with al-Qaeda?
PETRAEUS: Well, it is al-Qaeda and associated movements, I think, or affiliates,
if you will.
In other words: No, Brit. The general went on to describe the larger battle
with "insurgents" and "resistance fighters."
Where Petraeus was not candid was on the subject of Iranian interference in
Iraq. Over and over, he suggested Tehran was fighting a proxy war in Iraq.
But if the general were really a straight shooter, as the Right claims (and
not Bush's political poodle, as the Left charges), he also would have mentioned
Saudi Arabia's support for the insurgency in Iraq. Every commander on the ground
in Anbar province and other Sunni hotspots knows that most of the foreign fighters
and suicide bombers attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq are really young jihadists
streaming across the border from Saudi Arabia. They also know that the bulk
of money funding the insurgency is coming from the Kingdom, not Iran.
U.S. Central Command has just as much evidence, if not more, that our Saudi
"allies" are fighting a proxy war in Iraq against us and the Shi'ites
has on Iran.
Yet Petraeus failed to mention Saudis' role in either his interview with Fox
or his report to Congress.
In fact, the U.S. military is currently in a bidding war over Sunni insurgents
with the Saudis, who are raising millions at mosques and charities and sending
it into Iraq by the bus and truck load. We're paying them to stop the jihad;
the Saudis are paying them to wage it.
If there's any success in Iraq, we've bought it with good old-fashioned
bribery. Add that to the $2 trillion tab annexing part of hell is expected
to cost us in the final analysis.
Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden, the real and proven terrorist threat, sits and
laughs unpunished six years after ordering the murder of thousands of
Where's the surge to get him? Red-blooded journalists and true patriots want
to know. Partisans like Hume, not so much.
In the middle of Petraeus' dog-and-pony show in Washington, America's Enemy
No. 1 reared his ugly head again after three years of silence, issuing an
"We take revenge on the people of tyranny and aggression, and the blood
the Muslims will not be spilled with impunity," bin Laden threatened. "And
the morrow is nigh for he who awaits."
Sounds like a go-ahead signal to sleeper cells for the next "blessed"
attack. Yet all Hume or anyone in Washington could talk about was the phony
surge in the false front of Iraq.