The New York Times reported this weekend that the Bush administration is developing “concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.” The White House immediately tried to tamp down the story.
If there was ever any lingering doubt about whether the White House might finally be considering a redeployment, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol put those hopes to bed this morning on Fox News. He revealed that Bush is “furious” over the NYT report and that the White House is aggressively pushing back on the story over the Memorial Day weekend. Kristol said:
The president apparently was furious about the New York Times article Saturday. One senior White House official went out of his way to call me Saturday and left me a voicemail saying that. So, since they don’t normally do that on Saturdays, I think maybe it’s even true.
The NYT report is just the latest example in a recurring pattern of media reports that have given false hope of an imminent drawdown. As Glenn Greenwald notes, “For four straight years, the same set of war supporters have constantly and repetitiously given the same exact false assurances about Iraq — virtually verbatim — in order to protect themselves politically.” And the press bites at the story every time.
KRISTOL: I think the leak to the New York Times Saturday was a leak by one faction in the administration.
WALLACE: Why don’t you explain what the leak was.
KRISTOL: That the president is going to move towards a withdrawal at maybe the end of 2007.
WALLACE: That was one of the contingencies discussed.
KRISTOL: Which the New York Times said has not been discussed with General Petraeus and General Odierno, who are running the war. It’s irresponsible for people in the State Department, the Defense Department or the White House to be leaking this stuff which they have no idea whether it’s practical. The president apparently was furious about the New York Times article Saturday. One senior White House official went out of his way to call me Saturday and left me a voicemail saying that. So, since they don’t normally do that on Saturdays, I think maybe it’s even true. They certainly want the impression to be the president was furious.
Look, there’s a fight in the administration about how much they need to look as if they sort of are laying the predicate for getting out — ultimately, everyone wants to withdraw troops and plans to. Petraeus and Odierno assume that if they can sustain the surge through the beginning of 2008, at that point, maybe there will be enough Iraqi forces that we can begin to drawdown. The idea that you help yourself now by talking about drawing down, that was the mistake that the President and Secretary Rumsfeld made for the first three years. It’s the last thing they want to do now. The task for the next three months is for the president to get control over his own administration in terms of the message, let Petraeus and Odierno fight the war. Make the case for why we can’t afford to lose and why we can win and stop this internal leaking and signalling which they may — some of the people may think helps them politically, but i think it hurts.