The French right wins a parliamentary majority, but winds up losing seats relative to its pre-election position of strength. This tends to bolster my sense that the dawn of the Sarkozy Era will ultimately be less consequential than many seem to hope or fear.
In a New Yorker article today, Seymour Hersh interviews Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who led the Pentagon’s investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. This article is the first time that Taguba has publicly spoken out about the scandal, revealing that the Pentagon forced him to retire early because of his aggressive pursuit of the issue.
Taguba also reveals that he believed high-level military officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, knew about the abuses but feigned ignorance, putting all the blame on low-level soldiers. Key highlights:
Taguba was threatened by Gen. John Abizaid:
A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. … Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”
“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.“
White House “didn’t think the photographs were that bad”:
The former senior intelligence official said that when the images of Abu Ghraib were published, there were some in the Pentagon and the White House who “didn’t think the photographs were that bad” — in that they put the focus on enlisted soldiers, rather than on secret task-force operations. Referring to the task-force members, he said, “Guys on the inside ask me, ‘What’s the difference between shooting a guy on the street, or in his bed, or in a prison?’” A Pentagon consultant on the war on terror also said that the “basic strategy was ‘prosecute the kids in the photographs but protect the big picture.’”
Taguba was demoted and eventually forced to retire because of his investigation: Read more
A commenter on yesterday’s post on the subject drew my attention to both Charles Haney’s AP story “US Forces Step Up Air War: Bombing runs more than double from ’06″ and William S. Lind’s comment upon it: “Nothing could testify more powerfully to the failure of U.S. efforts on the ground in Iraq than a ramp-up in airstrikes. Calling in air is the last, desperate, and usually futile action of an army that is losing. If anyone still wonders whether the ‘surge’ is working, the increase in air strikes offers a definitive answer: it isn’t.”
This seems right to me. Lind goes on to say further smart things.
In a conference call with bloggers last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) criticized outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace for his “incompetent” management of the Iraq war and was subsequently attacked by members of Congress as well as the White House for his remarks.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released a statement charging that Reid’s remarks were “incredibly disappointing” and “highly inappropriate.” White House spokesperson Tony Snow called Reid’s remarks “outrageous” and stated, “I certainly hope he does apologize.”
Today on ABC’s This Week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) said that Reid owes no apology to Pace. Biden asserted that Reid’s remarks were directed at Pace’s involvement in President Bush’s “abject failure” of policy in Iraq:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did Senator Reid slander the generals, and does he owe them an apology?
BIDEN: No and no. The fact of the matter is, this policy, the president’s policy, is an abject failure. It continues to be a failure. There continues to be denial about the progress that is not being made.
Indeed, Pace has made several high-profile missteps during his service as Joint Chiefs Chairman. Pace previously refused to refer to Iraq as a civil war, contradicting the assessments of the Pentagon and intelligence community, and has heaped praise on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Pace also controversially justified the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers by claiming that “homosexual acts between individuals are immoral.”
A spokesperson for Reid has dismissed Snow’s calls for an apology: “This is coming from the same guy that said yesterday that increased violence in Iraq was a sign of success. Americans are looking for candor about the situation in Iraq.”
Transcript: Read more
Today on Fox News Sunday, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, agreed that lawmakers will be able to have a “reasonable and a realistic sense” of whether the escalation is “working or not working” by September. “I’ve said that all along. I started saying that back in January. I think we’ll have had by then our forces in the mix for a good several months.”
Later in the show, however, Petraeus admitted that he didn’t expect the “surge” to be done by September, the date set for Petraeus’ supposedly make-it or break-it report to Congress. Asked by host Chris Wallace whether he believed “the job would be done by the surge by September,” Petraeus responded, “I do not, no.” Watch it:
Asked in a follow up question if that meant “enhanced troop levels would continue for some months after that and into 2008,” Petraeus refused to answer. “Again, premature right now,” said Petraeus. “A number of options out there. And I’m not about to announce what we might do here today, I’m afraid.”
Petraeus then went on to endorse the “Korea model” for Iraq, which envisions keeping troops in the country for decades. “[T]ypically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years,” said Petraeus. “I think in general that that’s probably a fairly realistic assessment,” Petraeus said of the Korea comparison.
Transcript: Read more
We seem to be losing ever more ground in the “other” war. The one that had, you know, actual justification but where the idea that the war would accomplish some of its objectives was important to the widespread support it garnered.