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Democrats’ “Battered Wife Syndrome”

April 30th, 2009


****************************************************************
DEMOCRATS’ ‘BATTERED WIFE SYNDROME’
By Robert Parry

Consortium News
April 25, 2009

http://consortiumne ws.com/2009/ 042509.html

In recent years, the Washington political dynamic has often resembled an
abusive marriage, in which the bullying husband (the Republicans) slaps
the wife and kids around, and the battered wife (the Democrats) makes
excuses and hides the ugly bruises from outsiders to keep the family
together.

So, when the Republicans are in a position of power, they throw their
weight around, break the rules, and taunt: “Whaddya gonna do ‘bout it?”

Then, when the Republicans do the political equivalent of passing out on
the couch, the Democrats use their time in control, tiptoeing around,
tidying up the house and cringing at every angry grunt from the snoring
figure on the couch.

This pattern, which now appears to be repeating itself with President
Barack Obama’s unwillingness to hold ex-President George W. Bush and his
subordinates accountable for a host of crimes including torture, may have
had its origins 40 years ago in Campaign 1968 when the Vietnam War was
raging.

President Lyndon Johnson felt he was on the verge of achieving a
negotiated peace settlement when he learned in late October 1968 that
operatives working for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon
were secretly sabotaging the Paris peace talks.

Nixon, who was getting classified briefings on the talks’ progress, feared
that an imminent peace accord might catapult Vice President Hubert
Humphrey to victory. So, Nixon’s team sent secret messages to South
Vietnamese leaders offering them a better deal if they boycotted Johnson’s
talks and helped Nixon to victory, which they agreed to do.

Johnson learned about Nixon’s gambit through wiretaps of the South
Vietnamese embassy and he confronted Nixon by phone (only to get an
unconvincing denial). At that point, Johnson knew his only hope was to
expose Nixon’s maneuver which Johnson called “treason” since it endangered
the lives of a half million American soldiers in the war zone.

As a *Christian Science Monitor* reporter sniffed out the story and sought
confirmation, Johnson consulted Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Defense
Secretary Clark Clifford about whether to expose Nixon’s ploy right before
the election. Both Rusk and Clifford urged Johnson to stay silent.

In what would become a Democratic refrain in the years ahead, Clifford
said in a Nov. 4, 1968, conference call that “Some elements of the story
are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be
good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a
certain individual [Nixon] elected. It could cast his whole
administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our
country’s interests.”

So, Johnson stayed silent “for the good of the country”; Nixon eked out a
narrow victory over Humphrey; the Vietnam War continued for another four
years with an additional 20,763 U.S. dead and 111,230 wounded and more
than a million more Vietnamese killed.

Over the years, as bits and pieces of this story have dribbled out –
including confirmation from audiotapes released by the LBJ Library in
December 2008 — the Democrats and the mainstream news media have never
made much out of Nixon’s deadly treachery. [See Consortiumnews. com’s “The
Significance of Nixon’s Treason.”
(http://www.consorti umnews.com/ 2008/120808. html)]

THE WATERGATE EXCEPTION

The one exception to this pattern of the Democrats’ “battered wife
syndrome” may have been the Watergate case, in which Nixon sought to
secure his second term, in part, by spying on his political rivals,
including putting bugs on phones at the Democratic National Committee.

When Nixon’s team was caught in a second break-in — trying to add more
bugs — the scandal erupted.

Even then, however, key Democrats, such as Democratic National Chairman
Robert Strauss, tried to shut down the Watergate investigation as it was
expanding early in Nixon’s second term. Strauss argued that the inquiries
would hurt the country, but enough other Democrats and an energized
Washington press corps overcame the resistance. [For details, see Robert
Parry’s *Secrecy & Privilege*.]

With Nixon’s Watergate-compelled resignation in August 1974, the
Republicans were at a crossroads. In one direction, they could start
playing by the rules and seek to be a responsible political party. Or
they could internalize Nixon’s pugnacious style and build an
infrastructure to punish anyone who tried to hold them accountable in the
future.

Essentially, the Republicans picked option two. Under the guidance of
Nixon’s Treasury Secretary William Simon, right-wing foundations
collaborated to build a powerful new infrastructure, pooling resources to
finance right-wing publications, think tanks, and anti-journalism attack
groups. As this infrastructure took shape in the late 1970s, it imbued
the Republicans with more confidence.

So, before Election 1980, the Republican campaign — bolstered by former
CIA operatives loyal to former CIA Director George H.W. Bush — resorted
to Nixon-style tactics in exploiting President Jimmy Carter’s failure to
free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

The evidence is now overwhelming that Republican operatives, including
campaign chief Bill Casey and some of his close associates, had
back-channel contacts with Iran’s Islamic regime and other foreign
governments to confound Carter’s hostage negotiations. Though much of
this evidence has seeped out over the past 29 years, some was known in
real time.

For instance, Iran’s acting foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh told Agence
France-Presse on Sept. 6, 1980, that he knew that Republican candidate
Ronald Reagan was “trying to block a solution” to the hostage impasse.

Senior Carter administration officials, such as National Security Council
aide Gary Sick, also were hearing rumors about Republican interference,
and President Carter concluded that Israel’s hard-line Likud leaders had
“cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes I found of a
congressional task force interview with Carter a dozen years later.

Carter traced the Israeli opposition to him to a “lingering concern
[among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”

Israel already had begun playing a key middleman role in delivering secret
military shipments to Iran, as Carter knew. But — again for “the good of
the country” — Carter and his White House kept silent.

Since the first anniversary of the hostage crisis coincidentally fell on
Election Day 1980, Reagan benefited from the voters’ anger over the
national humiliation and scored a resounding victory. [For more details
on the 1980 “October Surprise” case, see Parry’s *Secrecy & Privilege*.]

GOP’S GROWING CONFIDENCE

Though much of the public saw Reagan as a tough guy who had frightened the
Iranians into surrendering the hostages on Inauguration Day 1981, the
behind-the-scenes reality was different.

In secret, the Reagan administration winked at Israeli weapons shipments
to Iran in the first half of 1981, what appeared to be a payoff for Iran’s
cooperation in sabotaging Carter. Nicholas Veliotes, who was then
assistant secretary of state, told a PBS interviewer that he saw those
secret shipments as an outgrowth of the covert Republican-Iranian contacts
from the campaign.

Veliotes added that those early shipments then became the “germs” of the
later Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.

But the Republicans seemed to have little to fear from exposure. Their
media infrastructure was rapidly expanding — for instance, the right-wing
*Washington Times* opened in 1982 — and America’s Left didn’t see the
need to counter this growing media power on the Right.

The right-wing attack groups also had success targeting mainstream
journalists who dug up information that didn’t fit with Reagan’s
propaganda themes — the likes of the *New York Times* Raymond Bonner,
whose brave reporting about right-wing death squads in Central America led
to his recall from the region and his resignation from the *Times*.

This new right-wing muscle, combined with Ronald Reagan’s political
popularity, made Democrats and mainstream journalists ever more hesitant
to pursue negative stories about Republican policies, including evidence
that Reagan’s favorite “freedom fighters,” the Nicaraguan contras, were
dabbling in cocaine trafficking and that an illegal contra-aid operation
was set up inside the White House.

In mid-1986, when my Associated Press colleague Brian Barger and I put
together a story citing two dozen sources about the work of NSC official
Oliver North, congressional Democrats were hesitant to follow up on the
disclosures.

Finally in August 1986, the House Intelligence Committee, then chaired by
Democrat Lee Hamilton and including Republican Rep. Dick Cheney, met with
North and other White House officials in the Situation Room and were told
that the AP story was untrue. With no further investigation, the
Democratic-led committee accepted the word of North and his superiors.

LUCKY EXPOSURE

It was only an unlikely occurrence on Oct. 5, 1986, the shooting down of
one of North’s supply planes over Nicaragua and a confession by the one
survivor, Eugene Hasenfus, that put the House Intelligence Committee’s
gullibility into focus.

The plane shoot-down — and disclosures from the Middle East about secret
U.S. arms sales to Iran — forced the Iran-Contra scandal into public
view. The congressional Democrats responded by authorizing a joint
House-Senate investigation, with Hamilton as one of the mild-mannered
co-chairs and Cheney again leading the GOP’s tough-guy defense.

While the Republicans worked to undermine the investigation, the Democrats
looked for a bipartisan solution that would avoid a messy confrontation
with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. That solution was to put
most of the blame on North and a few of his superiors, such as NSC adviser
John Poindexter and the then-deceased CIA Director Bill Casey.

The congressional investigation also made a hasty decision, supported by
Hamilton and the Republicans but opposed by most Democrats, to give
limited immunity to secure the testimony of North.

Hamilton agreed to this immunity without knowing what North would say.
Rather than show any contrition, North used his immunized testimony to
rally Republicans and other Americans in support of Reagan’s aggressive,
above-the-law tactics.

The immunity also crippled later attempts by special prosecutor Lawrence
Walsh to hold North and Poindexter accountable under the law. Though
Walsh won convictions against the pair in federal court, the judgments
were overturned by right-wing judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals citing
the immunity granted by Congress.

By the early 1990s, the pattern was set. Whenever new evidence emerged of
Republican wrongdoing — such as disclosures about contra-drug
trafficking, secret military support for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and those
early Republican-Iran contacts of 1980 — the Republicans would lash out
in fury and the Democrats would try to calm things down.

Lee Hamilton became the Republicans’ favorite Democratic investigator,
because he exemplified this approach of conducting “bipartisan”
investigations, rather than aggressively pursuing the facts wherever they
might lead. While in position to seek the truth, Hamilton ignored the
contra-drug scandal and swept the Iraq-gate and October Surprise issues
under a very lumpy rug.

In 1992, I interviewed Spencer Oliver, a Democratic staffer whose phone at
the Watergate building had been bugged by Nixon’s operatives 20 years
earlier. Since then, Oliver had served as the chief counsel on the House
Foreign Affairs Committee and had observed this pattern of Republican
abuses and Democratic excuses.

Oliver said: “What [the Republicans] learned from Watergate was not
‘don’t do it,’ but ‘cover it up more effectively.’ They have learned that
they have to frustrate congressional oversight and press scrutiny in a way
that will avoid another major scandal.”

THE CLINTON OPPORTUNITY

The final chance for exposing the Republican crimes of the 1980s fell to
Bill Clinton after he defeated President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Before leaving office, however, Bush-41 torpedoed the ongoing Iran-Contra
criminal investigation by issuing six pardons, including one to former
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger whose cover-up trial was set to begin
in early 1993.

Special prosecutor Walsh — a lifelong Republican albeit from the old
Eisenhower wing of the party — denounced the pardons as another
obstruction of justice. “George Bush’s misuse of the pardon power made
the cover-up complete,” Walsh later wrote in his book *Firewall*.

However, the Iran-Contra investigation was not yet dead. Indeed, Walsh
was considering empanelling a new grand jury. Walsh also had come to
suspect that the origins of the scandal traced back to the October
Surprise of 1980, with his investigators questioning former CIA officer
Donald Gregg about his alleged role in that prequel to Iran-Contra.

The new Democratic president could have helped Walsh by declassifying key
documents that the Reagan-Bush- 41 team had withheld from various
investigations. But Clinton followed advice from Hamilton and other
senior Democrats who feared stirring partisan anger among Republicans.

Later, in a May 1994 conversation with documentary filmmaker Stuart
Sender, Clinton explained that he had opposed pursuing these Republican
scandals because, according to Sender, “he was going to try to work with
these guys, compromise, build working relationships. . . .

“It seemed even at the time terribly naïve that these same Republicans
were going to work with him if he backed off on congressional hearings or
possible independent prosecutor investigations.” [See Parry’s *Secrecy &
Privilege*.]

NO RECIPROCITY

But the Democrats — like the battered wife who keeps hoping her abusive
husband will change — found a different reality as the decade played out.

Rather than thanking Clinton, the Republicans bullied him with endless
investigations about his family finances, the ethics of his appointees –
and his personal morality, ultimately impeaching him in 1998 for lying
about a sexual affair (though he survived the Senate trial in 1999).

After the impeachment battle, the Republicans — joined by both the
right-wing and mainstream news media — kept battering Clinton and his
heir apparent, Vice President Al Gore, who was mocked for his choice of
clothing and denounced for his supposed exaggerations.

Though Gore still managed to win the popular vote in Election 2000 and
apparently would have prevailed if all legally cast votes had been counted
in Florida, the Republicans made clear that wasn’t going to happen, even
dispatching rioters from Washington to disrupt a recount in Miami.

George W. Bush’s bullying victory — which was finalized by five
Republican partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court — was met with polite
acceptance by the Democrats who again seemed to hope for the best from the
newly empowered Republicans. [For details on Election 2000, see our book,
*Neck Deep*.]

Instead, after the 9/11 attacks, Bush-43 grabbed unprecedented powers; he
authorized torture and warrantless wiretaps; he pressured Democrats into
accepting an unprovoked war in Iraq; and he sought to damage his critics,
such as former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Now, after eight destructive years, the Democrats have again gained
control of the White House and Congress, but they seem intent on once more
not provoking the Republicans, rather than holding them accountable.

Though President Barack Obama has released some of the key documents
underpinning Bush-43’s actions, he opposes any formal commission of
inquiry and has discouraged any prosecutions for violations of federal
law. Obama has said he wants “to look forward as opposed to looking
backward.”

In dismissing the idea of a “truth and reconciliation commission,” Obama
also recognizes that the Republicans would show no remorse for the Bush
administration’ s actions; that they would insist that there is nothing to
“reconcile”; and that they would stay on the attack, pummeling the
Democrats as weak, overly sympathetic to terrorists, and endangering
national security.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs admitted as much, saying
that Obama rejected the idea of a bipartisan “truth commission” because it
was apparent that there was no feasible way to get the Republicans to be
bipartisan.

“The President determined the concept didn’t seem altogether workable in
this case,” Gibbs said, citing the partisan atmosphere that already has
surrounded the torture issue. “The last few days might be evidence of why
something like this might just become a political back and forth.”

In other words, the Republicans are rousing themselves from the couch and
getting angry, while the Democrats are prancing about, hands out front,
trying to calm things down and avoid a confrontation.

The Democrats hope against hope that if they tolerate the latest
Republican outrages maybe there will be some reciprocity, maybe there will
be some GOP votes on Democratic policy initiatives.

But there’s no logical reason to think so. That isn’t how the Republicans
and their right-wing media allies do things; they simply get angrier
because belligerence has worked so well for so long.

On the other hand, Democratic wishful thinking is the essence of this
political “battered wife syndrome,” dreaming about a behavioral
transformation when all the evidence — and four decades of experience –
tell you that the bullying husband isn’t going to change.

–Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the
Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, *Neck Deep: The
Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush*, was written with two of his
sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook. com. His two
previous books, *Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq* and *Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press &
‘Project Truth’* are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

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Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity insight on the war

November 25th, 2008

Robert Gates Wants to Keep His Pentagon Gig, so He’s Pandering to Obama’s Bad Ideas for Afghanistan

By Ray McGovern, Consortium News
Posted on November 24, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/108318/
It may become a biennial ritual. Every two years, if the commander-in-chief (or the commander-in-chief-elect) says he wants to throw more troops into an unwinnable war for no clear reason other than his political advantage, panderer-in-chief Robert Gates will shout “Outstanding!”

Never mind what the commanders in the field are saying — much less the troops who do the dying.

After meeting in Canada on Friday with counterparts from countries with troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates emphasized to reporters there is a shared interest in “surging as many forces as we can” <http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan24-2008nov24,0,5733953.story>  into Afghanistan before the elections there in late September 2009.

At the concluding news conference, Gates again drove home the point: “It’s important that we have a surge of forces.”

Basking in the alleged success of the Iraq “surge,” Gates knows a winning word when he hears one — whether the facts are with him or not. Although the conventional wisdom in Washington credits the “surge” with reducing violence in Iraq, military analysts point to other reasons — including Sunni tribes repudiating al-Qaeda extremists before the “surge” and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.

In Washington political circles, there’s also little concern about the 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since President George W. Bush started the “surge” early in 2007. The Americans killed during the “surge” represent roughly one-quarter of the total war dead whose numbers passed the 4,200 mark last week.

Nor is there much Washington commentary about what Bush’s grotesque expenditure in blood and treasure will mean in the long term, even as the Iraqis put the finishing touches on a security pact that sets a firm deadline for a complete U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011, wording that may be Arabic for “thanks, but no thanks.”

And most Americans do not know from reading the reports from their Fawning Corporate Media that the “surge” was such a “success” that the United States now has about 8,000 more troops in Iraq than were there before the “surge” rose and fell.

The real “success” of the Iraq “surge” is proving to be that it will let President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney leave office on Jan. 20, 2009, without having to admit that they were responsible for a strategic disaster. They can lay the blame for failure on their successors.

Gates a Winner?

Gates stands to be another beneficiary of the Iraq “surge.”

Already, he has the defense secretary job. In November 2006, he was plucked from the relative obscurity of his Texas A&M presidency and put back into the international spotlight that he has always craved, because he was willing to front for the “surge” when even Donald Rumsfeld was urging Bush to start a troop drawdown.

Now, the perceived “success” of the “surge” is giving hawkish Washington Democrats an excuse to rally around Gates and urge President-elect Barack Obama to keep him on.

Ever an accomplished bureaucrat, Gates is doing what he can to strengthen his case.

On Friday, Gates seemed at pains to demonstrate that his approach to Afghanistan is identical to the one publicly espoused by his prospective new employer who is currently reviewing Gates’ job renewal application. And, as he did with the Iraq “surge” over the past two years, Gates now is talking up the prospects for an Afghan “surge.”

“The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we’re sliding toward a disaster, I think, is far too pessimistic,” Gates said. Yet the argument that Gates used to support his relative optimism makes us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and other failed counterinsurgencies.

“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.

Our secretary of defense is insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact,” but are merely “incidents.”

Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost. In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.” Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

As Vietnamese Communist forces converged on Saigon in April 1975, the U.S. withdrew all remaining personnel. Summers was on the last Marine helicopter to fly off the roof of the American Embassy at 5:30 a.m. on April 30. As he later recalled, “I was the second-to-the-last Army guy out of Vietnam — quite a searing experience.”

More Vietnams?

Why is this relevant? Because if Obama repeats the mistakes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, U.S. Marine choppers may be plucking folks not only off the U.S. embassy roof in Baghdad, but also from the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. No ignoramus, Gates knows that his comments about the Taliban losing “every time” that there is contact with coalition forces is as irrelevant as those of Col. Summers 34 years ago.

Yet, it would be folly to expect Gates to give advice to a superior that challenges the policies that Gates thinks his superior favors. Gates has been the consummate career careerist, going back to his days as head of analysis at CIA in the 1980s when he fashioned intelligence reports that gave the policymakers what they wanted to hear. Instead of the old-fashioned “bark-on” intelligence, the Gates variety was “apple-polished” intelligence.

Time running out for Gates

He wants to stay on as Defense Secretary and apparently thinks that his lifelong strategy of telling his superiors what they want to hear will now work with Barack Obama. Gates is nearing the end of a highly sophisticated campaign to convince Obama and his advisers that the current defense secretary is just who they need at the Pentagon to execute Obama’s policies — and look really bipartisan to boot.

The president-elect’s position has long been that we need to send “at least two additional brigades” (about 7,000 troops) to Afghanistan. So the defense secretary would have us believe, as he said Friday, that “surging as many forces as we can” is an outstanding idea. And with troops having to leave Iraqi cities by next June, in the first stage of the U.S. withdrawal demanded by the draft status-of-forces agreement, there will be more soldiers available to send into the mountains of Afghanistan. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Ironically, this resembles closely the proposed policy of Sen. John McCain, who argued during the debate with Obama on Sept. 26 that “the same [surge] strategy” that Gen. David Petraeus implemented in Iraq is “going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.” For good measure, Gov. Sarah Palin told Katie Couric “a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there, as it has proven to have done in Iraq.”

Reality bites

Oops! Within a week, Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, undercut McCain and Palin, insisting emphatically that no Iraq-style “surge” of forces will end the conflict in Afghanistan. Speaking in Washington on Oct. 1, McKiernan employed unusual candor in describing Afghanistan as “a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq.” The country’s mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks, and history of civil war make it a unique challenge, he said.

“The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan continued, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution. McKiernan added that he doubts that “another facet of the Iraq strategy” — the U.S. military’s programs to recruit tribes to oppose insurgents — can be duplicated in Afghanistan. “I don’t want the military to be engaging the tribes,” said McKiernan.

Recently, President-elect Obama has been relatively quiet on Afghanistan, and one lives in hope that, before he actually commits to sending more brigades to Afghanistan, he will assemble a group of people who know something about that country, the forces at play in the region, and insurgency. If he gathers the right people, and if he listens, it seems a good bet that his campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan being the good war will remain just that, rhetoric.

In any event, press reports suggest that Gates has only another week or so left to pretend to the president-elect that he thinks the ideas reflected in Obama’s rhetoric are outstanding. And, as Gates’ predecessor Rumsfeld might have put it, you have to go with the rhetoric you’ve got. Right now, the word “surge” brings nods of approval at influential dinner parties in Washington.

What does Gen. McKiernan know, anyway? Gates’ Pentagon says that McKiernan now has requested three additional brigade combat teams and additional aviation assets. And yet, he says he’s allergic to a “surge”?

If past is precedent, Gen. McKiernan already realizes he has little choice but to salute smartly, do what he is told, and not diverge from what inexperienced civilians like Gates are promoting. After all, didn’t McNamara know best in the early days of Vietnam and didn’t Rumsfeld know best at the start of the Iraq war?

As the saying goes, if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you are a general assigned a mission — though it appear to be Mission Impossible — you salute smartly and use those troops entrusted to you to do what armies do. At least that has been the tradition since Vietnam. Such behavior is a disgrace when generals know better.

Ambitious but empty suits

I’m all for civilian control of the military. But I see much more harm than good in political generals — like the anointed David Petraeus — who give ample evidence of being interested, first and foremost, in their own advancement. Why do I say that? Because Petraeus, like McKiernan, knows Afghanistan is another quagmire. But he won’t say it.

Rather than do the right thing and brief his superiors on the realities of Afghanistan, Petraeus and the generals he has promoted seem likely to follow the time-honored practice of going along to get along. After all, none of them get killed or wounded. Rather the vast majority get promoted, so long as they keep any dissenting thoughts to themselves.

It is the same pattern we witnessed regarding Vietnam. Although the most senior military brass knew, as the French learned before them, that the war/occupation could not be successful, no senior officer had the integrity and courage to speak out and try to halt the lunacy.

Are there Army generals with guts?

It will be interesting to see what McKiernan actually does if and when more troops are surged down his throat. If he has the courage of his convictions, maybe he’ll quit and perhaps even say something.

As a former Army officer, I would love to see an Army general display the courage that one saw in Admiral William Fallon, former commander of CENTCOM, who openly refused to “do Iran” on his watch, and got cashiered for it. Two years ago, Army Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, speaking on behalf of their senior commanders in the field, pushed back strongly against the idea of adding more U.S. troops to those already in Iraq. They finally succeeded in persuading former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld of the merits of their argument.

It was when Rumsfeld himself started to challenge the advice Bush was getting (to “surge” and thus not “lose” Iraq on his watch) that Robert Gates was brought in to replace Rumsfeld, relieve Abizaid and Casey from command, and help anoint Gen. Petraeus as surge-savior. (For details on Rumsfeld’s break with Bush, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”)

But rather than speak out, Abizaid folded his tent like an Arab and silently stole away. Casey accepted the sinecure of Army chief of staff as hush money. And a thousand more U.S. troops died. The temporary respite provided by the 29,000 troops who survived the surge helped achieve the administration’s main purpose — deferring the inevitable U.S. troop withdrawal (not in “victory” as Bush liked to say, but by demand of the Iraqi government) until Bush and Cheney were safely out of office.

As for Gates, what he does not know about Afghanistan and insurgency could fill a medium-sized library. So could what Gates does know about how to ingratiate himself with the next level up.

If it is true that serious consideration is being given to keeping Gates on past January, it will be interesting to see if the pandering padding of his resume eventually wins the day with the president-elect.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. 

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