Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool

From an interview that Matt Stoller did with General Wesley Clark Wes Clark Interview, Part One: The Petraeus Ad

Wes Clark: He’s had to hide behind Petraeus. Petraeus is being taken advantage of. In the military you have to be loyal to the chain of command. You have to. And Petraeus knows that if Congress pulls the forces out it will be by his definition a defeat in Iraq and so naturally he’s trying to tell you why he needs those forces and why those forces should be there and that’s no more than what’s to be expected by someone in that position. He’s like the quarterback on the football team, you don’t like the plays that are being called go to the playcaller.

Anyone that has a boss and the time arises as it surely will that you disagree with your boss can relate this this problem, but Clark leaves out an important aspect of Petraeus’s testimony. He came to that testimony with an agenda, How much credence should Gen. Petraeus’ reports be given?

In general, military commanders do not typically pronounce their own strategies to have failed; quite the opposite. The need for skepticism here is particularly acute given that there are plenty of Generals with equally impressive military pedigrees who disagree vigorously with Petraeus. War supporters — who are attempting now to make criticisms of Petraeus off-limits — long disputed the claims and views of Generals Casey and Abaziad, often quite vigorously, even insultingly. The statements about war from military commanders ought to be subjected to every bit as much scrutiny and skepticism as anyone else’s.

Glenn also quotes extensively from an interview G.P. did with war cheerleader Hugh Hewitt. Why did the General do the interview with Hewitt instead of Bill Moyers or Walter Pincus. Because G.P. knew that his views would go unchallenged. Glenn also notes the nice slide presentation that Petraeus did at the St. Regis Hotel which showed the audience a carefully filtered view of what life was like in Baghdad. Here is where General Clark gets it exactly right,

Wes Clark: Moveon’s an organization, and when it does that it distracts from the dialogue that the Senator’s trying to have. Frankly, I think the better course of action is to bring out all the statistics and challenge Petraeus directly to explain how he can say that in the face of all these statistics. Did we do that? Did Moveon do that? Did they lay out the statistics and say ‘Petraeus says this, here’s the other fact he doesn’t tell you, General Petraeus come back to us and explain to us.

Matt Stoller: Absolutely they did that. That’s what the ad was, was there anything in the ad that was factually inaccurate?

Wes Clark: What instead came out was the play on his name, and that’s all that came out. And that was the mistake. If it was a serious ad, did it ask those serious questions, no one could have objected to it.

In that sense the MoveOn ad was self defeating because as General Clark said all that everyone is talking about is not the substance of the ad, the facts in the ad or the facts that Democrats pointed out in Petraeus’s testimony, but the word play with the General’s name. Iraq is still in the middle of a low level civil war; our troops are dying, Iraqis are dying or becoming refugees, yet the U.S. is taking time to have silly votes over this ad. Craven Republicans across the country are giving themselves a big pat on the back for distracting attention away the the substance of the issue – along with corrption, ineptitude something they excel at. Why wasn’t this discussed on the floor of the U.S. Senate today, New Military Numbers Contradict Petraeus on Surge’s Progress

According to the MNC-I data there has been no improvement since either December (The numbers Petraeus and the Administration often cite) or February (when the surge actually began). Why wasn’t Congress shown these numbers in the presentation by General Petraeus? Why only the good news numbers? Why the lack of clarity on Petraeus’s sourcing? Especially since he himself acknowledged that the best numbers come from the MNC-I database.

In terms of actual anomalies

Anomaly A: Somehow in December, the month that is always cited by the Pentagon and the Administration, Petraeus’s Iraqi dead is actually greater than the MNC-I Iraqi Dead + Wounded. That makes absolutely no sense. You can’t have more dead than dead and wounded combined.

Anomaly B: In the months after the surge begins Petraeus’s Iraqi dead numbers are significantly lower than the dead + wounded numbers in the Pentagon report. This is inconsistent with the entire history of the previous year, where the numbers track closely. The only explanation would be a dramatic increase in the wounded to dead ratio. Perhaps there were more car bombings that injured people but didn’t kill them, as opposed to close range executions where victims do not survive. Or maybe there is another explanation. Still it seems inconsistent to see this major split just as the surge begins.

Direct links for anyone that wants to comb through the numbers themselves (pdf format), Pentagon’s civilian-casualty numbers  versus General David Petraeus numbers
Again most people can understand an employee (General Petraeus) putting some spin on his boss’s (Bush) agenda, but Petraeus went beyond that. By way of his making the rounds of various media venues and his report to Congress he sold a picture of Iraq that was and remains severely and dangerously distorted. The Age of Irresponsibility

Even today, despite the crucial role of Blackwater and other private security firms—who employ up to 30,000 operatives in keeping the civilian side of the U.S. occupation going—Iraqis can do nothing if they are abused or killed by them. While many Blackwater operatives are brave and honorable—the company has lost some 30 of its employees in Iraq—many of these paramilitaries have long been known to be cowboys who act as if they are free to commit homicide as they please. And according to numerous Iraqi witnesses, they sometimes do.

Take the case of the Blackwater guard who got drunk at a Green Zone party last Christmas Eve and reportedly boasted to his friends that he was going to kill someone. According to both Iraqi and U.S. officials, he stumbled out and headed provocatively over to the “Little Venice” section, a lovely area of canals where Iraqi officials live. He had an argument with an Iraqi guard, then shot him once in the chest and three times in the back.

MoveOn should have gone for a little irony and labeled their ad Visit General Patraeus’s Fantasy Vacation Paradise, Sunny Iraq.

The Godfather of Alaska is apparently incapable of getting a clue, FBI taped Sen. Stevens’ calls in corruption probe

The Associated Press is reporting that the FBI secret recorded telephone calls between Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens(R) and a wealthy oil contractor as part of a public corruption sting that has nabbed several lawmakers. The AP attributes that to “two people close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.”

AP writes that the contractor, Bill Allen, who is Stevens’ political patron, agreed to the taping last year after authorities confronted him with evidence he had bribed Alaska lawmakers. He pleaded guilty to bribery and is a key witness against Alaska legislators. He also has told prosecutors he paid his employees to renovate the senator’s house.

Ted is an optimist, he gets up every morning seeing each and every day as another opportunity for him and his conservative cronies to make up easy money as they ride the back of taxpayers. Like many Republicans he is most certainly a self made man, an island of meritocracy.

“Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes. Ave! Old knitter of black wool. Morituri te salutant. Not many of those she looked at ever saw her again–not half, by a long way.” from The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad