Following a week of testimony from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, Bush appeared on TV last night and said:
In their testimony, these men made clear that our challenge in Iraq is formidable. Yet they concluded that conditions in Iraq are improving, that we are seizing the initiative from the enemy, and that the troop surge is working.
Followed by blah, blah, blah and a lot of misleading statistics about how the level of violence is down in Anbar, Baghdad, and Diyala. Our mendacious leader failed to mention that the sectarian killings are down because the targets of their violence have fled the neighborhoods.
The Uniter moved on to:
Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq, we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos and providing hope in the Middle East. We should be able to agree that we must defeat al Qaeda, counter Iran, help the Afghan government, work for peace in the Holy Land, and strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists and extremists.
Again, he failed to acknowledge that there was no al Qaeda presence in Iraq before we invaded. If his goal really had been to “strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists and extremists,” he would have continued fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and followed them into Pakistan where they are now—stronger than ever.
But alas… there’s no oil in Afghanistan, and therein lies the real story.
Paul Krugman tells the tale quite well in today’s column:
To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.
Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”
Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”
There was a reason he placed such importance on oil: oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.
What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.
Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.
No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.
The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.
Last night Bush made it clear that he has every intention of passing this war on to the next president. That reminds me of a football metaphor that Petraeus used not long ago. He said “[We are] a long way from the goal line but we do have the ball and we are driving down the field.” (Check out Pierre Tristam’s column about what the use of a football metaphor in a soccer country says about the problem with our game plan.)
So to use another football analogy, we may have the ball, but the drive has stalled and we’re facing third and 36 on our own 22 yard line. The next play: Bush drops back to pass, the ball slips out of his hands and all he can do is hope that someone on his team picks up the ball so his team can punt.