Why Do All Hail Gen. Petraeus?

Exclusive: Iraq continues its drift toward a failed state, amid terror bombings, sectarian violence and a devastated infrastructure. Also, the strategic winner from George W. Bush’s invasion looks to be neighboring Iran. So, asks Robert Parry, why is Official Washington celebrating Gen. David Petraeus for his “successful surge”?

By Robert Parry

As Gen. David Petraeus retired from the Army on Wednesday, he received a 17-gun salute and was hailed across the U.S. news media as the strategic genius who organized the “successful surge” in Iraq and similarly achieved gains against the Taliban in Afghanistan. He is now off to run the CIA.

However, the less glorious truth about Petraeus’s much-heralded “surge” in Iraq was that it cost the lives of almost 1,000 more U.S. soldiers, inflicted more violence upon the people of Iraq and will likely only have achieved a delay in a U.S. military defeat of historic proportions. Much the same could be said for Petraeus’s “surge” in Afghanistan.

The Iraq surge’s primary accomplishment may have been to spare President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their neocon advisers the embarrassment of having invaded and occupied Iraq, only to see a bloodied U.S. army essentially kicked out by the Iraqis. The surge put off the forced withdrawal of the American military at least until President Barack Obama’s watch.

Washington’s still-influential neocons are now pressing for a revised “status of forces agreement” with Iraq that will allow some U.S. “advisers” to remain in Iraq after the end of the year. That way, the image of the last American troops racing to the Kuwaiti border in December 2011 – much as Soviet troops retreated from Afghanistan in 1989 – won’t be so stark.

But even the fig leaf of several thousand left-behind U.S. trainers won’t change the strategic reality of a major neocon-driven disaster.

Another measure of that American failure in Iraq could be found Thursday in a Washington Post op-ed by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who paints his own bleak picture of what life is like in Iraq after the eight-year U.S occupation.

Allawi, who also heads the largest political bloc in Iraq’s legislature, frames his op-ed as an appeal for more economic and political support from the United States but does so in the context of describing a devastated nation. He writes:

“More than eight years after Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, basic services are in a woeful state: Most of the country has only a few hours of electricity a day. Blackouts were increasingly common this summer.

“Oil exports, still Iraq’s only source of income, are barely more than they were when Hussein was toppled. The government has squandered the boon of high oil prices and failed to create real and sustainable job growth. Iraq’s economy has become an ever more dysfunctional mix of cronyism and mismanagement, with high unemployment and endemic corruption.

Transparency International ranks Iraq the world’s fourth-most-corrupt country and by far the worst in the Middle East. The promise of improved security has been empty, with sectarianism on the rise.”

False Promises

Allawi also cites the false promises of democracy:

“Despite failing to win the most seats in last year’s elections, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki clung to power through a combination of Iranian support and U.S. compliance. He now shows an alarming disregard for democratic principles and the rule of law.

“Vital independent institutions such as the election commission, the transparency commission and Iraq’s central bank have been ordered to report directly to the office of the prime minister. Meanwhile, Maliki refuses to appoint consensus candidates as defense and interior ministers, as per last year’s power-sharing agreement.

“The government is using blatant dictatorial tactics and intimidation to quell opposition, ignoring the most basic human rights. Human Rights Watch reported in February on secret torture prisons under Maliki’s authority.

“In June, it exposed the government’s use of hired thugs to beat, stab and even sexually assault peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad who were complaining about corruption and poor services. These horrors are reminiscent of autocratic responses to demonstrations by failing regimes elsewhere in the region, and a far cry from the freedom and democracy promised in the new Iraq.

“Is this really what the United States sacrificed more than 4,000 young men and women, and hundreds of billions of dollars, to build? The trend of failure is becoming irreversible.”

So what is going on here? How can the U.S. media hail Petraeus’s “successful surge” and write about “victory at last” in Iraq when it appears that the Bush-Cheney-neocon intervention has created what amounts to a failed state in Iraq?

The answer seems to be a political one. Since nearly everyone who was in a position of authority in Washington in 2003 supported the invasion of Iraq – including most leading lights of the national press corps – no one wants to face up to their responsibility for the death and defeat.

To do so would require painful self-reflection. Washington’s best-and-brightest would have to admit that they didn’t measure up to the moral and intellectual task of resisting the Bush-Cheney-neocon plans for aggressive war, what the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunals deemed the “supreme international crime.”

In an honorable world, there would be resignations in disgrace from the pro-war politicians and pundits. In a just world, there would be international tribunals enforcing accountability on the perpetrators and their accomplices, as the Nuremberg judges promised even for leaders of the victorious Allied nations if they committed aggressive war like the fascist Axis powers did.

Since neither exists – not an honorable world nor a just one – Washington political/media establishment simply keeps up a positive spin. Bush and Cheney get to live out their retirements in peace and comfort, Petraeus gets a 17-gun salute, and the neocons retain their influence and their lucrative think-tank jobs in the nation’s capital.

There even appears to be a good chance that the neocons will ride back into power in 2013 behind another tough-talking Texan, Gov. Rick Perry.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

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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8 comments on “Why Do All Hail Gen. Petraeus?

  1. Robert Parry’s comprehensive summary of our criminally predatory four trillion-dollar imperialist devastation of helpless Muslim nations and their innocent citizens helps me greatly to to avoid getting depressed about my own nation as I come soon to my 80th birthday.

    Here in Florida some members of the faculty organizations that I have joined brag about our wars and boast about how we can totally annihilate Iran and many other nations “in less than an hour.” Sanctified crusading has become the dominant cultural investment of our nation.

  2. Norman Morley on said:

    I’ve been under the impression that the reason Petraeus was given the C.I.A. job, was to prevent him from running against the “O”, either as another Democrap or a Rethuglicon. Doesn’t really matter now does it? He will be thoroughly corrupted in no time, just as the rest of them have been. Yeh, join the team.

  3. NO, Betraitor has 0 in HIS inner circle! And Hussein threatens to assassinate any of US!! Do none dare call it the Epitome’ of Baracketeeranny!!!?

    • Clever, but the article was about Petraeus, not Obama. If I have read Mr. Perry correctly in other articles, he is not sold on Obama either.

  4. Thank you Robert Parry. I’m not surprised to see you take a bold stand even as major media outlets are in fact, hailing Petraeus! Even on the BBC News for “America” I dare say the tone was one of bowing down… they were reporting on his transition out of the military and into the CIA. Like stepping away from the fry pans so that you can better run affairs at the stove..But this line grabbed me: “Transparency International ranks Iraq the world’s fourth-most-corrupt country and by far the worst in the Middle East. The promise of improved security has been empty, with sectarianism on the rise.” — All of those US dollars, and what did they buy? Corrupt ministries! Best wishes from Dori @ Talk Nation Radio

  5. Kenny Fowler on said:

    Mr. Perry is right. The Neocons and their Washington enablers will never take responsibility for the death, destruction and ruin they have wrought on America and the Middle east with their never ending war doctrine. The scary thought is that these killers are lurking in Washington waiting anxiously for a chance to start it all up again.

  6. James Clark on said:

    The purpose of the ” surge” was explicitly given as being an attempt to forge a safe, controlled atmosphere for the eletions. It did not due that hence it failed in it’s stated goal. A few areas were able to keep the resistance forces heads down by sheer force of numbers but this is often mistaken ( or touted, if you have an agenda) as a victory. However the principles of guerilla war do not recognize that. As long as forces are intact and able to rise on another day that is considered a sucessful waging of guerilla war. It requires patience. Ask Victor Charlie or Geronimo.

  7. Gregory L Kruse on said:

    This article is so on spot that there is no room for disagreement, only denial. As David Sirota recently said, the USA is not a Christian nation, it is a Denialist nation.