Monday, September 10, 2007
by Tom Engelhardt
"It was about this time of year in 2002, in the halcyon days of the Bush administration, that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card offered a little political marketing advice to the world. In explaining why the Bush administration had not launched its "case" against Iraq (and for a future invasion) the previous month, he told a New York Times reporter, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.".......
So launching "Brand Petraeus" and providing him with some upbeat Iraqi news (Sunnis in al-Anbar Province ally with U.S.) and numbers (violence down in August) were the two necessities of the summer. In July, the celebrity surge general, who had already shown a decided knack on earlier tours of Iraq for wowing the media, was loosed. Petraeus, in turn, loosed all his top commanders to enter vociferously into what previously would have been a civilian debate over U.S. policy and the issue of "withdrawal." This campaign, by the way, represents a significant chiseling away at traditional prohibitions on U.S. military figures entering the American political arena while in uniform.......
Why anyone in the media or Congress takes this situation seriously as "news," or even something to argue about, is hard to tell. Think of it this way: The most political general in recent memory has been asked to assess his own work (as has our ambassador in Iraq), and then present "recommendations" to the White House in a "report" that is actually being written in the White House. You couldn't call it a political version of "the honor system"; but perhaps the dishonor system would do.
Numbers in Iraq are a slippery matter at best, though again, why anyone pays serious attention to U.S. military numbers from that country is a mystery. On countless occasions in the past, these have been ridiculous undercounts of disaster.
In the midst of such chaos, mayhem, and pure tragedy, of course, who exactly is counting? Nonetheless, wherever you look, numbers, however approximate, are indeed pouring out – and, when you consider them, there is no way on Earth to imagine that the situation is anything but grim and deteriorating: first for the Iraqi people; second for the overstretched U.S. military; and finally, for the rest of the region and us.
So here, on the eve of the orbiting of Brand Petraeus, is my best attempt at "progress" by the numbers: