One of the most remarkable aspects of the Iraq invasion and occupation has been the administration's -- and mainly the president's -- predictably awful and irresponsible habit of placing the burden of the success or failure of this thing squarely on the shoulders of an already overburdened military. Specifically, President Bush and all of his apologists have scapegoated or are preemptively scapegoating the troops and the "commanders on the ground."
It's a strategy that could only come from a group of cowardly old bastards who, for the most part, deliberately avoided military service themselves.
By way of a random sampling of mistakes and atrocities:
- When the Abu Ghraib torture photographs surfaced, the line from the administration wasn't about confronting the policies that fostered such atrocities--the line was, Oh! That was just a group of bad apples. Destroy them now! Go! In other words, don't blame the administration's medieval torture policy that everyone knows about. Blame the troops.
Like I said. Just a sampling. Naturally, no one is suggesting the military is without blame. But if the president is so curled up and comfy inside of his jingoistic Chimpy McFlightsuit commander-in-chief role, then he ought to man-up and accept the blame for all of it. But he hasn't and he won't. And why should he? He's been bailed out his entire life. Why change now?
And then there's the preemptive scapegoating. When it all came down to the president's ridiculous plan for escalating the war last year, the president constructed yet another buffer for himself. To paraphrase Willi Cicci from The Godfather Part II, "The president has lots of buffers." Rather than offering himself up as the spokesman for his cleverly marketed "surge," the president created a buffer -- a lightning rod in the form of General Petraeus who would become the whipping boy for the plan. The White House kicked their Nerf ball into the bloody goddamn prickers, and General Petraeus would, as a man bound by duty, be the latest in a line of whipping boys who be shoved into the thorns after the ball. Even opponents of the war famously shifted focus onto General Petraus and so, in a way, the lightning rod worked. No one denies that the president's only success has been his ability to dodge accountability for his endless syllabus of failures.
All along, President Bush and his regime have repeated the familiar preemptive scapegoating refrain: We listen to the commanders on the ground. We do what the commanders recommend. "I'm the commander guy."
"Troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C." -President Bush, July 11, 2007
"I reminded our people that the best decisions are made when you listen to the commanders. And our commanders have got good, specific advice as to how to achieve our objectives, which I believe we'll achieve." -President Bush, May 17, 2007
"These elections are important, and we will respond... to requests of our commanders on the ground. And I have yet to hear from our commanders on the ground that they need more troops." -President Bush, November 4, 2004 (the day after the 2004 election--arg!)
"I believe strongly that politicians in Washington shouldn't be telling generals how to do their job." -President Bush, November 4, 2004
"The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? I'm the commander guy." -President Bush, May 2, 2007 (Incidentally, the official White House transcript has been scrubbed and the "the" has been changed to an "a.")
"Decisions about conditions for a draw down of our forces in Iraq are best based on the recommendations of the commanders in the field and the recommendations of the gentleman sitting beside me." -Donald Rumsfeld, August 3, 2006
And because things don't ever change, here's Rumsfeld's replacement two years later:
"The question is about the pacing of the drawdown of troops. And that's where we will look for the recommendation of the commanders in the field and the president's other senior military advisers." -Robert Gates, February 28, 2008
It's actually quite clever, albeit cowardly. When history is written, the president and his administration will be on record as saying that it was the military commanders who set the policies for the occupation--it was never the president's incompetence or intransigence; it was those goddamn generals and troops who didn't come up with the good ideas. It was the troops who therefore undermined the process in Iraq. And President Bush, as with his entire life, avoids accountability and walks away to grow fat and old on his phony Texas estate, while other sons of bitches are forced to deal with his gigantic world of shit.