President Bush has told us a million times that he listens to his commanders on the ground (the ones he didn't already replace because they disagreed with him). Well, how about his top commander?
Admiral William Fallon is the Commander of US Central Command. And by the way, the boss of the legendary, godly and saintly General Petraeus (who despite being the most independent person in the world might run for president as a Republican one day, according to some sources).
Does Bush not want to hear from Admiral Fallon? Doesn't he care what his top commander thinks? Or is it that he has already heard from Fallon and wants to make sure we don't hear from him?
I'll be honest. I already know the answer (they taught us in law school not to ask a question you don't already know the answer to; on the other hand, they also taught us that the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments could not be violated by the president or vice-president, shows you how much they knew). President Bush talked to Admiral Fallon in early September.
By all accounts, Admiral Fallon gave him a different recommendation than General Petraeus. Curious that he hasn't mentioned that one yet. And that he hasn't pushed Admiral Fallon in front of any cameras. Gee, I wonder if George Bush cherry picked the advice he liked from his commanders. No, couldn't be.
Gen. Petraeus' credibility is in serious question for a number of reasons. But the one I can't get over is that he has continually linked our success in the Anbar province to the surge when he knows for a fact that the two are completely unrelated. Our strategy in Anbar was originally called the Ramadi strategy and began in August 2006 - well before the surge.
Look at what Time magazine wrote in December, 2006 - before the surge started:
It's a dilemma familiar to counterinsurgency strategists: much of the fighting in Ramadi and other places continues because of the American presence, not in spite of it. U.S. commanders tasked with clearing Ramadi, the latest insurgent hub in Anbar Province, aren't looking to assault the city with U.S. troops. They want local security forces instead to retake the city gradually. And in recent months a group of tribal leaders in Anbar Province has been working with U.S. forces in that effort, forming a coalition of sheiks who have sent hundreds of their followers to join the Ramadi police force as well as the Iraqi army.
The Ramadi strategy, which in essence replaces U.S. troops with Iraqis even as the fight unfolds, shows some early signs of success.
This strategy was started by Army Col. Sean MacFarland as documented by this USA Today story from months ago. Is it conceivable that Gen. Petraeus wouldn't know the origin of our strategy in Anbar? If he claims not to remember, that would be an Alberto Gonzales like claim to incompetence and mismanagement. But of course, in reality, we all know that he knows.
Instead of giving the commander serving under him credit, Petraeus took the credit for himself and George Bush. And he pretended it had to do with their so-called surge strategy. Classy.
My guess is that they will do the same thing with what Lt. Col. Patrick Frank has started with the Mahdi Army (to be fair to others, there are many other diplomats and commanders also involved with this new gambit). Both strategies involve co-opting local sects and militias so that we need less troops to fight them, not more. But that won't stop Petraeus and Bush from claiming the exact opposite. Man, did that Orwell guy nail it?
These commanders under Petraeus should be given a ton of credit for coming up with innovative ways of negotiating with former enemies and turning them into possible allies (is Dick Cheney listening - it turns out negotiating with your enemies can be a good idea, especially if you want to stop fighting with them at some point).
There are a lot of pitfalls to these strategies and they have not yet finished the job obviously. But they're much better than anything else we have had to date (and they are an actual shift in strategy, as opposed to military tactics that don't address the underlying problems). Is it any surprise that they are already yielding much better results than George Bush's brilliant strategies of "stay the course" and escalation?
So, why aren't we hearing from these commanders on the ground or form the top guy? Wouldn't it be instructive for the American people to hear from the head of United States Central Command?
Jim Webb thinks so. Sen. Webb has asked Carl Levin to call Admiral Fallon up to the Senate to hear his side of the story. Yet another good idea George Bush would love to bury.