Archive for September 20th, 2007

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The “Petraeus Is Above Criticism” Resolution

September 20, 2007

OK, this whole outrage over the full-page MoveOn.org ad in the NYT has gone a little too far.  Today, the Senate passed a resolution written “to specifically repudiate the unwarranted personal attack on General Petraeus by the liberal activist group Moveon.org”.

The text of the resolution begins with the acknowledgement that the Senate voted unanimously in approval of Petraeus’s selection for the job back in January, followed by a rundown of his resume.  Then, it required that one agree with this statement:

(8) A recent attack through a full-page advertisement in the New York Times by the liberal activist group, Moveon.org, impugns the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces.

While the preceding 7 findings were a matter of relatively indisputable fact, this last one was clearly a matter of opinion.  While one might agree that the ad was obviously directed at Petraeus, I consider it a bit of a stretch to say that it “impugns the honor and integrity” of “all the members of the United States Armed Forces”.  This could be one basis for voting negative on this resolution, even before you get to the “sense of the Senate” part.  That part, incidentally, contained this rather vague statement:

(2) to strongly condemn any effort to attack the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces

What is an “attack”, really?…and… According to who? Could it be any disagreement with anything he states?  This is the crux of my problem with the resolution.  If you put the MoveOn ad aside for a second, this appears to be a politically motivated effort to solidify a sense of Petraeus’ infallibility. This could be dangerous territory. The Senate could effectively be signing on to the notion that they cannot question the actions, statements or motivations of people simply because they are in the military. I mean, read it again. It’s a broad and sweeping statement. 

The final vote was 72-25 in favor, with notable nays coming from presidential candidates Clinton and Dodd.  Other Dem hopefuls, Obama and Biden, didn’t vote. 

Update:  As predicted, the blogosphere is going nuts over this, complete with the usual spin.  Again, my personal conclusion is that you could support Petraeus, the military and the mission in Iraq and still vote negatively on the resolution, simply because it is technically too ambiguous and seems crafted in an effort to give the military (and Petraeus specifically) too much power in the political arena.  At the same time, a vote of nay doesn’t necessarily “support” the actions of MoveOn.  A negative vote on this could be nothing more than unwillingness to be subjected to someone’s opinion on what exactly an “attack” is.  To me, he idea that a disagreement over a decision, course of action, or even a claim could be seen as an “attack” worthy of “condemnation” is more than a little unsettling, and I think that this resolution leaves that door open.  Nevermind the fact that this resolution insulates Petraeus (and, depending how you read it, “all the United States Armed Forces”) from accusations of being disingenuous or outright lying even if it was blatantly obvious that he (they) were. 

Oh well, it passed.  I suppose that it will be interesting to see what effect this has over the debate.

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Those Indispensable Mercenaries

September 20, 2007

On Sunday, the news broke out of Baghdad that a few security guards from Blackwater USA were ambushed and wound up killing some Iraqi civilians in a shootout.  Then, Tuesday, the NYT reported this:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 18 — A preliminary Iraqi report on a shooting involving an American diplomatic motorcade said Tuesday that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.

The report, by the Ministry of Interior, was presented to the Iraqi cabinet and, though unverified, seemed to contradict an account offered by Blackwater USA that the guards were responding to gunfire by militants. The report said Blackwater helicopters had also fired. The Ministry of Defense said 20 Iraqis had been killed, a far higher number than had been reported before.

The story went on to say that Blackwater has had their license to operate inside of Iraq pulled. A license, incidentally, that they didn’t have.

The part of the story of interest in my mind is not the fact that it happened, or that it has outraged the Iraqis, or that it’s resulted in a dispute over who did what and why, or whether or not it turns out that it was just an unfortunate misunderstanding… but this:

In a sign of the seriousness of the standoff, the American Embassy here suspended diplomatic missions outside the Green Zone and throughout Iraq on Tuesday.

If that doesn’t raise an eyebrow, I followed a link on Attywood yesterday that pointed to a report detailing how even the CIA people can’t go anywhere without Blackwater guys watching their back.

My take?  Regardless of the outcome, the incident just might expose how major a role private security firms like Blackwater play in our mission in Iraq (whatever it is this week), as well as the fact that this particular element of the game-plan seems to be missing from the mainstream debate here at home with regards to discussing or supporting the overall strategy there.  For example, I don’t remember anyone in the presidential debates thus far even mentioning the subject, let alone offering an opinion on whether or not this kind of thing is a good idea.

So, it begs the question(s):  Just how privatized is our overall effort in Iraq?  If the security contractors are really that vital to success in our mission, why are the details of their role kept in the background or even downright shadowy?  Is their presence significant to the point that these guys’ actions could actually “lose it” for us as well?  And, finally, Can you really be truly patriotic and pro-“victory” by supporting the mission and the troops without sporting one of these as well?

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Previously in the Chamber: 

Update: An interesting Op Ed in The Nation: Blackwater: Hired Guns, Above the Law

Tip of the iceberg.