Ryan Crocker

Iraq: Spin One for the Gipper


by Jeff Huber

I have to say it again: If the Bush administration put a fraction of the effort it spends on spinning its wars into winning them, it wouldn’t need to spin them.

The current clash between Iraqi Shiite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s security forces took root last year when Sadr told his forces to take an operational pause for resupply and recuperation. That reduced violence levels enough to allow U.S. commander David Petraeus to claim his surge strategy was working even though it didn’t accomplish its intended political objectives. One might have expected a supposedly smart guy like Petraeus to leave well enough alone, but no. George Bush’s “main man” had to poke his pistol into the hornet’s nest, raiding selected elements of the Mahdi Army in Baghdad’s Sadr City and Shiite population centers in southern Iraq.

The Sadrists warned for months that they would retaliate if the harassment didn’t stop. Petraeus must have been too busy escorting John McCain and Lindsey Graham on shopping sprees in Baghdad to listen, because he kept at it, using both U.S. forces and elements of the Badr organization, one of Sadr’s rival Shiite political groups whose members dominate Iraq’s security forces.

It was not too long after Dick Cheney’s surprise visit to Baghdad on March 17 that Maliki launched his offensive against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra. The big media were strangely silent about the implications of the timing of the two events. Sadr’s people responded to Maliki’s push with a rocket and mortar attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Petraeus blamed the Mahdis’ retaliation on Iran, but said nothing about why he and the best-trained, best-equipped military in history were powerless to defend the Green Zone well over a year into his “successful” surge, and nobody in the press asked him about it.