Sunday, July 29, 2007

This Is Rich, From Frank Rich

From Frank Rich, at the New York Times, behind the wall (sorry about that - but the NYT should be sorry, not me):

THERE was, of course, gallows humor galore when Dick Cheney briefly grabbed the wheel of our listing ship of state during the presidential colonoscopy last weekend. Enjoy it while it lasts. A once-durable staple of 21st-century American humor is in its last throes. We have a new surrogate president now. Sic transit Cheney. Long live David Petraeus!


And so another constitutional principle can be added to the long list of those junked by this administration: the quaint notion that our uniformed officers are supposed to report to civilian leadership. In a de facto military coup, the commander in chief is now reporting to the commander in Iraq. We must “wait to see what David has to say,” Mr. Bush says.


Though General Petraeus wrote his 1987 Princeton doctoral dissertation on “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam,” he has an unshakable penchant for seeing light at the end of tunnels. It has been three Julys since he posed for the cover of Newsweek under the headline “Can This Man Save Iraq?” The magazine noted that the general’s pacification of Mosul was “a textbook case of doing counterinsurgency the right way.” Four months later, the police chief installed by General Petraeus defected to the insurgents, along with most of the Sunni members of the police force. Mosul, population 1.7 million, is now an insurgent stronghold, according to the Pentagon’s own June report.


Well, anyone can make a mistake. And when General Petraeus cited soccer games as an example of “the astonishing signs of normalcy” in Baghdad last month, he could not have anticipated that car bombs would kill at least 50 Iraqis after the Iraqi team’s poignant victory in the Asian Cup semifinals last week. This general may well be, as many say, the brightest and bravest we have. But that doesn’t account for why he has been invested by the White House and its last-ditch apologists with such singular power over the war.

I hope that I have not gone beyond "fair use" in my quotes. If I have, I'll hear about it, if anyone takes note of my wee blog. If anyone finds a link to the whole article that is not behind the wall, let me know, and I will post it.

Just yesterday, I read this from the Associated Press:

BAGHDAD - A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington to withdraw the overall U.S. commander from his Baghdad post.

But then we will lose our "surrogate president".

Iraq's foreign minister calls the relationship "difficult." Petraeus, who says their ties are "very good," acknowledges expressing his "full range of emotions" at times with al-Maliki. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who meets with both at least weekly, concedes "sometimes there are sporty exchanges."

It seems less a clash of personality than of policy. The Shiite Muslim prime minister has reacted most sharply to the American general's tactic of enlisting Sunni militants, presumably including past killers of Iraqi Shiites, as allies in the fight against al-Qaida here.

An associate said al-Maliki once, in discussion with President Bush, even threatened to counter this by arming Shiite militias.

So. According to Maliki the relationship is "difficult", Petraeus says it's "very good", and Ambassador Crocker says they're only having "sporty exchanges". What are we to make of this?

I'm struck nearly dumb, but I'm glad Frank Rich can still speak.


  1. Frank Rich is just spot-on, every week. Along with Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert. I don't know how they keep their heads from exploding, but more power to them!

  2. PJ, one plus for Rich, Herbert, and Krugman is that perhaps they can send in their wonderful columns via the intertubes, and they don't have to sit at a desk next to David Brooks. He'd surely turn their brains to mush, as he does to me. Brooks is a dangerous man.

  3. Brooks is a panderer. Besides which, he never seems to really know what he's talking about. I can't even look at his face. :(

    On a brighter note, it seems they've got Gail Collins back again!

  4. Thanks, Mimi

    This is the very worst, and we're damned to keep hearing(reading) it
    week after week.

    God help us, and the poor young women and men in Mesopatania.

  5. God help us, and the poor young women and men in Mesopatania.

    John D, amen.

  6. One of the very earliest, and still my favorite Doonesbury cartoon (Vietnam War era) ended with the question "Why is it that whenever you people dig yourself into a hole, you persist in calling it a tunnel?"

  7. Garry Trudeau has been honored for his services to veterans; his work on this era's war is equally good, In My Rarely Very Humble Opinion.

    Rich, Krugman, and Herbert are the NYT columnists worth a regular look. Therefore, The Nice NeoCon Boy Brooks and MoDo are published more regularly than any of them.

    The Times editorial decisions are more of a mystery than this poor country boy can grasp.

  8. Lapin, Johnieb, I loves me "Doonesbury".

    I won't pay for the other columnists, at the NYT, I absolutely won't. We get TimesSelect free, because my husband still has an email address at the university he retired from. The NYT finally opened TimesSelect to educators. Isn't that nice?

  9. Yes, what ARE we to make of it? We can't know the truth sitting over here and those who (should) know it aren't telling it. Thank God for the few journalists who are clear-minded and not afraid to tell it like it is.

    Since you're on the topic of NYT writers, my favorite is Nicholas Kristof.

  10. I like Nikolas Kristoff too. A long time ago I clipped one where he has God talking to President Bush.
    I really liked Russell Baker in the 1980's. This dates me, I know, but he is such an awesome writer.
    I like the three that pj mentioned.

  11. Garten, I admire Kristof, too, especially because he has continued to focus on the critical situation in Darfur.

    Diane, I liked Russell Baker, too. I went to Wiki and found this quote by him:

    "One of the many burdens of the person professing Christianity has always been the odium likely to be heaped upon him by fellow Christians quick to smell out, denounce and punish fraud, hypocrisy and general unworthiness among those who assert the faith. In ruder days, disputes about what constituted a fully qualified Christian often led to sordid quarrels in which the disputants tortured, burned and hanged each other in the conviction that torture, burning, and hanging were Christian things to do…"

    I see why I like him. He was good on Masterpiece Theater, too.


Anonymous commenters, please sign a name, any name, to distinguish one anonymous commenter from another. Thank you.