What Petraeus is planning to do in September

The media has outright ignored ABC News’ scoop of two weeks ago that our top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has already decided that come September he’s going to call the surge an increasing success regardless of what happens between now and then. We see report after report about September being the make it or break it point for the surge in Iraq, with no mention whatsoever of the fact that Petraeus has already been reported to have made up his mind in advance.

This fits into a larger pattern that now makes clear what Bush is planning coming this September. While last month Bush was talking about this coming September as the moment of truth for Iraq, the White House is now saying that September is nothing special – i.e., they trying to move the goal line in order to prolong any ultimate decision on whether the war is lost. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a major supporter of the war, and Bush’s approach to it, in the senate, said this morning on ABC’s THIS WEEK that September had to be seen in a larger context of not how Iraq will impact the November 2008 elections, but rather how Iraq will impact US foreign policy in the long term. Graham’s point: If we decide in September that the war is over, we’re screwed from a national security perspective, so we’d better stay and keep fighting.

On FOX News today, Petraeus hinted that he will be saying the same thing come this September (which only adds to the credibility of ABC’s earlier report that Petraeus has alrady decided what he’s going to say in September). Petraeus said today that the surge will certainly not end come September:

“Fox News” Host Chris Wallace asked Petraeus, “You surely don’t think the job would be done by the surge by September?”

“I do not, no,” Petraeus replied. “We have a lot of heavy lifting to do. The damage done by the sectarian violence in the fall and winter of 2006 and early 2007 … was substantial.”

Petraeus also did not dispute reports indicating he might want to extend the troop increase into next year, simply calling them “premature.”

This echoes ABC’s report that Petraeus plans to continue the surge another 4 months, i.e., twice as long, and that he plans to keep substantial number of US troops in Iraq at least for another year and a half, if not longer. That means that for Petraeus, September is not the do or die moment for Iraq.

Next, look at what Petraeus and his partner in war, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, also said on today’s Sunday shows:

Petraeus said he will be ready to “provide a snapshot” of conditions in Iraq but would also outline “the implications of the various courses of actions that might be undertaken at that time.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Crocker said, “We’ll also try to provide an assessment of what the consequences might be if we pursue other directions. … Iraq doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”

By “other directions” and “other courses of action” they mean “getting us the hell out of Iraq.” Petraeus plan for September is to so scare the American people, and our politicians, about what will happen if we leave Iraq, that no one will have the nerve to say enough is enough. That’s also, conveniently, GOP Senator Graham’s plan. And it dovetails nicely with the White House now saying that September is not the month to be deciding whether Iraq is lost. Is that all just a wonderful coincidence.

Petraeus already knows what he’s going to say in September, and it has nothing to do with the situation on the ground or the truth. Or else, he wouldn’t have already made up his mind about what’s going to place three months from now.

Of course, Petraeus’ biggest problem this fall isn’t going to be Democrats, it’s going to be Republicans – that’s why the White House has Lindsey Graham already warning his party not to worry about the elections. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is going to be in quite a bind, since he thinks that in September we’re going to agree to start withdrawing the troops.

“Most members of my conference believe the critical point to evaluate where we are is in September,” Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Everybody anticipates there will be a new strategy … and I don’t think we’ll have the same level of troops that we have now.”

McConnell said there was growing support among Republicans for the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which suggested a gradual drawdown in the number of troops this year, among other things.

One thing to keep an eye on. As I noted earlier, Petraeus is talking about “lowering” troop levels next year to around 130,000 troops. That’s cute, but it’s actually the number of troops we had before surge started a few months ago. So rather than “lowering” the number of troops, he’s simply getting us back to where we were, and where we’ve been, for years.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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