Curious Timing

I find the timing behind the announcement of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ retirement somewhat curious. The reason being, when I checked up on memeorandum earlier this morning, the top headline was one that would be undoubtedly good for the administration; it was beginning to look like there was some political progress in Iraq.

Call me a cynic, call me a skeptic. Both would be well warranted labels, in my opinion. But it bears understanding that particularly in todays age of light speed news dissembling that White House administrations take particular care to strategize when news items are released for general consumption.

Hence the advent of news dump Fridays. The entire concept here being that since Fridays tend to be days where news items are for the most part ignored as people get ready for weekend plans, the White House releases as much dirty laundry then as possible in order to blindside a nonresponsive public as well as to flood column space in order to minimize story length.

And so, again, one is left to ponder the timing of the resignation story. According to the sources at hand, the president new of his intentions as early as Friday, however the story was not released until this morning. Further, it steps on the toes of a story that, if taken at face value, would fit surprisingly well in the administration’s narrative.

While support for the Iraq war had been eroding throughout the campaign, public disdain reached a critical mass last year, resulting in the majority changeover in both the House and the Senate. As late as earlier this year, the shift away from the Iraq War had failed to abate, and in fact only intensified.

Then Bush released his “surge” plan. Still, public support failed to increase in any meaningful margin. Even with the release of the dubious progress report earlier this summer, people still wanted out of Iraq.

Recently, things have changed. As July drifted into August, administration officials jumped on the relatively low number of troop deaths in comparison to previous months to fluff up military progress in the war-torn nation. Meanwhile, the administration and its supporters touted minor progress in the polls as a surge in public support for the new strategy in Iraq.

But just as the military progress is significantly minor and doesn’t stand up to statistical analysis, and the surge in poll support still leaves the country largely opposed to our efforts in Iraq, there would still need be more improvement by the time Patreaus delivers his report to Bush come September (11th?).

Keep in mind, should the administration fail at its job, September becomes a make or break time frame for any and all military action in Iraq, a point highlighted by the news that Senator John Warner (R-Va) is looking to lean on the side of Democrats in troop withdrawl.

What has led to a great deal of the skepticism regarding the surge strategy stems from the nature of the conflict in Iraq, and how people see an end to it. Skeptics look at Iraq and correctly come to the realization that military progress alone will not “fix” the country we broke. Far from it.

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was kept in tyrranical order by an iron fisted dictator. Not exactly the best of situations. However when we removed Saddam, failed to declare martial law, ordered broad de-Ba’athification, disbanded the Iraqi army, and failed to maintain the rule of law, the monster that was created in the aftermath was something that could be considered arguably worse; the tyrrany of anarchy.

With no clear governance, Iraq fell into chaos, with the many factions that reside in the country resorting to violence. The infrastructure is now under the rule of insurgents and militias, the economy is virtually non-existent, and with everyone in and out of the government playing for keeps, it seems that peace is a long distant fantasy in Iraq.

And so the logic of the skeptics is simple, no progress in Iraq can mean much without political progress, that’s to say that until the people of Iraq can be represented peacefully within the halls of parliament, they will be governed violently through the actions of militias and insurgents.

To this end, if there truly was progress in Iraq’s political sphere, it would have done the administration well to tout that progress as loudly and as frequently as possible, possibly even holding off Gonzales’ resignation announcement until tomorrow or at the very least later today, and yet still, we find that not being the case.

Writing for DailyKos, BarbinMD hints at it; essentially that perhaps one should look at the so called achievement a little more carefully. For one, it is important to note that this is not the first time we’ve heard this song sung before. Back in February, and then in July.

Indeed it would seem silly to blatantly throw caution to the wind and trust the administration on the slightest evidences of progress, not after Bush has made a habit of touting success and turning the corner when the other side of that corner shows only more conflict in Iraq. Toppling Saddam, free elections, catching Saddam, putting Saddam on trial, and on and on.

A closer look at the article in fact doesn’t paint that rosy of a picture. For instance, even if there is some political progress, this progress does not come with any kind of pro American sentiment within the Iraqi government:

Also adding to strain ahead of the U.S. report, Maliki denounced U.S. military raids in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and again lashed out at American critics, saying Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats who have called for his ouster should “come to their senses” and stop treating Iraq like “one of their villages.”

Nor does it point to the massive kinds of political reconcilliations that are necessarily needed:

The politicians agreed to release an estimated 1,700 prisoners who are being detained without specific charges. The issue of the detainees has been a major concern of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni political bloc, which pulled its cabinet ministers out of Maliki’s government this month.

Hashimi’s adviser said Sunni leaders are pleased with the agreement to release the detainees, though he added that the Accordance Front has no plans to rejoin the government.

“The prisoners are important, but that was just one of 11 demands” the group made when resigning from the government, he said. “We left the government and we are not going back ever unless they meet all of the demands.”

This coming on the heels of reports that significant political blocs had either quit or had been ostracized from the Iraqi political process. What I find most interesting by this tidbit of information is that those groups that are not participating in the process, among them Sadrists and the AF, are also among those groups that are most prone to enacting violence as a form of representation.

The point is this. We are too far gone to be able to look at little signs and see hope. Public opinion, en masse, will remain low as long as there are minute signals of achievement while the conflict as a whole remains a debacle.

This is, ultimately, the biggest failing of Bush. By never once holding himself or his administration accountable, his entire “political capital” has essentially been depleted. Another president could do it, but he can’t, we’ve no cause to trust him anymore.

Further, it is important to note that this, like every other achievement that has led nowhere, comes without clarification nor qualification. Military success is touted on its own without including that in a grander narrative of “winning”, only that we are winning.

He has failed to define winning, hoping that any positive news will merely work towards that goal. But this is truly incompetence at best, a passive attitude wherein one waits and hopes the problem fixes itself.

What is needed, therefore, is the exact thing that this administration seems incapable or unwilling to do; that is the application of an honest and critical eye on the information available, and the subsequent application of that information into a clear and cogent strategy that works.

Instead this, like everything else, is ran with political maneuvering. Which brings us full circle; I don’t trust the timing of Gonzales’ resignation announcement. Let the news about political progress in Iraq hit, and before too many people have the opportunity to weigh the news with any kind of skepticism or critical thought, announce the resignation.

Obviously Gonzo news will fill the cycle given the gravity of the announcement, and while it could hardly do much to help the administration, it could hardly hurt it any more than it already has by the various scandals propogated by the Attorney General.

Of course, watching this government in action as long and as close I have may have just made me paranoid. There’s no telling there.

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