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Petraeus Report Obvious Ploy to Save Face

New America Media, Q&A, Andrew Lam Posted: Sep 11, 2007

Editors Note: On Monday Sept. 10, 2007, Gen. David Petraeus testified to the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees that the troop surge in Iraq is showing progress, and that troop reductions to pre-surge levels could begin by summer 2008 without jeopardizing gains made. New America Media editor Andrew Lam spoke to Jamal Dajani, director of Middle Eastern Programming at Link TV, who says the generals testimony doesnt make sense if you look at whats happening on the ground in the Middle East.

What are the reactions in Arab media to General Petraeus success story?

Commentators on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah are wondering why the Bush administration wont talk about Iraqi losses. Petraeus talked about troop casualties, but not about Iraqi casualties. The other thing I noticed was how he is painting an unrealistic picture of the events. Petraeus talked about how [the U.S. military] will leave after building up the Iraqi military, recruiting Sunnis and so on. Thats what everyone has been saying before. The mistake is of getting rid of the [Iraqi] army when the United States invaded. One commentator on Al Arabiyah television was saying that it was easy to train soldiers but very hard to train military personnel to become officers. The United States is building the military from scratch and that takes about 10 more years of experience to create a proficient army that they can rely on.

The United States pulled out of Vietnam in 1973 after signing the peace accord with North Vietnam, even though everyone knew that Hanoi was waiting to pounce on South Vietnam. Do you think that Petraeus is painting a rosy picture in order to save face while pulling troops?

Absolutely. Anbar province became a poster child of success for the Bush administration. But its a total lie that Anbar regained its security because of the Americans and the military surge. The administration is half correct when they say it has to do with tribal leaders. These are Sunnis who said they have had enough of Al Qaeda killing innocent people. They banded together and it had nothing to do with Americans. I saw an interview a month ago of one of these tribal leaders and he was saying: We hate Americans. But we hate Al Qaeda even more. After we get rid of Al Qaeda, we will go after the U.S. occupation.

Youre saying Anbar province is a fake showcase?

An entire showcase for an election year and for Congress. It does not reflect reality on the ground. You know, as Petraeus spoke to Congress, nine soldiers died in Iraq.

Bin Ladens new tape emerged last week and he looked very much alive and well. Has that undermined President Bushs effort to emphasize the success of the war on terror?

Bin Laden likes to bring himself back on the map. Hes basically saying to the United States: Here I am after six years, two wars, and hundreds of thousands have died, possibly a million. You spent a trillion dollars and you caused untold sufferings and youre not successful in capturing me. Hes doing a counter-PR campaign against the Bush administration. His very existence reflects negatively on Bush and on what hes done. That Bin Laden is still alive proves that the war on terror is not effective.

How does Iran fit into Petraeus report?

I listened carefully to Petraeus words. He kept talking about Iran and accusing Iran of arming Iraqi militias. This is an alert to what the United States has in store for Iran. For past few years, theres been a shift in pattern in whom the United States goes after. First, it was the Baathist government and after they captured most generals and Saddam Hussein then Bin Laden was the central focus. Now they talk of Iran as the new target.

Do you think that an attack on Iran is possible given the fact that the United States is already spread too thin?

They arent thinking in terms of military attack, but a missile attack and even a nuclear attack. Arab media talks a lot about U.S. bunker busting technology using tactical nuclear bombs. Arab media is concerned about how Iran will retaliate. They will target American interests in the Middle East, which include Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. What will stop Iran from targeting Exxon and Shell in these countries?

It doesnt help that recently the United States offered a huge arms deal 20 billion dollars to Saudi Arabia.

Thats why Petraeus report [to Congress] doesnt make sense. On the one hand, hes talking about troop withdrawal in 2008. On the other, its not over. It seems like theyre trying to split the Middle East between good Arab and bad Arab with Saudi Arabia and Egypt on one side and Syria and Iran on the other. The region is preparing itself for a larger war. Why arming Saudi Arabia if you are not expecting the worst? If you look toward peace, why are you arming the region to the teeth?

When 9-11 happened six years ago, there was a lot of sympathy from the
Middle East. Do you think that weve lost that cache of sympathy now?


I think that sympathy has been squandered, not just in the Middle East, but all over the world. After 9-11, look at what U.S. policy has brought to the world not just in terms of the cost of human lives, but the effects of economy, tourism, the way of life and the way people relate to America. It has backfired on the United States. They way they went after Al Qaeda only encouraged other Al Qaeda types of organizations to spring up. We have the worst scenario now. Now we have a virtual Al Qaeda that exists globally on the web and Osama bin Laden acting as general commander. He does appear to create incitements throughout the world. Look at what happened with terrorist attacks in England, Spain, and Denmark, and almost happened in Germany recently. Now northern Africa is becoming part of the Al Qaeda network. Al Qaeda set up shop in Morocco. In my opinion, the war on Al Qaeda has been a disaster. There should have been a way to fight terrorism without invading so many countries. But Bush invaded them. No one wants to be invaded. He strengthened resistance. Instead of being the sole superpower, the United States is being seen now as a colonial power and this is how we are viewed throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Middle East stories

War in Iraq

Andrew Lam is the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora"


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