Here we go again the National Press and American Public is Conned by the Bush adm again
It seems that the Much touted anti-war scholar Michael O'Hanlon aggressive critics of the Bush administration's handling of the war" or as "critics of the war by his own admission is not a war critic at all but a whole hearted supporter of the war from word one.
It's quite clear from the quote below that what we have been hearing is alot of happy happy nonsense from a staged trip by the Dod. There is no real evidence what was reported with O'hanlon and Pollack was true nor that there is any real progress in Iraq at all or that what is being Shown as said by sen Webb was nothing more than a Horse and Pony show.
Greenwald: OK, but once George Bush is primed to invade in March of 2003, the strategy is known, on balance did you believe that with the strategy that Bush was going to use, that the war on balance was a good idea rather than a bad idea? You favored it, right?
O'Hanlon: Yes, yes I did.
Greenwald: As far as the Surge is concerned, the policy that President Bush announced in January 2007, you were a supporter of that strategy on balance, right?
O'Hanlon: Correct, yes.
Greenwald: OK. And in terms of the reasons that you favored it, you say that you obviously got Weapons of Mass Destruction wrong - you wrote a Washington Times February 2003 column where you said: “the President was still convincing on his central point that the time for war is near.” And then you went on to say that "It is now time for multilateralists to support the President." Weapons of Mass Destruction was a very significant part of the case that you made for invading Iraq. Would you agree with that?
O'Hanlon: Yes, I would.
Greenwald: Why did you need the permission of the U.S. military in order to go? Why couldn't you just go yourself?
O'Hanlon: I suppose I could have, but I was hopeful that someone could help take care of my security, for one thing. I'm not going to try to sound more heroic than I am. And also I wanted to talk to a lot of military personnel and get their impressions.
And also I'm not a long-standing enough specialist on Iraqi politics. I'm more of a defense scholar. So I don't have the kinds of contacts in Iraq that some of my friends who are first and foremost Iraq specialists have. And therefore in order to have a useful trip, I need to sort of tag along with somebody. So this was a great benefit to me that not only the U.S. military would help arrange the trip, but also that Ken Pollack and Tony Cordesman -- who were two long-standing Iraq experts, two of our nation's best Iraq experts -- would be on the trip as well. So for all these reasons, that was why I took the chance to go on that trip.
Greenwald: The first line of your Op-Ed said:"viewed from Iraq where we just spent the last eight days interviewing American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel..."
How did you arrange the meetings with the Iraqi military and civilian personnel?
O'Hanlon: Well, a number of those -- and most of those were arranged by the U.S. military. So I'll be transparent about that as well. These were to some extent contacts of Ken and Tony, but that was a lesser number of people. The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed.
Greenwald: Were you concerned that you were getting an unrepresentative view of the situation in Iraq because the Iraqis with whom you spoke were ones hand-picked by the U.S. military?
O'Hanlon: If someone wanted to argue that we were not getting a representative view of Iraqis because the ones we spoke with were provided by the military, I would agree that this would be a genuine concern. Certainly that might have influenced the impressions that we were presented, though by no means did all of the Iraqis agree with the view of progress in Iraq.
Greenwald: Given that some of the claims in your Op-Ed are based upon your conversations with Iraqis, and that the Iraqis with whom you spoke were largely if not exclusively ones provided to you by the U.S. military, shouldn't that fact have been included in your Op-Ed?
O'Hanlon: If the suggestion is that in a 1,400 word Op-Ed, we ought to have mentioned that, I can understand that criticism, and if we should have included that, I apologize for not having done so.
But I want to stress that the focus here was on the perspective of the U.S. military, and I did a lot of probing of what I was told, and remain confident in the conclusions that we reached about the military successes which we highlighted. But if you're suggesting that some of our impressions might have been shaped by the military's selection of Iraqis, and that we might have disclosed that, that is, I think, fair enough.
Greenwald: So were all of the people with whom you spoke in Iraq ones you encountered as a result of planning by the U.S. military?
O'Hanlon: Well, other than the ones we encountered in passing in the Green Zone or whatever. And I’m not going to claim that there was a huge amount of back-and-forth. There was a little bit. But for the most part, the conversations were ones arranged by D.O.D., yes
But I've often not been in agreement with them on how they interpreted things, I’ve often done thing to try to get details on the tactics.
You know, there's always obviously a danger of being a little bit wowed by the group you're with, but I have been involved in this debate long enough and been involved critically long enough that I feel from the D.O.D. point of view, I have a very good interaction with our leadership and our personnel.
We also saw C.I.A personnel, we saw A.I.D personnel, we met with people from senior CENTCOM positions who were not on General Petreus' staff. We had a lot of interaction with civilian officials there – including the ambassador, a number of people in his office. We had ample opportunity to probe at and assess the U.S. take - I am not worried about that.
However I will take your point and I would agree with your point that we were certainly not getting a representative view of Iraqi opinion. And nor would I claim that we got a representative view, or at least got a widespread sampling of, American enlisted military personnel thinking. We had a couple dozen of enlisted personnel we come in contact with, but as you can probably surmise -- unless you are totally out of earshot - which I was sometimes - the ability to get a totally independent take was difficult. I would go out of my way to get that independent take when I could, but I would admit to you that in the space of seven and a half days I only had probably a few independent opinions in private settings from enlisted personnel. So, that's a limited sampling. And that's part of why we said we felt morale was high, but we didn't go and use more superlatives. Frankly, the people we talked to I thought morale was outstanding, but I didn't want to get carried away in a situation where there was a limitation on our ability to do a full sampling.
So in regard to the military we had a lot of access, conversations with a lot of people we had professional relationships with for years, and I feel that I have an accurate sense of how they view the mission. I do not claim to have near as detailed a sense of how Iraqis think about our role there at the moment.
Greenwald: But even in terms of what’s going on in the various cities, and how ready the Iraqi troops are, and whether their divisions really are as ready as the Op-Ed suggested – Isn’t it fair to say that the great bulk of your information about those matters came from statements made to you either by the U.S. military officials or the Iraqi officials selected for you by the U.S. military?
O'Hanlon: Yes. But I would actually challenge what you just said. We do not in the Op-Ed give an overall glowing assessment of the Iraqi security forces. We do say there has been progress with some of them. But we do not --
Greenwald: I understand. But with the ones where you said there was progress -- that was based largely on, if not exclusively on, the claims of the U.S. military and the Iraqi military officials they picked for you, right?
O'Hanlon: No, it's more than that because it's also looking at data on what they've been doing on the battlefield and who they're led by. And in fact Ken Pollack and I are now doing a longer trip report in which you'll see, I think, if you're interested in some of the detail in our thinking about the progress, but also the limitations on Iraqi security forces. And one thing I had decided to tell General Petreus and General Odierno and others in my visit and subsequently is that I don't think we have yet a very compelling transition strategy for how we can ultimately pass off security in some of the most tense, inter-ethnic neighborhoods to Iraqi forces, because I am not yet confident that we are seeing a large enough number of them become non-sectarian and dependable in their nature.
And this is a point I made repeatedly with Petreus and Odierno and a point that we are going to make in our trip report. The Op-Ed said -- listen, there is momentum at one level. There are some Iraqi security forces that are looking better, and on top of that there's a volunteer phenomenon -- where they want to work places like al Anbar Province and some other places to go against our common enemies -- that's also impressive. But it's by no means a resolution of the sectarian conflict. I remain quite concerned that we need an end-game for that.
In fact, if you'll permit me - one last thing I've done in the last two months is to write a paper on the “soft partition” option for Iraq, because I think that in the end it would be much easier to actually figure out a transition strategy out of Iraq for us if Iraqis would agree to essentially create three autonomous regions – with one of them being Kurdistan and the other two being predominantly Sunni and predominately Shia. I think it would be easier to build security forces around protecting those sorts of zones.
So that has been an enduring concern of mine. And it's true that in this Op-Ed we tried to emphasize where we saw momentum; we focused more on some of the good news, and I suppose we could be criticized for that. But, we did acknowledge the sectarian problem is far from addressed, and that's something that's very much on our minds still today.
Greenwald: Your partner in this Op-Ed, Ken Pollack, spoke with George Packer of The New Yorker, who afterwards wrote: Pollack "spoke with very few Iraqis and could independently confirm very little of what he heard from American officials." Is that your experience as well? Do you agree with that characterization?
O'Hanlon: Well, I just told you my fuller view on that, which is that I don't claim any great sense of what the Iraqi public or Iraqi leadership is thinking. We did actually have a number of meetings with some top Iraqi politicians, but a small enough number that I'm not going to make undue claims about it.
Now you could say in one sense all this data ultimately, all this information ultimately is coming from the U.S. military. Yes, but there's an opportunity for a lot of probing, a lot of debate, a lot of conversations back and forth and so I think Packer is slightly too strong in his criticism on that point.
Greenwald: Well, I think he's quoting, or purporting to describe, what Pollack told him. But I take your point and it is fair enough to say that just because you're getting your information from military sources doesn't mean you are just gullibly swallowing what they say, because you're a professional and you're making assessments about what their credibility is. That's fair enough and I understand that point. And I guess you've said in the past you felt like you had less faith than what they where telling you this time, and that's all fine.
But what I'm trying to get at is if they told you, for instance, that there were certain army divisions in Mosul where the bad commanders were being weeded out and they were now capable of holding neighborhoods better, you wouldn't actually go to the neighborhoods and inspect whether or not what you were told was true. Your claims in that regard in the Op-Ed were based upon your belief that what the U.S. military commanders were telling you was accurate. Is that true?
O'Hanlon: Yes, that’s true. Based on that example, on that type of example, you're right.
quote from interview by Glenn Greenwald