Sites I Should Cite More Frequently:
"New Amsterdam," by Elizabeth Bear

White House Drive-by Hit on General Casey

David Sanger, Michael Gordon, and John F. Burns help the White House perform a drive-by hit on General Casey. We learn absolutely nothing--absolutely nothing we can trust, that is--save that the White House has decided to perform a drive-by hit on General Casey, and that Sanger, Gordon, and Burns are eager to assist and don't want to ask the White House any questions.

Here it is:

Chaos Overran Iraq Plan in '06, Bush Team Says - New York Times: DAVID E. SANGER, MICHAEL R. GORDON and JOHN F. BURNS: President Bush began 2006 assuring the country that he had a "strategy for victory in Iraq." He ended the year closeted with his war cabinet on his ranch trying to devise a new strategy, because the existing one had collapsed.

The original plan, championed by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Baghdad, and backed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, called for turning over responsibility for security to the Iraqis, shrinking the number of American bases and beginning the gradual withdrawal of American troops. But the plan collided with Iraq's ferocious unraveling, which took most of Mr. Bush's war council by surprise.

In interviews in Washington and Baghdad, senior officials said the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department had also failed to take seriously warnings, including some from its own ambassador in Baghdad, that sectarian violence could rip the country apart and turn Mr. Bush's promise to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi neighborhoods and towns into an empty slogan.

This left the president and his advisers constantly lagging a step or two behind events on the ground.

"We could not clear and hold," Stephen J. Hadley, the president's national security adviser, acknowledged in a recent interview, in a frank admission of how American strategy had crumbled. "Iraqi forces were not able to hold neighborhoods, and the effort to build did not show up. The sectarian violence continued to mount, so we did not make the progress on security we had hoped. We did not bring the moderate Sunnis off the fence, as we had hoped. The Shia lost patience, and began to see the militias as their protectors."

Over the past 12 months, as optimism collided with reality, Mr. Bush increasingly found himself uneasy with General Casey's strategy. And now, as the image of Saddam Hussein at the gallows recedes, Mr. Bush seems all but certain not only to reverse the strategy that General Casey championed, but also to accelerate the general's departure from Iraq, according to senior military officials.

General Casey repeatedly argued that his plan offered the best prospect for reducing the perception that the United States remained an occupier -- and it was a path he thought matched Mr. Bush's wishes. Earlier in the year, it had.

But as Baghdad spun further out of control, some of the president's advisers now say, Mr. Bush grew concerned that General Casey, among others, had become more fixated on withdrawal than victory.

Now, having ousted Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Bush sees a chance to bring in a new commander as he announces a new strategy, senior military officials say. General Casey was scheduled to shift out of Iraq in the summer. But now it appears that it may happen in February or March...

What Sanger, Gordon, and Burns do not do is to provide us with any information about whether what they report--that over the entire past year Bush has been "uneasy with General Casey's strategy" is true or not. Under what restrictions and within what parameters was Casey trying to do his job? Sanger, Gordon, and Burns do not say. Why didn't the White House call for a rethink earlier, if it was uneasy? This is not a question that Sanger, Gordon, and Burns ask anybody.

In the end, all we know for sure is that Bush and company have decided that today is Blame-Casey day--and that Sanger, Gordon, and Burns are unwilling to do anything other than assist them: there's no attempt to tell the whole story, or indeed any part of the story other than the current White-House-approved version.

We've seen journamalism like this from John F. Burns before:

On July 24, 2005, for example, John F. Burns tells us this that in the early summer of 2004 his successors called Iraq Proconsul L. Paul Bremer III and his staff by "a withering term... 'the illusionists'":

[T]he new American team that arrived [in the early summer of 2004]... headed by Ambassador John D. Negroponte, had a withering term for the optimistic approach of their predecessors, led by L. Paul Bremer III. The new team called the departing Americans ''the illusionists,'' for their conviction that America could create a Jeffersonian democracy on the ruins of Saddam Hussein's medieval brutalism. One American military commander began his first encounter with American reporters by asking, ''Well, gentlemen, tell me: Do you think that events here afford us the luxury of hope?'' It seemed clear then that the administration, for all its public optimism, had begun substituting more modest goals for the idealists' conception of Iraq...

But that's not what John F. Burns... [wrote back] in the summer of 2004:

TRANSITION IN IRAQ: THE DEPARTING ADMINISTRATOR; Looking Beyond His Critics, Bremer Sees Reason for Both Hope and Caution: For the 414 days that he was America's proconsul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III was forever reacting to surprises.... On Monday, there was a surprise of a different kind... the 48-hour advance of Iraq's return to formal sovereignty... forestalling insurgent attacks to disrupt the transition... was successful.... Mr. Bremer, Brooks Brothers smart as always... allowed himself a smile of satisfaction.... ''It's a great pleasure to be here this day to formally hand over sovereignty on behalf of the coalition,'' he said.... [H]e boarded a Black Hawk helicopter to begin his journey out of Iraq, and eventually to his house in Vermont, teaching the gourmet cooking classes that are his favorite pastime.... ''I think we'll win the war, and we'll win it as we get more and more Iraqis standing up and fighting, and as we proceed on the second pillar, which is getting an Iraqi government,'' Mr. Bremer said.... If the plan holds up, the new Iraq of which Mr. Bremer was a principal architect could go down in history as an extraordinary achievement...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?