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Sep 18, 2007

Bush Hype And The Loss Of Sheikh


My question is, did George Bush effectively "off" an ally -- and even undermine his Anbar strategy -- for the sake of the "surge sale" and a single photo-op?

To flesh out the question, skip back to the last days of August, and the Administration's  effort to sprucing up the Iraq campaign.  Of the three platforms for judging the picture -- one military, one economic, and one political -- it was this third category most amenable to last minute window dressing.

At that point in time, the Administration, and our Ambassador Crocker, were putting effort into forcing a show of solidarity among Iraq's ruling elite.  My August 30th post focused on one such effort.  The photo op in question cast the Iraqi leaders in a bite-your-tongue display of token consensus surrounding the relatively insignificant (and still unratified) restoration of civil employment privileges of Baath party members.

Now, fast forward to George Bush's media stunt in which he had himself air-shipped into Anbar on September 3rd to boost General Petraeus' Sunni miracle.  In a dog-and-pony reprise, the Administration whisked the same characters to Fortress Patreus for a further photo op, this time with time with 43 himself.

When it came time to secure the coveted images of this meet-and-greet, however, the President -- who went half-round-the-world for a few moments of mugging (in front of the camera) -- failed to secure even one shot in Anbar with that ferried collective of Vice Presidents Abdul-Mehdi and al-Hashemi, President Talabani, Prime Minister al-Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Salih as well as the Kurd leader Barzani.


In fact, the most "intact" shot of the group on Yahoo's newswire was probably this one, featuring Bush in a "the script says shake my hand" gesture toward Talabani; a "what am I doing here" glance from Maliki, and the distant presence of that third suit, Sunni V.P. Tariq al-Hashemi, who back in Baghdad, could barely bring himself to play along.

The reason for this crappy shot, and the fact that nobody saw it, however, was not because of Iraqi resistance (although there seems plenty of that) but because the Administration had lined up a better date for this dance.

So what we got, instead, as this article and, especially, the inset photo from Voice of America illustrates, is the visual action shifting to the right side of the room.  Taking in the whole scene, what you have are the local tribal leaders -- the current object of a U.S. love affair --flanking the President, backed up by the Condi, Crocker and Gates crew.

The money shot, however, (the one shouting loud from FOX to the NYT) is the one top-left above.  (Here's the whole spread.)  In the pic, we see Bush beaming and preening with Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, touted by the military as our #1 tribal ally among allies in the panacea of the moment, the alliance forged with Sunni mixed flavors in the region.

Given the extraordinarily high profile of the meeting, the intense rivalry of the neighborhood clans, as well as the media savvy of all types of bad boys, however, wasn't it odd Sattar wasn't a little more concerned to avoid the exposure?  (Probably not, if he was really the corrupt power player a more independent media has seen him to be, hugging the limelight as America's charismatic anti-al Qaeda poster boy of the hour.) 

As a strategic asset, however, didn't the Administration and the Sattar-fawning military have concerns about setting him up this way -- even before he had his 15 minutes at the White House?

When Sattar was murdered just nine days later, his brother and likely successor proclaimed:

“The martyrdom of Sattar will not affect this [pro-American, anti-insurgent] council because every member of this council has the same beliefs and the same motivations and this sad incident will not stop them from moving forward.... Although they killed Sattar, there are a million Sattars in Anbar.”

Interesting comment.  In spite of the fact Sattar was touted by the military as the leader among leaders in this clannish world, and a key coalescing figure of our palm-greasing operation in the region, and a man of such significance that his loss would compel the tears of key American military brass at the man's funeral, somehow this guy wasn't worth more than a photo op.

(image 1 & 3: Charles Dharapak/AP.  Sept. 3, 2007.  Al-Asad Air base in Anbar province.  Via YahooNews.  image 2: A.P. September 13, 2007.  Ramadi, Iraq.


It is of no doubt that his buddying up to Bush is what got him killed

Thank you for addressing and analyzing this situation and the shocking turn of events. From A to Z, this was one of the more striking drama's in Iraq and based on what we have seen over the past 4 years, that is a hard status to attain.

We don't know who killed al-Rishawi so efficiently, but I have not seen a message delivered such a dramatic and effective manner since the "horse head in the bed scene" from the Godfather.

Send them a message they will understand. DO NOT cooperate with the Americans.

You would think the Iraqis would really get the message that they are disposable by now.

Bravo, BAG!

This is a classic post. I suggest that everyone click through to the>"whole spread" link. What a shot !!

Juxtaposing the live Shiek and the deak Shiek, as well as the Sunni side and the Shiite side of the table tells the whole story!!

The Sunni extremists are new best buddies with Bush, Petreus, and Condi - but everyone is looking in different directions, Bush's face is flush and beaming while the Sheik is stoic, and his right hand man is focused on his doodle pad. I wonder if he's doodling Bush's body hanging from a post or a huge pile of weapons and cash...

The slightly overexposed picture of the Shiites in the room shows a completely different relationship. In all western business outfits, they're the longtime partners of Bush who have been jilted. How can they extend a hand towards the "Sunni side" of that table? Maliki knows better than to have that picture taken, and Talabani is snubbing Bush completely. Bush is figuratively and literally "over-reaching" to try to get a connection across this great divide, and to me his extended arm looks unnaturally thin and weak.

Then, that very red face of Bush as he sat next to the Sheik, and stood next to him was anger and chagrin at the brush-off of the moments before....?

Excellent catch, Bag...I knew nothing about the Reach acrosd the table to unwilling hands. The Blackwater episode fits into this newfound independence of the Iraqi leadership.

Oh man. They HATE him. I mean, I'm not surprised or anything, but I hadn't seen it until I saw those handshake pictures. And if the top-left is the best they can do... Bush can't even get a man he is shaking hands with to pay him attention. Oh. It is awful (again and always and for far more important reasons, but still freshly here).

I thought the cropped photo made Bush look bad (eager puppy looking for approval from a sheik who felt contempt for him). But the full spread is even worse. Freaking embarrassing!

I wonder who will write the definitive tome on the collective craveness of the Bush Administration.....

i looked at the whole photo shoot when it was first published . it struck me that no one wanted to be seen with bush nor shake his hand until forced to because of politeness on their part. the sheikh with bush has the look that he knew he was a dead man. everything blew up in bush`s face and he knows what is he going to do next to save face?

The Iraqi's don't have to worry about how to impeach him, they can just ignore him. I wonder if, in the diplomatic language of nations, the refusal of a hand extended in 'friendship' is an insult to that nation. How humiliating to Bush is that extended hand to Talibani which is obviously ignored.

Now I'm confused. Is al-Rishawi the same person as Sheik Abu-Risha at al Anbar? In which case, he was apparently a phony sheik at the behest of Bush (with our $millions) and was exposed as such in Greg Palast's latest:
If so, then I cannot but think that it was a direct and public slap at Bush, as in we know the game you are playing and we just upped the stakes.

As for Bush's extreme flushing and sweaty face with that uber-grin, there is something very forced and/or phony about that face. It's appeared in several photo-ops lately. Is there some drug that would cause that?

I'm always amazed how much information one can extract from political photos. I cross-posted this at Huffington and received an interesting read from a commenter called ReasonIsMyReligion: He or she writes:

These guys -- the top dogs in the entire Iraq story -- evidently still need name cards to keep each other straight. That's how tight they are.

So now I'm wondering, who were the name cards for exactly? On the surface, one would think it was for the Baghdad set and the Anbar set. But then, maybe it was for the Americans? (In the old days, that idea might have seemed ridiculous. But with this Adminstration, on the other hand, perhaps it is almost second nature now to assume our top military, Pentagon and foreign policy people wouldn't necessarily come into a rare meeting such as this fully knowing the names and the faces of the key people they are dealing with.

Interesting perspective on the name placards. To me, there is no doubt that it was for Dumbya. He hears the names in briefings but walking and chewing gum at the same time (names and faces),... that would be a mental leap he reliable enough to make without help. Like the teleprompters making him appear to be a competent orator when in fact hs can't form a sentenence.

NOW: on the extended hand to Talibani. Yes it seems obviously ignored for a moment. - What is the rest of the story? Was it a brief "oversight" which was rapidly corrected in the ensuing moments... or, did Talibani actually have the unadulterated courage to refuse this midget the honor of his hand.

Seriously, that makes a lot of difference to me, can anyone answer that question?

What a drama in the last picture - it is fascinating to look at all the players. The occupiers seem so benevolent and at ease, but they have the power to seem that way. The puppets better beware what actually will be decided for them as their fate. Behind the walls of the new USNazi embassy where there are no diplomats in site the goons will be assigned their jobs.
What is also interesting is that half of Rice's face is hidden by chimp's arm. Not much of a role there.

Truly a "hand-shake-of-death"!

Bush’s Fake Sheik Whacked: The Surge and the Al Qaeda Bunny by Greg Palast

Donald Rumsfelts favorite TV network reports:

Al Jazeera examines whether the controversial US policy of joining forces with Sunni tribes in Iraq's volatile al-Anbar province has worked, and who is paying the price. With filmmakers Rick Rowley and David Enders.

People and Power - al-Anbar progress? 09 Sept 07 - Part 1 (11:55)

People and Power - al-Anbar progress? 09 Sept 07 - Part 2 (10.24)

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