Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Panetta the loose cannon

New Pentagon chief a loose cannon.

That's what Craig Whitlock wrote for the Hindustan Times today. It was just a short little article, beginning "Just 11 days into his tenure as defense secretary, Leon Panetta has demonstrated a flair for making blunt, unscripted comments" and ending with this observation "In contrast to his poker-faced predecessor, Robert M Gates, it turns out that Panetta happily speaks off the cuff and doesn’t seem to edit his thoughts too closely."

It's amusing. But Panetta isn't, really.

See, actually, the HT just grabbed the beginning of the full article. It contains some disturbing comments. For instance, the repeated statement that the US was going to leave 70,000 troops in Afghanistan until 2014 was over. A misstatement, his aides say.

And then the apparent belief that al-Qaeda was in Iraq before we were, and the strong implication that the invasion of Iraq was causally linked to 9/11 (not just temporally):
“The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked,” he told troops at Camp Victory, the largest U.S. military outpost in Baghdad. “And 3,000 Americans — 3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings — got killed because of al-Qaeda. And we’ve been fighting as a result of that.”
An aide explained that:
“I don’t think he’s getting into the arguments of 2002 and 2003. He’s dealing with the security situation our country faces today.”

But the thing about that is, I think he was sort of scrambling to cover another misstatement.
He made the observation that Iraq is rich in oil. “This damn country has a hell of a lot of resources,” he noted.
Indeed it is, and indeed it does. Nothing wrong about that statement.

Except that it comes perilously close to admitting that oil is why we're there.

I don't think the White House wants that said, true or not. Maybe especially if it's true.

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