Friday, September 14, 2007

Was Warner tipped off?

Does anybody else find this odd? Last month, Sen. John Warner (R-VA) made a big show of “breaking” with the president by calling for a token reduction in the number of US troops serving in Iraq by Christmas:

I say to the President, respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum. But certainly, in the 160,000 plus — say 5,000 — could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year.

Despite the couched request and the very small number, Warner’s statement was supposed to be a big deal—as if this grand old man of the Senate was laying down a condition for continued support from Republicans in his sphere.

Well, at the start of the week, Gen. David Petraeus made a remarkably similar sounding recommendation, and Thursday night (shock! awe!), Decider-in-Chief Bush “decided” to take the general’s “advice”:

Because of this success, General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. He has recommended that we not replace about 2,200 Marines scheduled to leave Anbar province later this month; in addition, he says it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade; for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas.

Leaving aside that “success” in Anbar, you could say that Warner knew the 5,000 number was a safe bet because that many troops were due to rotate out anyway. That is almost true, but they were not due to leave before Christmas. Most of what I have read has stated that a reduction in the overall numbers in Iraq would not have to happen due to the 15-month rotation deadline until April—so, while this is not a real “withdrawal” (the president never used that word in his speech, by the way), it is a slightly accelerated rotation schedule.

Since we know that Gen. Petraeus was coordinating with the White House on his “recommendations” for weeks before the September 10 testimony, is it possible that the administration also coordinated with Sen. Warner?

Would you change your mind if I told you that the Senator met with White House “war czar” Gen. Doug Lute on the same day that he delivered his remarks about a token Christmas withdrawal?

I know that it was leaked that administration officials reached out to Warner to get him to “clarify” his remarks, and I know that the Virginia Senator came under some fire from the super-wingnutty members of his caucus, but the former Mr. Liz Taylor’s wobbles have always been more word than deed (Warner has never cast a vote against Bush’s Iraq war agenda), and the number and timing are just too close.

Since even the White House and the establishment media each freely admit that the President’s “strategy” is designed to keep wobbly Republicans in the stay-the-course camp, it seems very possible to me that part of this strategy is to cement Republican support by coordinating with a purported senior wobbler.

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