The Desert Ox

As the New York Times reports, former Iraqi prime minister and U.S. sock puppet Iyad Allawi’s apparent victory in his country’s recent election sets up a "period of uncertainty" that may "threaten plans to withdraw American troops." Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq who reminds one of John Candy’s character in the film Stripes, is likely creating seismic events as he jumps for joy.

Odierno, Gen. David Petraeus’ pet lummox, has been publicly pushing for an extended stay in Iraq since February 2009, when Petraeus canonizer and former journalist Thomas E. Ricks quoted him in the Washington Post as wanting to see a U.S. presence of "30,000 or so" U.S. troops in Iraq until 2015 (or so). Odierno’s statement to Ricks was part of a multimedia campaign to sell Ricks’ then-new book, The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, which itself was part of the ongoing propaganda campaign to extend the Iraq war for as long as humanly possible.

As Ricks inelegantly admitted in The Gamble, when Petraeus took charge of the Iraq surge strategy in early 2007 he did, in fact, "betray us." In 2007, Petraeus told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “We’re after conditions that would allow our soldiers to disengage.” His plan, however was to pave the way for the Pentagon’s Long War, to buy the American public’s patience through artificially lowering violence statistics by bribing militants and cooking the numbers.

In Fiasco, Rick’s first book on the Iraq war, published in 2006, Odierno comes off like a blob in a china shop, his "heavy-handed tactics" singularly responsible for the calamity the Iraq project flopped into after U.S. psych warfare operators staged the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue. By the time The Gamble hit the shelves in 2009, Odierno had undergone a "transformation."

Determined to "operate differently" in his second tour in Iraq, according to the Ricks narrative, Odierno "became the lone senior officer in the active-duty military to advocate a buildup of American troops in Iraq." Odierno communicated "almost daily by phone with retired general Jack Keane, an influential former Army vice chief of staff and his most important ally in Washington." Odierno conducted "his own strategic review," bypassing his superiors to launch a "guerrilla campaign for a change in direction in Iraq that eventually reversed almost every tenet of U.S. strategy."

Crediting Odierno with the intellectual capacity to have pulled off such a feat may be the premier example of journalistic humbuggery to emerge from our woebegone war on terror. Ricks characterizes Odierno as "the best of the Army’s conventional thinkers." If that’s true, it speaks tomes about the dismal quality of Army thinking, conventional or otherwise.

In The Gamble, Odierno admits to Ricks that when he left Iraq after his first tour, he "thought this thing was going well." It’s bad enough for him to have thought that, worse still to admit it to Ricks for public consumption after he’d supposedly undergone his "transformation."

Odie has said many things on the record that indicate he has the strategic acumen of the dog in a certain popular comic strip, but none so illustrative as his reaction to a memorandum written by Col. Timothy Reese in July 2009. Reese, who at the time was chief of the Baghdad Operations Advisory Team, noted that Iraq’s government and security forces are aswarm with corruption, laziness, nepotism, ineffectiveness, and a host of other malignancies. Odierno dismissed Reese’s concerns as mere "tactical issues."

Babe Odierno is smart about one thing though; he can test the winds and shift with them faster than any other general or flag officer I’ve ever seen. One minute he’s saying conditions may cause a delay in our scheduled withdrawal from Iraq, the next minute he’s saying the drawdown is still on schedule. I guess it depends on whom he talked to last, his war mongrel comrades who want him to talk up staying the course forever or somebody from the White House like Rahm Emanuel who threatens to turn his rear end into road pizza the next time he openly defies the commander in chief’s policies.

In my day we called that sort of thing "talking out both sides of your mouth." Now its nomenclature is "Information Operations."

Now that slut puppy Allawi may be coming back into power, Pavlov’s dogs of war are foaming at the mouth again. Current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is contesting the vote count, and accusations of fraud are coming from many corners, but Odierno and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill are applauding "the overall integrity" of the election. And well you might expect them to. Maliki had a nasty penchant for reminding the U.S. that they had to get their forces out of his country by the end of 2011. They won’t even have to buy Allawi dinner to get him to beg us to stay.

In a recent interview, Odierno told reporters he would meet President Obama’s deadline to reduce the U.S. troop level to 50,000 by the end of this August, but that "We have to stay committed to this past 2011."

Odie made noise to reporters as if he meant “committed” with something other than troop presence, but how does he suppose we’re going to stay committed without troops? By continuing to pour money into a nation that Transparency International ranks among the top five most corrupt countries in the world? There’s no way on earth we can stick a bunch of civic-minded civilians into Iraq for the purpose of rebuilding it without sending along a bunch of troops to protect them. Petraeus himself admits there are still roughly 20 attacks per day against U.S. troops in Iraq. Incredibly, Petraeus was actually bragging, implying that his surge was a success because U.S. troops are only attacked 20 times a day. Imagine the mayor of Chicago boasting that his police officers only get jumped by hoodlums 20 times a day.

Odierno, whom a senior military official describes as "a pit bull on a poodle," says we should take advantage of our opportunity to establish "overall stability in the Middle East." We’ve spent the last eight years blowing Middle East stability to smithereens. How does Odie reckon we’re going to fix things now?

Where do we find such men? (Answer: West Point, Md.)

Desert Ox Odierno says, "People have to get past why we came here." Odie and his confederates would love for people to forget why we invaded Iraq. As the September 2000 neoconservative manifesto “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” stated, the purpose was to build a centrally located military base of operations so we could play "a more permanent role in Gulf regional security."

Everyone who has been tracking Iraq knows that a permanent military presence in Iraq is still the objective – even Tom Ricks. In a Feb. 25 piece at, he offered a "signed copy of any of my books" to whoever guesses closest as to how many troops we’ll still have in Iraq in 2014.

The correct guess can only be one of two things: "zero" or "too many."

And 2014 is a mighty long time to wait for a signed copy of anybody’s books, much less one of Tom Ricks’.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.