It just started. MM is liveblogging it; we’ll probably have a clip here afterwards. Here are the findings in bullet-point format in case you missed them in headlines last night. Some military progress, near-zero political progress.
Should be a barnburner. Meanwhile, I’ve got some updates coming. Standby.
Update: This was linked in the quote of the day last night but I’ll mention it again because it’s a must read. Why is a story about what the DCIA told the Baker-Hamilton group nine months ago appearing the same day that the Senate takes up withdrawal proposals? Hmmm.
Later that morning, around the same conference table, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden painted a starkly different picture [than Bush had] for members of the study group. Hayden said “the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible,” adding that he could not “point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around,” according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants.
“The government is unable to govern,” Hayden concluded. “We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function.”
Later in the interview, he qualified the statement somewhat: “A government that can govern, sustain and defend itself is not achievable,” he said, “in the short term.”
A CIA spokesman denied that he said any such thing but another senior intel official confirms that was the gist. More:
According to the written record and others in the room, Hayden at one point likened the situation in Iraq to a marathon. He said there comes a point in each race when the runner knows he can complete the challenge. But Hayden said he could see no such point in Iraq’s future.
“The levers of power are not connected to anything,” he said, adding: “We have placed all of our energies in creating the center, and the center cannot accomplish anything.”…
He compared the Iraq situation to the prolonged warfare in the Balkans. “In Bosnia, the parties fought themselves to exhaustion,” Hayden said, suggesting that the same scenario could play out in Iraq. “They might just have to fight this out to exhaustion.”
He also allegedly listed the threats to Iraq in this order: “the insurgency, sectarian strife, criminality, general anarchy and, lastly, al-Qaeda.” The military said yesterday that AQ is the principal threat, although according to a military intel report, they’re responsible for 15% of the attacks inside the country. Gen. Bergner reconciled those claims at the briefing:
“Al-Qaeda senior leadership does provide direction to al-Qaeda in Iraq,” Bergner told reporters. “They do establish and provide resourcing and support the network,” he added, noting that Zawahiri recently released a video seeking international recruits for the war in Iraq…
Bergner defended the focus on al-Qaeda in Iraq. “They are clearly the main accelerant in sectarian violence and the greatest source of these spectacular attacks that are killing innocent Iraqis in such large numbers,” Bergner said. “Their numbers are very small, but the effect is very large.”
AQ is responsible for 80-90% of the suicide bombings according to his best estimates.
Update: David Gregory’s asking him about Woodward’s report on Hayden’s testimony right now. Bush says he asked Hayden about it this morning and he claims his testimony was, and I quote, “a little more nuanced” than Woodward would have it.
Update: Aunt Bethany strikes early, calling for UN peacekeepers to get in their and do the job American troops apparently aren’t doing. Bush responds with the transparent nonsense about how he tried to avoid war by going to the UN, but framing it in terms of Saddam’s refusal to disarm only paints him into the WMD corner. If the point of the war was to create a model democracy for the Middle East, what sense does it make to say “I tried to avoid war”?
Update: Here’s Gregory’s exchange with Bush. The Anbar awakening figures prominently in the answer.
Update: The LA Times takes Senate Republicans’ temperature and finds plenty of support for a change of course among fencesitters but opposition to any timetable. Whether that’s because they’re sincerely worried about the consequences or whether they simply feel trapped by their past rhetoric, only they know. And speaking of past rhetoric, Boehner deploys a word usually reserved for Democrats to describe the GOP defectors. He’s not talking about us, is he, wonders Dick Lugar’s spokesman.
Update: It wasn’t all about Iraq this morning. Someone from WaPo asked him about the Libby commutation, to which Bush replied by noting what a shame it was that so many millions of dollars spent on investigations could have been saved if only, ahem, certain people had come forward sooner.
Update: The punchline to all this heavy breathing, says David Ignatius, is that a consensus has already emerged. It’s called Baker-Hamilton, and while it may be militarily disastrous, it’s politically do-able. Which is the important thing.
Exit question: Is it really politically do-able, though? Hmmm.