Olbermann: Surge debate already over, Bush wins 'shell game'


David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Friday September 7, 2007

Since last spring, the White House has been saying the nation should reserve debate about America's presence in Iraq and the possibility of withdrawal until after General Petraeus delivers his report on the effectiveness of the surge. However, according to Keith Olbermann, "Today we learned that by then it will have been too late. ... The president has already made up his mind. We are staying."

In an interview with USA Today on Wednesday, White House chief of staff John Bolten confirmed that "Bush wants to make 'it possible for his successor — whichever party that successor is from — to have a sustained presence in the Middle East.'"

"America's purpose in Iraq now officially, just to be in Iraq," Olbermann commented.

Olbermann's larger point, however, concerned the tactics by which the administration regularly avoids any debate of its policies. "Whether it be about disbanding the [Iraqi] army or about the surge, we have seen this congenital aversion to debate before," he stated. "The shell game is an old and practiced one, the nation debating withdrawal while the administration has only seemed to."

Olbermann reminded viewers of events last fall, when Bush indicated he was taking the Baker-Hamilton Report seriously and considering all options, including the possibility of a drawdown. White House press secretary Tony Snow promised reporters, "Wait until you see the whole package, and then the debate will begin." But just days later, the surge was announced, effectively forestalling debate of any kind.

The same thing is happening now with the build-up to the Petraeus Report. "The administration is expected to cite a 75% decrease in sectarian attacks in Iraq," Olbermann stated. "That sounds great, does it not? But it appears to have been accomplished by severely tightening the definition of a sectarian attack." For example, mass bombings are no longer counted in the totals, only isolated murders.

Olbermann was joined by Newsweek editor and political analyst Jonathan Alter, who called the claim of a 75% reduction "the big lie" and "a joke" and said "they're cooking the books yet again."

"We're going to be sold a bill of goods in the next couple of weeks," Alter concluded. "The Democrats have been cowed by this minimal progress. ... They're going to have -- and deserve -- real problems with the Democratic base for not showing more guts on Iraq this fall. September was supposed to be the moment of truth. It's not going to work out that way."

The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast on September 6.

Video At Source