Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Today’s gaggle brought both Pony Blow and National Security Advisor Steven Hadley (now identified by the White House as the jaunty Steve) aboard Air Force One en route Vienna, Austria.

So, what about the latest “numbers”, Steve?

Q On the soldiers, the missing soldiers, have we confirmed that they’re, in fact, dead?

MR. HADLEY: We have not confirmed. We believe that the two remains identified are the soldiers. We believe that’s what’s been announced by MNF-I out of Baghdad. The remains are being shipped home for positive identification, but we can’t confirm it at this point. They’ve announced out of Baghdad that they believe it is the two soldiers, but we can’t be sure.

Q I just wonder what, tactically, you make of that? You know, their abduction and their apparent death. Does it say anything about the tactics of the insurgents and terrorist groups at this point that may be changing in any fashion?

MR. HADLEY: No, I think it’s a reminder that this is a brutal enemy that does not follow any of the rules. It attacks civilians for political gain, it provokes sectarian violence and it really follows no rules of warfare. It’s a very brutal enemy and it’s a reminder to all of us about what we’re up against. And, obviously, any loss of life is a source of great regret.

That’s when Pony, always the optimist, pointed out that the torture killing of American soldiers is a good thing.

MR. SNOW: Let me add one other point, which is, David, as you probably read, in the aftermath of this there had been military activity. So maybe the most significant thing is a considerable amount of actionable intelligence has come out of it. We are seeing evidence that the Iraqi people are also sick of this. You saw it in some of the communications that have been aimed towards Zarqawi.

And you see in the aftermath of an episode like this that the Iraqi people are also stepping forward to try to be of assistance.

Obsession continues, Read More…

From Holden:

What about the Coalition of the Booking?

Q Mr. Hadley, how does the administration feel about the Japanese announcement today about the self-defense force?

MR. HADLEY: The Japanese ground force, self-defense force was in Muthanna province. As you know, what is happening in Iraq is as the Iraqi security forces get trained up and can take more security responsibility, the coalition has been turning over the lead to Iraqi security forces in increasing portions of the country. That’s sort of step one.

[snip]

So what we think is useful is it’s an indication, it’s a measure of the progress, it’s an example of what it means, Iraqis stand up, we can stand down, and then our mission then begins to transform and how we can support the government transform. So we think that this is a positive step.

Q I see your point. Do you worry, though, that eventually we’re going to become a little lonely there?

MR. HADLEY: No, because as the Japanese have made clear, they’re staying in with a mission…

And “Last Throes” Dick?

Q I want to ask you about Vice President Cheney’s remarks yesterday. How can the White House justify him standing by his remarks that the insurgency is in the last throes? Can you just explain that, how that could —

MR. HADLEY: The Vice President explained it yesterday.

Q Well, then I didn’t —

MR. HADLEY: You can talk to him about it; I thought it was a good explanation.

Q Why do you think it’s a good explanation?

MR. HADLEY: It’s a good explanation, it speaks for itself. I think it points to the fact the significance of what has happened politically over the last two years, that as he said, we are at a point where we have a duly-elected government, a constitution drafted and ratified by the Iraqi people, that is a unity government that has a plan for going forward.

[snip]

I think what the Vice President was saying is things are happening that give in evidence, as our prior discussion does, that this new Iraqi government is stepping forward and taking responsibility. That’s a good thing.

Q I’m sorry, how does that comport with the insurgency being in its last throes, all of what you just said?

MR. HADLEY: The Vice President talked about the significance of what we’re talking about and what it will mean over time for the insurgency. It’s what I think Tony showed, the fact that the Iraqi people are tired of it, they’re ready for peace, they’re talking about a reconciliation process, but a reconciliation process in which people lay down their arms.

They’ve also got a government that’s stepping forward, taking responsibility for security and the leading of that reconciliation process. I think that’s a big development of 2005, 2006, very important as we look forward in Iraq.

Q Just to be clear, the President would agree with the Vice President that the insurgency is in the last throes?

MR. HADLEY: What I said was the Vice President has explained his comments yesterday, and I have tried to provide a little bit more context for that explanation.

Yo, Hadley – you’re Freudian Slip is showing.

Q And when the President talks about progressively stronger sanctions, could you elaborate a little bit on that? Will he use this trip to try to build support for that?

MR. HADLEY: Well, we’ve already got an understanding, as we’ve said, that if Iran does not accept this offer, then we return to the U.N. Security Council. So I think that’s all a part of the way forward.

What we want to emphasize, though, and what the President tried to emphasize yesterday is the opportunity for the Iranian people, if their government will take this offer that is before them it can result in avoiding this crisis, it can result in strengthened relations and economic relations that will have a real benefit for the Iranian people. There’s a terrific opportunity here. And what we’ve been focusing on is urging the Iraqi regime to take advantage of the opportunity before it.

Q Iranian regime.

MR. HADLEY: Iranian regime, sorry. Thank you.

Let’s not talk about those permanent military bases.

Q Permanent military bases in Iraq, do you expect those?

MR. HADLEY: We haven’t talked about that. What we’ve really been focusing on is this process of training, turning over responsibility for security at the military level, and then the taking of responsibility by political authorities in Iraq. That’s what we really need to be focusing on, and that’s what we focused on, and the progress, we hope, that that will afford in dealing with the security situation there. That’s really what we’ve been focusing on.