After last week’s Operation Maliki Impersonates Bush went like, well Maliki impersonating Bush, the Administration Spin Merchants knew where to go and lie and not get called on it…

THE FABULOUS TIMMEH SHOW!

MR. RUSSERT: Were you aware of it?

GEN. HAYDEN: I was–in terms of being prebriefed or, or having, you know, the, the normal planning process in which you build up to this days or weeks ahead of time, no. No, I was not.

MR. RUSSERT: You didn’t know it was going to happen?

GEN. HAYDEN: No more so than Dave Petraeus or Ambassador Crocker did.

It’s the ‘Ivory Snow’ of bullshit, almost 99.9% pure.

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker first learned of the Iraqi plan on Friday, March 21: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki would be heading to Basra with Iraqi troops to bring order to the city.

But the Iraqi operation was not what the United States expected.

Isn’t the non-anticipating to be expected by now?

…interviews with a wide range of American and military officials also suggest that Mr. Maliki overestimated his military’s abilities and underestimated the scale of the resistance. The Iraqi prime minister also displayed an impulsive leadership style that did not give his forces or that of his most powerful allies, the American and British military, time to prepare.

“He went in with a stick and he poked a hornet’s nest, and the resistance he got was a little bit more than he bargained for,” said one official in the multinational force in Baghdad who requested anonymity. “They went in with 70 percent of a plan. Sometimes that’s enough. This time it wasn’t.”

No wonder Maliki & Bush get along so well, for Bush it’s like seeing himself with Ringo Starr’s beard. I can’t help but have the theme for The Patty Duke Show go through my head (John McCain loved to watch that show with his grandkids back in the day, sharing Werther’s Originals).

Now this New York Times article has three different authors, Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt and Stephen Farrell and we all know about Gordon. For years it has been apparent that for Michael Gordon, the best way to maintain access is to uncritically report what is fed to him by the Administration. You can see glimmers of "Gordonism" throughout the piece such as:

The operation indicates that the Iraqi military can quickly organize and deploy forces over considerable distances. Two Iraqi C-130s and several Iraqi helicopters were also involved in the operation, an important step for a military that is still struggling to develop an air combat ability.

Why thank you Bush Flack on Petraeus’ staff, I hope Gordon let him proofread to make sure this paragraph was exactly right.

Any other ass-covering Mr. Gordon can help you with?

According to one American official, General Petraeus conveyed the message that while the decision was in the hands of the Iraqi government, “we made a lot of gains in the past six to nine months that you’ll be putting at risk.”

Ah, that will make Fred Kagan jowls shiver with joy.

But the best part of the collaboration between Gordon and two other reporters are these paragraphs:

In Baghdad, Mr. Crocker lobbied senior officials in the Iraqi government, who complained that they had been excluded from Mr. Maliki’s decision-making on Basra, to back the prime minister’s effort there.

“I stressed the point that this was a moment of national crisis, and they had to think nationally,” Mr. Crocker said. “Because nobody should think that failure in Basra is going to benefit any element of the Iraqi community. The response was good. I have not found any element of the Iraqi government that will admit to being consulted.”

Maybe there’s bad editing there — maybe the New York Times hired Kathryn Lopez and we are just detecting her editing talents in action. But not admitting to being consulted seems kind of like a bad thing.

Any other bright ideas we have had to make things better in Basra?

The Americans also encouraged Mr. Maliki to proceed with his plan to seek an alliance with the Shiite tribes, as the Americans had done with Sunni tribes in the so-called Anbar Awakening.

“We strongly encouraged him to use his most substantial weapon, which is money, to announce major jobs programs, Basra cleanup, whatnot,” Mr. Crocker said. “And to do what he decided to do on his own: pay tribal figures to effectively finance an awakening for Basra.”

And Maliki did so, but as Marc Lynch noted, he apparently did it in the worst possible way. His job program was hiring 10,000 Shiite militias opposed to al Sadr, after firing police suspected of being aligned with al Sadr:

…the new Badr inductees are meant to replace the ""thousands of police members and officers who allegedly refused orders to take part in the fight against the militiamen of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr." Instead of strengthening the state’s capacity in Basra, this would become simply another move in the intra-Shia power struggle: exacerbating not just the sectarian but the factional identity of the security forces, alienating rather than reaching out to the Mahdi Army, and all while doing nothing to bring Basra residents closer to the state. While this wouldn’t be much of a surprise, given the way Maliki has always operated, it would radically reduce the prospects that anything constructive can be salvaged from the last week’s bloodshed.

And who will not anticipate that?