Posted by Curt on 7 April, 2008 at 9:33 am. 21 comments already!


On the heels of the testimony of Gen. Petraeus to Congress this week Senator Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman have written a editorial in the Wall Street Journal that is a must read:

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been swept from its former strongholds in Anbar province and Baghdad. The liberation of these areas was made possible by the surge, which empowered Iraqi Muslims to reject the Islamist extremists who had previously terrorized them into submission. Any time Muslims take up arms against Osama bin Laden, his agents and sympathizers, the world is a safer place.


In recent months, the Iraqi government, encouraged by our Ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has passed benchmark legislation on such politically difficult issues as de-Baathification, amnesty, the budget and provincial elections. After boycotting the last round of elections, Sunnis now stand ready to vote by the millions in the provincial elections this autumn.

But don’t tell that to Senator Biden who declared The Surge a failure and many other Democrats who ready and waiting to screech that its all a failure: (subscription required so full text below)

In hearings this week with top U.S. leaders in Iraq, Democrats will point to growing violence and a lack of political progress to reinforce their calls for withdrawal and highlight differences with the GOP in a presidential election year.

The four hearings planned for April 8 and 9 will focus on the status of the war — in its sixth year — and the broader implications for the U.S. military and the nation.

General David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will be pressed by Democrats to explain the recent increase in violence, the failed Iraqi offensive in Basra against Shiite militias and how the U.S. military will be able to sustain military operations there.

Key to their strategy is the assertion that after the completion of President Bush’s “surge” of forces, the U.S. is no closer to being able to extricate itself from Iraq than when it began.

“This is like Groundhog Day,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., previewing his committee’s hearing for reporters. “We’re at the same point we were at the beginning of the surge.”

Republicans will defend Bush’s policies and frame the situation in Iraq as progressing slowly, but surely, to a point where American troops can leave. They also want to quell the notion that Congress should take an active role in war policy, instead saying it should defer to Petraeus and Crocker.

“Congress has a responsibility . . . to listen to [the] testimony . . . and base our actions on the facts, not a commitment to retreat that is based on ideology rather than reality,” said House Minority Leader John A Boehner, R-Ohio.

But no lawmakers have illusions that the sessions will change minds or result in the kind of compromise that could produce bi-partisan agreement on Iraq.

“I don’t see much change occurring unless we can come up with 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate,” said Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Biden and Levin said April 4 that they will focus on the Iraqi government’s lack of political progress and unleash harsh criticisms against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“The Bush administration has put all of our eggs in Maliki’s basket, and he’s shown himself to be a political leader who is excessively sectarian, incompetent, and who runs a corrupt administration,” Levin said.

He said he would ask Crocker to comment on his push for greater financial contributions from the Iraqi government and press Petraeus to specify exactly how long a pause in troop drawdowns should last.

The surge added roughly five brigades to U.S. forces in Iraq. Currently there are about 156,000 troops there. Petraeus has indicated that troop levels should be held at about 140,000 after July, when the surge troops have all been withdrawn, to assess the ability to maintain stability.

The pause in the drawdown “just compounds the problems of an open-ended policy,” Levin said.

In the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs hearings, Democratic leaders will emphasize what they see as the administration’s neglect of broader global issues. They also want to know whether the Iraqi government is enforcing laws that would enable political reconciliation in Iraq.

“These laws are ambiguous, and it is very unclear whether they will ever be implemented. There is a great deal of reason for skepticism,” said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman, D-Calif.

The Iraqi government’s benchmarks are also set to be revived in the hearings, with Democrats calling for evidence of achievement, not just effort.

“This business of, ‘Well, they are trying to do this or that, and it’s hard work,’ that just doesn’t cut it anymore,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

The call for more details about what’s going on in Iraq reflects frustration at an administration Democrats feel has not been upfront with the American people about the war.

Levin and Biden, for example, are calling for the White House to publicly release the intelligence community’s latest estimate on Iraq.

Lawmakers will seek more details about what happened during recent violence in southern Iraq, which included heavy fighting between the forces loyal to militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi government forces aided by the U.S. military.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said he wants to know how the Basra mission unfolded, whether the United States was in the loop and what exactly happened when the fighting ended. “We have to get more information,” Reed said. “Were we urging them to do it, or was this Maliki deciding within his own small circle, ‘I have to do this’?”

Senators from both parties will want to know how Petraeus’ Iraq plan will affect troop deployments. The hope is to give troops as much time at home as they are forced to spend deployed.

“You are wearing them out. It is just going to have to happen,” said House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo.

GOP Emphasizing Successes

Republicans intend to defend Petraeus’ call for a pause in the drawdown as practical, while characterizing the surge as a success.

Drastic drawdowns can be hard to execute and destabilizing,” said Armed Services member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. “We certainly have made some dramatic progress.”

Some moderate Republicans, while disagreeing with Democrats on their criticism of the surge, will join their call for more robust Iraqi government commitments.

“It’s time for an Iraqi-led political and diplomatic surge,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “Let the Iraqis do more to reconcile their political differences, pay more of their own bills, and persuade their neighbors to locate embassies in Baghdad.”

Alexander said he also wants to ask Petraeus about the prospects of eventually ending the U.S. involvement in the war.

Of course they ignore the real political progress going on in Iraq:

On February 13 the Iraqi parliament simultaneously passed three new laws: one that sets the relationship between the central and provincial governments, a second giving amnesty to thousands of detainees, and a third setting the 2008 national budget. Each piece of legislation is important in its own right, but how the overall compromise came about may prove even more significant than the laws themselves.

And then they call for the release, again, of the latest NIE on Iraq… that would matter.

But the fact of the matter is that when Bush sent those extra troops into Iraq it quelled the violence dramatically. al-Qaeda was sent running and while not all of the objectives have been met politically, we see improvements in that area daily. Hell, they’ve done more then the present Congress in this country. When troops were reduced, as they were in Basra by the British, we all saw what happened.

So I see no reason why the prudent thing to do wouldn’t be to pause the reduction in forces, after The Surge troops go home, and see what happens. What is the harm in waiting a bit to see the outcome? Yes, we all want them home as soon as possible but if we just start reducing troops without any strategy and just rely on hope to get us through….well, that would be retarded.

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