The Bush administration had hoped that the testimony of the top two U.S. officials in Baghdad would educate Congress about the situation in Iraq. But by the time Congress gaveled the hearings to a close Wednesday evening, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Army Gen. David Petraeus had gotten an earful about political conditions at home.
After five years of war, the American public is exhausted by pleas for more time and doesn't feel the war is worth the cost, congressional leaders told Crocker and Petraeus. As for their advice that the situation on the ground should dictate any troop withdrawals, Democrats and Republicans said the U.S. needs an exit strategy.
The testimony and questioning turned into a battle over whose timeline would prevail.
Crocker and Petraeus outlined a strategy that could take years to fulfill, saying that a "precipitous withdrawal" would undermine the security gains of the past year. Legislators in both parties, however, called for shifting the burden to Iraqi security forces and politicians in the months ahead.
Even Petraeus' designation of Iran as "the biggest threat" to stability in Iraq failed to move Congress.
"These folks have been fighting for centuries. What are we going to do in the next six months to settle this?" asked Rep. David Scott, D-Ga.
Pentagon officials said they're aware of the growing public frustration with the war. At times, though, Petraeus and Crocker seemed flummoxed by the tenor of questions on Capitol Hill, which was starkly different from the warm reception they received during their September appearance.
The above is from Nancy A. Youssef's "Congress to Petraeus: Show us a withdrawal plan" (McClatchy Newspapers). The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour isn't over yet. today the guest stars take the stage. The Washington Post estimates that the testimonies thus far have taken up sixteen hours ("Iraq All the Time") and notes the US State Dept's David Satterfield gives testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later this morning while Secretary of Defefense Robert Gates and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen deliver testismony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in the afternoon. In addition, Bully Boy makes his speech at 11:30 EST this morning. Wednesday, Senator Hillary Clinton released the following statement:
"Yesterday in the Senate Armed Services Committee, I asked General Petraeus for the conditions under which he would actually support a change of course in Iraq, and to begin a drawdown of our troops, given that the surge has failed to achieve its stated goal of political reconciliation among the Iraqis. Well, he didn't really answer me.
"I also asked Ambassador Crocker if the United States Congress would have the same opportunity as the Iraqi Parliament will have to review any agreement or long-term security pact that President Bush is negotiating with the Iraqis. Ambassador Crocker said that the Congress, your representatives, would not have that chance.
"I have two requests of President Bush for his speech on Thursday. First, I call on the President to answer the question that General Petraeus did not. What is our end game in Iraq given the failure of surge to achieve the objective that the president outlined for it? Second, I call on President Bush to pledge to the American people, who have sacrificed greatly for this effort that the United States Congress will have the chance to review and vote on any long-term security agreement he has negotiated with the Iraqis.
"President Bush must not saddle the next president with an agreement that extends our involvement in Iraq beyond his presidency. We have lost more than 4,000 of our best sons and daughters. They have given their lives in service to our country in honor and for the objective of giving the Iraqi people the greatest gift another human being can bestow - the gift of freedom. Tens of thousands of our young men and women have suffered - wounds both visible and invisible - to their bodies, their minds and their hearts.
"This war has cost more than $1 trillion if you factor in the lifetime of care and support that is due to our returning veterans, and of course, we must. Our ongoing military involvement in Iraq has also undermined our efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said last week that our continued involvement in Iraq has meant we cannot deploy the forces we need to that country.
"There has been a harsh and daily toll on our men and women in uniform, many of whom are on their second, third, and even fourth tours of duty. Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of our soldiers' mental health. And we cannot forget the toll on military families. When fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives sign up to serve our country, their families sign up, too.
"So it is vital for our national security -- and for the health and safety of our men and women in uniform -- that we begin to end the war in Iraq and rebuild our military. A great Pennsylvanian, Benjamin Franklin once said, 'Well done is better than well-said.'"
Already today, the US military has announced: "A Coalition force Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle during convoy operations in central Baghdad April 9." ICCC's total is 4032 US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 19 of those announced beginning on Sunday.
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nancy a. youssef
the washington post