Circus Maximus

Oliver North
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Posted: Sep 14, 2007 12:01 AM
Circus Maximus

WASHINGTON -- Any objective observer who watched or read this weeks House and Senate testimony of Gen. David Petraeus received an informative assessment of the battlefield situation in Mesopotamia. Our top military commander in Iraq proffered a cool, level-headed report on successes and failures to date, gave a survey of the challenges ahead and provided rational recommendations for the future.

By contrast, Americas Democrats gave the world a revealing look at the depths they are willing to plumb in their insatiable quest for raw political power. In what transpired before and during these hearings, Democrats made transparent their willingness to destroy anyone or anything that interferes with their design.

During a telephone conversation three days before Petraeus sat down next to Ambassador Ryan Crocker in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building, my friend, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told me that Democrats were conducting a "guerrilla campaign of character assassination" to impugn the general and that it would culminate with a frontal attack on his integrity. Hunter posited that, based on my personal experience in a similar atmosphere, I would understand. But not even I could gauge how low the Democrats would sink and how vicious they would become.

On Monday morning (Sept. 10) -- just hours before the first day of hearings -- the New York Times published a full-page ad paid for by MoveOn.org, the leftist, anti-U.S.-military organization that has become a major financial and propaganda organ for Democrats. The text below a photo of the general read: "General Petraeus or General Betray-Us? Cooking the Books for the White House." The clear implication was that a dishonest general, doing the bidding of the Bush administration, was going to dissemble before the Congress.

The hearings began with a familiar routine: shrill diatribes from Democrat committee chairmen Ike Skelton and Tom Lantos who lectured and hectored -- denouncing the campaign in Iraq in general and Petraeus in particular. Lantos, who once stood steadfast with the Reagan administration against communism, launched a pre-emptive strike on the battlefield commanders testimony before hed even seen or heard it with a dismissively insulting: "I dont buy it."

Then the cabal that wants to abandon the war against radical Islam demonstrated their competence. They couldnt even get the generals microphone to work. While the world waited to hear what Petraeus and Crocker had to say, more than half-a-dozen anti-U.S. military protesters entered the hearing room, jumping up to scream obscenities and denounce America before being escorted from the chamber. Some speculate that the muted microphones and the protests were orchestrated by the Democrats running the show.

When Petraeus was finally afforded the opportunity to speak, he defended his words as his own. "This is my testimony, although I have briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress until it was just handed out," he said. By then, the damage had already been done. Committee members such as Lantos barely glanced at the detailed charts that accompanied the Petraeus presentation. At times, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee appeared to be having trouble staying awake.

In the aftermath, some of my older media colleagues and even a member of Congress sympathetically opined that the treatment Petraeus received was reminiscent of another hearing 20 years ago. They are wrong.

What happened this week to Petraeus -- and less directly to Crocker -- was far worse than what transpired two decades ago on Capitol Hill during the Iran-Contra hearings. When Adm. John Poindexter and I testified, we werent in command. By the summer of 1987 the admiral and I were simply staff officers summoned to testify about past events. Thats entirely different from the smear that took place this week.

Petraeus commands more than 160,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines who are in the field, battling a brutal enemy in a long, hard campaign. He was summoned -- not sent, as Lantos alleged -- to testify about current and future operations. Troops who have to face death daily, wearing flak jackets in 120-degree heat, watched and listened in barracks, bunkers and command posts as their leader was denigrated, demeaned and belittled by the majority party in Congress.

Such abusive treatment of a battlefield commander not only demoralizes our troops and disheartens our allies, it is a great encouragement to our enemies as well. Tellingly, the day after the hearings ended, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni leader credited by Petraeus as the leader of the revolt against al Qaeda, was assassinated by a bomb planted near his home. President Bush, who met the brave Sheik in Al Anbar two weeks ago, immediately expressed his condolences. The Democrats couldnt be bothered.

Democrats have now shown the world that they will denigrate and destroy anyone or anything to placate their far-left, deep-pocket donors. Do the American people really want this party in power?