Madame Speaker, Meet General Petraeus

Posted: Apr 21, 2007 6:00 AM
Madame Speaker, Meet General Petraeus

Earlier this year, top Democrats in both houses of Congress refused to attend a bipartisan briefing offered by General David Petraeus to discuss the challenges in Iraq. Next week they’ll have another chance when the General comes to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers in the House and Senate on our progress in the Global War on Terror.

General Petraeus was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to be the U.S. commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq. He has a clear track record as a straight-shooter and as someone who gets things done. So one has to wonder why next week’s important briefing almost didn’t happen. According to Roll Call, when the Pentagon tried to schedule the briefing through House Democrats they were declined – twice – because Democrats were originally “too busy” to schedule anything.

Too busy? The only thing that could be more important than hearing from the top general in a war effort that is critical to America’s long-term national security would be providing our troops the resources they need to succeed. But Democrats certainly haven’t been busy doing that.

Instead, Democratic leaders pushed through a pork-laden surrender bill that would undermine General Petraeus and our troops on the ground. In an editorial titled “Do We Really Need a General Pelosi,” the Los Angeles Times said the Democrats’ plan is “an unruly mess: bad public policy, bad precedent and bad politics. If the legislation passes, Bush says he’ll veto it, as well he should.”

After that, House Democrats left Washington for the first two weeks of April in no apparent hurry to begin negotiations with the Senate on providing our troops with the funding they need. Such delays in funding, says the Secretary of the Army, “carry consequential effects, including substantial disruption to installation functions, decreasing efficiency and potentially further degrading the readiness of non-deployed units.”

Lawmakers often receive information that is filtered through media reports, bolstered by suspect polling data, or drummed up by ideologically-driven activist groups. When it comes to America’s commitment to fighting al Qaeda, this information-deficit can have real consequences.

For example, in a March press conference, General Petraeus insisted that “military action is necessary to help improve security” in Iraq. He also said military force alone “is not sufficient,” a reflection of his new strategy which relies on military, political, and diplomatic force alike. But as is their way, liberal special interest groups seized on that single phrase – military force “is not sufficient” – and presented a false portrait of what the General was saying to give cover to politicians who would rather abandon Iraq to al Qaeda than see it through to victory.

That’s why General Petraeus’ visit to Capitol Hill is so timely – and so important. Members of Congress not only need to hear about the need for a clean troop funding bill, they need to hear from America’s top commander in Iraq about the realities on the ground. Petraeus has said we will make progress even if there are setbacks along the way, and that is exactly what is happening.

The deficit of on-the-ground information has caused some Members to go so far as to outlandishly suggest the war effort is “lost.” That’s what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters earlier this week, igniting a firestorm of criticism from veterans groups and others who recognize the danger of demoralizing American troops and conceding defeat to al Qaeda.

I would like to challenge my colleagues to not only attend this briefing by General Petraeus, but to come with an open mind. The General has been entrusted with an historic task; he deserves not only our full faith and support, but the courtesy of acknowledging that he knows better than 535 Members of Congress how to succeed in a war effort.

The questions for each member of Congress to consider after Senator Reid’s recent comments are real and they go to the heart at the battle against our enemies:

Do we support our troops? Or do we starve them of resources?

Do we put politics aside during a time of war? Or do we “bleed” America’s military forces in an attempt to derive partisan benefit?

Do we fight to win? Or do we preemptively declare defeat?

The most important question, however, is this: will Members of Congress listen to General Petraeus … or to Democratic leaders who believe they know best?