Petraeus Speaks

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 10, 2007 1:01 PM
Well, not yet. He has to listen to the long-winded introductory statements and grandstanding of all the committee members before actually uttering a word, at which point he will undoubtedly be cut off promptly by more grandstanding.

The hearing's been on for 30 minutes now, and the only intelligent talk has come from Duncan Hunter, who laid out the stats of the Anbar Awakening (video here). He also commended Petraeus for his service to country and capable leadership, and condemned those who would smear him.

Ahem, MoveOn.

Tomorrow--as General David Petraeus provides his Iraq assessment to Congress--the antiwar group MoveOn.org is running a full-page advertisement in the New York Times under the headline: "General Petraeus or General Betray us? Cooking the books for the White House."

Let's be clear: MoveOn.org is suggesting that General Petraeus has 'betrayed' his country. This is disgusting. To attack as a traitor an American general commanding forces in war because his 'on the ground' experience does not align with MoveOn.org's political objectives is utterly shameful. It shows contempt for America's military leadership, as well as for the troops who have confidence in him, as our fellow soldiers in Iraq certainly do.

Trash. Here's the ad.

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Trash who are surrogates for Senatorial Trash:
As Hegseth points out, Moveon.Org works closely with the Democratic leadership.  He takes note of this quote from Friday’s Politico uttered by a courageously anonymous Democratic Senator: “No one wants to call [Petraeus] a liar on national TV. The expectation is the outside groups will do this for us.”
Michael O'Hanlon counters the Petraeus Smear Squad:
For those reading this after watching General David Petraeus’s Monday testimony, I strongly suspect that my main argument will have become apparent to many: General Petraeus is a straight shooter who does not and will not cook the books.

From what we know of his thinking already, Petraeus will talk of significant military momentum for combined U.S./Iraqi forces. But this momentum will be placed in the context of a still very lethal and dangerous battlefield. Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, will also highlight the absence of Iraqi political progress, progress without which our long-term aspirations for that country will almost surely fail. He will have enough evidence to back up this claim of military momentum, on the plus side, combined with ongoing extreme danger on the streets and political paralysis in the halls of parliament on the other side, that his argument will sound right to most who hear it.

And while he will surely favor continuing the effort, he will not present the evidence about Iraq in a way that attempts to invalidate the judgment of those who would disagree. War opponents will be able to accept most of the specific evidence he presents yet retain their positions that a rapid and large-scale American withdrawal from Iraq is warranted. That is because, in the end, our decisions about Iraq must be based more on a judgment call about politics and human psychology than on hard science or data.
1:18 p.m.: Ileana Ross-Lehtenin (R-Fla.) calls on Democrats to denounce the MoveOn ad and mentions her stepson's and daughter-in-law's (?) service in Iraq and Afghanistan-- both Marines who support the mission as a way to secure our country for years to come in a broader war on Islamism.

If you'd like to call Democrats to ask them what they have to say about the MoveOn ad, work the phones. Numbers here. They should be held to account if they're in agreement with the tactics and disavow it if they're not.

1:20 p.m.
Mic problems for Petraeus. Priceless. It's like a HamNation production!

1:24 p.m. Disturbance No. 1, protester removed. Chairman: "This is a very important hearing. We're not about to have this nonsense going on now or later."

Code Pink is, of course, on hand. (Pictures of protester ejections in all their Pink glory, here.)

1:30 p.m. Petraeus starts speaking, recounts recent successes in surge, Anbar specifically. Some quick notes on his statement:

Ethno-sectarian competition for resources will continue to happen; the question is whether it will be more or less violent.

After Golden Dome bombing, Casey requested additional forces. They began to flow in January. Wresting sanctuaries from al Qaeda control, employed counterinsurgency practices, living among those we secure.

Mid-June, launched series of offensive operations. Clearing the belts around Baghdad, pursuing in Diyala River Valley. Engaged in dialog with Iraqis, emphasized Iraqi Security Force development.

Overall, our tactical advisers and I see improvement in security...We do this by gathering and refining data from U.S. and Iraqi operations centers. Analysis of data is rigorous and consistent; "the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq."

Number of attacks the past two weeks, lowest since April 2006.Periodic mass casualty attacks by al Qaeda...even without those attacks, numbers of civilian deaths is still too high and remains a concern.

Ethno-sectartian deaths down from height of violence in December. (Showing charts) Down by over 55 percent. Baghdad, down by 80 percent since December.

Increased force, increased help from locals, more weapons caches found. 4,400 caches discovered this year so far, maybe reason for drop in IED attacks-- 1/3 down since June.

"Trends have not been uniformly positive across Iraq, to be sure."

The overall trajectory...is still quite significant." Number of suicide and car bombings down. "Trend heartening, but number of high-scale attacks still too high."

Past eight months: reduced areas in which al Qaeda takes sanctuary. "Al qaeda is certainly not defeated, but it is off balance."

Taking on Shia extremists. "It is increasingly apparent that...Iran through the use of the Shia forces...wants to fight a proxy war with Iraq and U.S."

1:49 p.m. Another protester removed. Loud screaming, but couldn't make it out.

Locals rejecting al Qaeda. Anbar: a year ago, it was assessed as lost politically. Anbar is unique...can't be replicated everywhere...but it does reflect the dramatic change in security that can happen when locals help.

Other tribes have followed Anbaris' example.

Iraqi units are engaged across the country. All of Iraq's battalions have been involved in combat operations. We are helping Iraqis expand security forces.

Innumerable challenges lie ahead. We'll be in a position to reduce our forces in Iraq in the months ahead.

"Security While Transitioning: From Leading to Partnering to Overwatch."

Reach pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008. Premature to make recommendations on reductions after that point.

"Projecting too far into the future is not just difficult... It can be misleading."

Real danger in handing oevr to Iraqi forces before their strength warrants it.

In national interest to continue to focus on securing Iraqi forces, targeting terrorists.

Thanks Congress for support of U.S. forces, lauds Army and other military volunteers for signing up again and again, notes recruiting numbers.

"It remains a privilege to serve with America's new Greatest Generation."

2:05 p.m. Code Pinkers screaming, on the heels of  Petraeus' commendation of the troops: "People don't believe you anymore!" Classy. Chairman says he'll prosecute any other troublemakers. She's wearing a pink cape and a pink Statue of Liberty foam hat. 'Nuf said. Video of the Code Pinkers.

2:24 p.m. Crocker speaks abou deBaathification and the Anbar Awakening: "It's important to note that when Al Qaeda implemented its twisted version of the Caliphate in Iraq, Iraqis-- from Fallujah to Diyala-- have rejected it."

In-depth commentary at Kos:
Petraeus Blabbing

We won! Therefore, our troops need to stay there forever.

Or something like that.

Crocker notes economic promise, but says overall, the economy's performing way under potential. Power generation is problematic.

Crocker: "We must acknowledge that 2006 was a bad year in Iraq...2007 has brought some improvements."

"I cannot guarantee success in Iraq...I can tell you drastically curtailing efforts will bring failure and the consequences of failure must be clearly understood by us all."

"Iran would be a winner in this scenario...Iran will fill any vacuum in Iraq."

"Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse."

Update:
I'll have to check the transcript, but I'm pretty sure Crocker backed up Fred's comment about smoking bans turning folks against al Qaeda. That's because Fred was right.

2:39 p.m.
Did the Chairman just say he'd limit himself to one question? A historic moment of Congressional restraint.

He's blasting the Iraqis, accusing them of sitting on their thumbs. Listen, there are certainly things certain segments of the Iraqi population could be doing better to help us out, but many of them have sacrificed greatly to work with us at great personal risk and risk to their families.

Case in point: Operation Alljah, a city-wide neighborhood watch program in Fallujah, which divides the town into 10 districts patrolled by volunteer security forces who report to Iraqi Police (and eventually train to become police, in some cases). Click through for pictures and read the whole thing, from blogger embed Bill Ardolino.

On al Qaeda, one volunteer said: "It was very bad. They were targeting everyone: American, policeman, civilian. There was no difference between a target and another target. They were killing and kidnapping and planting bombs on the side of the roads, and targeting everyone, [not just] American forces. They were bombing the mosques and targeting the imams who spoke out against al Qaeda."

"Now we start to know what is right and what is wrong," said another recruit. "The picture is so clear now. When things started and the [initial] invasion came to Fallujah, we said, 'It's OK for civilians to [take up arms] and fight the invasion and throw [the Americans] out from Fallujah.' We said, 'OK, they are the enemy and that's our friend.' But things were confused, and the enemy has become the friend and the friend became the enemy."

2:50 p.m. Tom Lantos asks if there might be a way to withdraw more quickly and also responsibly, and says other military folks have recommended doing so.

Petraeus: This is my best recommendation of how to complete the mission we're tasked with, my military opinion.

Lantos: Should we talk more to Syria and Iran?

Crocker: Has held meetings with Iranian counterparts in Iraq. Different atmosphere from 2001 and 2002. Laid out concerns over Iranian activity, found no readiness on Iranian side at all to engage seriously on these issues. They were interested in being seen at the table, not in doing serious business. Maybe that will come, but hasn't seen it yet.

Lantos: Asks about Maliki's statement about "having other friends" in the region, meaning Iran.

Crocker: Things are said in the heat of the moment. I think Maliki recognizes threat that Iran poses.
3:05 p.m. During her question, Rep. R-L encouraged Democrats to distance themselves from the MoveOn ad. Someone (I didn't see who) snapped, "No one has to distance themselves from something they had nothing to do with." Well, whether Democrats like it or not, MoveOn and the Pink ladies are the public face of the anti-war movement. They would do well to make clear they're not down with their tactics.

3:04 p.m.
Ackerman is being juvenile and snarky-- a good preview of what we'll see from the Senate tomorrow. He says it's clear that Iraq is not part of the international war on terror despite the fact that both Petraeus and Crocker have spoken about al Qaeda and the threat it poses ad nauseum. "I don't know how long it will be before those people hold hands and sing Kumbaya," he said, belittling the mission and the very serious sectarian violence. Thank you, Congressman. That's helpful. Most of the questioning has been surprisingly and refreshingly respectful from Democrats; could be that they're feeling the need to distance themselves from the MoveOn crowd in tone if not explicitly, thanks to the "Betray Us" ad.
 
I doubt their Senatorial counterparts will be so well-behaved.