General Petraeus Lowers Already Low Expectations in Iraq Even Further
In an exercise in lowering already low expectations, General David Petraeus told lawmakers today that U.S. troops levels in Iraq may be able to return to their pre-surge strength by next summer without jeopardizing what he characterized as hard-won progress. Then, lowering expectations further still, the top American commander in the bitterly divisive war tried to close the door on any decision on wholesale withdrawals until next spring when he said he would give another progress report.
The long-await report by Petraeus before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Armed Services Committee was anti-climactic and will do nothing to silence critics on the left and congressional Democrats not cowed by statements by he, President Bush and others that the surge is working, albeit slowly, and the U.S. can still succeed in Iraq.
Taking casualty trends since the surge began into account, another 500 or so Americans at minimum will die in Iraq and perhaps 20 times as many Iraqis before Petraeus returns to Capitol Hill in March to provide an update.
Petraeus did not address that grim reality, nor did he say that the U.S. could “win” in Iraq, a canard that the commander in chief still clings to.
The general did state that a modest pullback of American troops should begin later this month with the redeployment stateside of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. But under his best-case scenario, troop levels next summer would merely return to the 130,000 Americans in country prior to the surge build-up that began in January.
When Petraeus finally spoke after nearly an hour of bloviating by committee members and the ejection of antiwar protesters from the hearing room, he declared that:
“The military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met. I believe we will be able to reduce our forces to pre-surge level by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains.”
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, echoed the general’s assessment. He said that Iraq was “a traumatized society” without noting that the civil war triggered by the badly botched U.S. occupation had made that so, and said that Iran and Syria continue to meddle in its affairs.
Trying to rebut charges that he is a shill for the White House, Petraeus said:
“I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress.”
If you need convincing of how little Petraeus said, check out my pre-progress report commentary here and compared it to his remarks.
Finally, and most emphatically for the record, I found the MoveOn newspaper ad trashing Petraeus that appeared in today’s New York Times to be more of the same: The sound of fingernails on a blackboard by a group of lefties who are cluelessly self absorbed, have become caricatures of themselves and are doing nothing positive to advance the cause of getting the U.S. the hell out of Iraq.
More here on the testimony.