In their treatment of General David Petraeus and his testimony before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees this week, Congressional Democrats remained largely united in their criticism of American military efforts in Iraq. Beyond the expected rhetoric that the President’s Iraq strategy is “failing,” some Congressional Democrats went as far as accusing General Petraeus of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Bush Administration.
This accusation was even the subject of a full page advertisement in the New York Times, financed by the left-wing, anti-military organization MoveOn.org, that referred to General Petraeus as “General Betray Us.” This advertisement, prominently displayed in one of America’s leading newspapers the morning of General Petraeus’ first appearance on Capitol Hill, was as pointless as it was insulting.
While shameful, attacks like these should not come as a surprise. Reports of progress from Iraq are bad news for Congressional Democrats. This point was made clear when Democratic Whip James Clyburn said that a positive report by General Petraeus would cause a “real big problem” for the Democratic Party.
Congressman Clyburn is right in one respect. It’s hard to make the case for withdrawal when security conditions in Iraq, under the leadership of General Petraeus, have markedly improved.
Since last October, attacks in al Anbar Province have been reduced by one-fifth and civilian deaths in Baghdad have dropped 74 percent since last December. Additionally, the number of violent incidents against civilians, Iraqi Security Forces and our coalition partners throughout Iraq has declined in 8 of the last 11 weeks. Most importantly, the Iraqi Security Forces are steadily maturing and assuming more of the security responsibility.
Rather than commending General Petraeus for his efforts and giving due attention to his assessment of conditions in Iraq, some Democrats in Congress and liberal organizations like MoveOn.org have instead resorted to impugning his integrity. Luckily, General Petraeus has a thick skin and mainstream Democrats and Republicans appreciate the integrity of the talented General.
General Petraeus has devoted himself to serving and protecting the interests of the American people, and his professional life has been a reflection of duty, honor and country. He is both a military officer and a scholar, and his expertise is an invaluable asset to the operability of our armed forces.
For his service to America, General Petraeus deserves our appreciation and respect. He has also earned the right to be heard without having his integrity called into question.
His assessment and recommendations have been shaped by realities on the ground in Iraq and not by “political operatives,” as suggested by one of my colleagues. It is only appropriate that Congress accept his viewpoint with the same objectivity that it was provided.
General Petraeus understands that mission success in Iraq largely depends on the standup of an Iraqi Security Force. While political reconciliation remains important, politics in Iraq are better left to the Iraqi government and its people. A reliable and effective security force, with real-world combat experience, will provide the stability necessary to allow the Iraqi government to survive. Moreover, it will provide a replacement for American heavy combat forces that can then begin moving from the battlefield.
It is clear that we are making gains in Iraq under General Petraeus’ leadership. Congressional Democrats would be wise to listen to what he has to say and take his report and subsequent recommendations seriously. As the legendary pro-defense Democrat Senator Scoop Jackson once said, “In matters of national security, the best politics is no politics.”
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