It’s “gimme more FUs day.” I’m going to try and liveblog as much of the Petraeus/Crocker Dog and Pony Show and WH-Written Talking Points as I can. Do try to have a light hand in the comments to be kind to the servers and your liveblogger. Thanks!
Democracy Arsenal is planning on doing close-to-immediate fact-checking on the testimony. Good on them. And in case you are wondering, some “sober and wise” people inside the Beltway say we are not safer this six years after 9/11, too. Welcome to Bushworld — Bush White House talking points coming up momentarily.
Rep. Skelton gavelling in the hearing this morning. 12:33 pm ET Already having to remove people for making noise in the chamber. Bit tense this morning, as might be expected.
Bit of a discussion on room acoustics and a plea for quiet. And a reference to the potential for a closed session for intel matters if it is needed.
REP. SKELTON: Welcoming two of America’s finest — Petraeus and Crocker. Later this week, will receive the WH report to Congress as required by legislation. Also saluting America’s soldiers, intel officers and foreign service officers — where there has been any progress, it is due to their heroic efforts. Every member here desires that we complete our involvement in Iraq in a way that best preserves the national security intersets of our nation and the world. Iraq is a piece of those efforts — but only a piece.
Troops in Iraq are not available for other missions, including in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden still at large, and troops not available while tied up in Iraq, to search for him and his al qaeda collegues. Our troops are responding to insurgent combat, but we need them to be provided for all types of combat — something they cannot do when tied down in this manner. The strain on our forces must be undertaken consciously — and that it is vital to our national security — we must be sure.
The strategic context in which we consider our involvement in Iraq mustbe considered with all of the factors. Skelton goes through a history of the Iraq conflict from invasion and Jay Garner through Bremer through Fallujah through the failed training of Iraqi security forces to the present. This is just the latest of a long line of operations — any enthusiam should be tempered with the caveat that this is Iraq, and nothing has been easy there. References a poll from ABC — at least 65% of Iraqis say the surge is not working, and the US presence is making Iraqi security worse.
Of course things improve temporarily where we deploy more troops — the question is do they improve long term? Petraeus is the right man two years too late, and 200,000 troops too short. The surge was intended to provide the Iraqis with breathing space. [Football analogy.] The Iraqis haven’t even picked up the ball.
Why should we continue to send our men and women to fight and die when the Iraqi government is making no progress with sectarian violence and political reconciliation? [CHS notes: Petraeus listening intently, looking tired.] Extended discussion on what Skelton sees as the current political failures in Iraq. Tells Petraeus that he has the burden to explain how every promising development that we have seen in Iraq has turned out not to be even close to an answer for any of the many problems we still see in Iraq. Then quotes a Thomas Friedman column. On to other opening remarks.
REP. LANTOS: Two of our nation’s most capable public servants have come before us today to assess the situation in Iraq. Every one of us wants you to succeed in your efforts as much as possible — we admire our men and women in uniform and the diplomatic corps in Iraq, and the terrible burden on their families. You are here today to restore credibility to a discredited policy. The American public wants our troops out. I flew in a helicopter with you over several ammunition dumps that once belonged to Saddam — “I don’t have enough troops to guard these.”, you said, “Some day this may come back to haunt us.” Lantos says that petraeus was correct — it has, and how emblematic of this war. The Bush Administration’s myopic policies in Iraq have caused so many of the problems that our troops and the Iraqis now face — and no amount of charts or statistics will improve their credibility.
The Administration has sent you here today to convince Congress that “victory is at hand.” With all due respect, I don’t buy it. And neither does the GAO or the independent commission — both recently issues deeply disturbing and pessimistic reports.
The current escalation may have produced some technical successes, but strategically the escalation has failed. Political reconciliation is the one thing that might end this terrible conflict — and the time you asked for has been terribly squandered. Maliki has not shown the slightest inclination to move in the direction of political compromise. [CHS notes: Crocker also listening intently and looking very tired this morning. Hearing prep must have been exhausting.] Maliki has functioned as the front man for Shiite partisans — and presided over a coalition for some of the most notorious militias, death squads and thugs in Iraq. This is not what the American public had in mind. Reminds everyone of Maliki’s ties to Iran, and his threats to find “new friends.”
By arming, funding and training Sunni militia’s in Anbar province, we are working against our own strategy of building national institutions. We should not be in the business of funding and arming both sides of a religious civil war. References the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the funding thereof in our proxy war against the Soviets in the 1980s.
Goes over the hardships of military members and their families, the costs of war, and the pass along costs to other areas of the budget including crumbling infrastructure and schools here in the US and passing the cost onto future generations. Media reports say that you support a draw-down slowly. This is not nearly enough. Removing a brigade is nothing but a political whisper, and it is unaccepatable to the majority of the American public and the Congress. So long as the American military is doing the heavy lifting in Iraq means that the Iraqis have no incentive to do it themselves. “The free ride is over, and American troops will not be party to their civil war.” There needs to be a dramatic change of course — we need to get out of Iraq. It is time to go and go now.
REP. HUNTER: Putting written statement into the record. Griping about people saying that Petraeus’ testimony would have been written by political operatives. Quotes the Army motto — “duty, honor country” — and goes on to today’s Wurlitzer talking point that attacking Petraeus credibility is mean. Goes on to smack the MoveOn.org ad. [CHS notes: God forbid Hunter should talk about facts on the ground. Welcome to Dodge and Phony Show 101.] Questioning the credibility of witnesses helps our enemies. [CHS says: And your supporting documentation on this fatuous assertion would be what exactly?] Talking about attacks in Anbar being down “about 80%” since last summer. Points out that Lantos’ said that is about 5% of the Iraqi population total, but Hunter thinks this is incredibly significant (because it is one of the few notes of positive he could grasp).
Again, going with the red herring that people are attacking the Army. Lots of playing to the wingnut blogger talking point set from Hunter this morning — bringing up the liberals wanted to buckle to the scary reds argument and thank goodness for Ronald Reagan talking point. [CHS notes: amusing hat he's trying to make that argument in response to Lantos, I have to say. LOL]
We need a reliable Iraqi force. There are Iraqi batallions “that are now maturing.” Says there can be a victory in Iraq declared if there is a mature Iraqi force allowed to mature. And, gosh, let’s be nice to Petraeus and let’s all say what a swell guy he is.
SKELTON now vouching for the character “and long friendship” with Petraeus.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: As the wife of a wounded vet, I understand your sacrifices. Goes into her step-kids who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot yield a victory for the radical Islamists — and the first use of 9/11 on a political basis comes up. On to Iraqi voters continuing to deserve our assistance. [CHS notes: even as the GOP tries to foist all blame for failures in Iraq onto the elected Maliki. Hypocrisy, much?]
Distressed by people who accuse the military of cherry-picking numbers for the decline of numbers. Some accuse you of issuing a report that is simply WH propaganda. I don’t think you would do that, Petraeus — I trust your reporting. Again with the MoveOn.org ad — gosh, they are meanies. Goes on to talk about the NYTimes report on coordination with politicians. This cannot be tolerated. [CHS notes: Because, as we all know, Republican pundits, talk radio people and the WH never coordinate their strategies. Nope. Nuh uh. *rolls eyes for the faux crocodile ranting*]
Islamic jihadists and radical Islam see Iraq as the central front in the war on freedom. They are the enemies of democracies everywhere. We must not fool ourselves into thinking that we can accommodate our enemies. Brings up Neville Chamberlain. [CHS notes: Wurlitzer talking point #2.] Many speak of national reconciliation and granting amnesty as if al qaeda in Iraq qould lay down their arms simply because the US and Iraqi government asked them too. She’s skeptical.
The Iraqi government has a long way to go on this difficult road. Rapid withdraw from Iraq would be bad, very bad. The decadent west and the “Great Satan” — us — would be secured in radical Islamic minds by this sort of action. Precipitous withdrawal plays into the Islamicist terrorist agenda. Goes into Zawahiri’s strategy and Israel. Gosh, Bush’s “strategy” of going on the offensive has driven a wedge between the Sunni population and al qaeda and will continue to do so with Sadr’s Madhi militia. Brings up St. Ronnie — we need to rise to this occasion and not let the troops down by withdrawing from Iraq.
Having some mike issues with Petraeus. Am going to get a new thread ready to go.