Editorials Consider Iraq As Petraeus Report Nears

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By: Joe Strupp

With Monday?s testimony on the Iraq surge by Gen. David Petraeus looming, major newspapers weighed in with editorials and lengthy reports on the issue, with most at least questioning the expected call for more time to let the surge work.

The Los Angeles Times opined: ?It is an anxious and impatient nation that waits for Monday’s testimony from the top U.S. officials in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. They are brilliant and dedicated men who have accepted unenviable jobs, and their views deserve our careful consideration. If, however, the White House has scripted their testimony to try to sell Congress and the nation on ‘staying the course’ through a fifth year of disastrous occupation of Iraq, President Bush must be made to reconsider.

?At this historic juncture, it would be insufficient for Petraeus and Crocker merely to report on the military accomplishments of the ‘surge,’ which will in a matter of weeks boost the number of U.S. forces in Iraq to 172,000, up from about 130,000 early this year. And it would be ludicrous to debate whether to bring home a token brigade of 4,000 troops in time for Christmas. No, the key questions on which we are most eager to hear the views of Petraeus and Crocker are these: What is the least dreadful strategy for winding up U.S. military involvement in Iraq? What can be done to minimize the inevitable American and Iraqi casualties as the U.S. withdraws its troops? Which political, military and diplomatic actions are most likely to reduce the length and ferocity of the ongoing Iraqi civil war and the risk of intervention by Iraq’s neighbors, during and after the U.S. disengagement? And how best can the United States mitigate the massive crisis of Iraqi refugees??

The New York Times, which published a lengthy story critical of the surge on Sunday, also ran a strong editorial that took issue with the potential for keeping troops there much longer.

?What the country desperately needs is an honest assessment of the war and a clear strategy for extricating American forces from the hopeless spiral of violence in Iraq,? the editorial stated, in part. ?President Bush, however, seems to be aiming for maximum political advantage ? not maximum clarity on Iraq?s military and political crises, which cannot be separated from each other. Mr. Bush, we fear, isn?t looking for the truth, only for ways to confound the public, scare Democrats into dropping their demands for a sound exit strategy, and prolong the war until he leaves office. At times, General Petraeus gives the disturbing impression that he, too, is more focused on the political game in Washington than the unfolding disaster in Iraq. That serves neither American nor Iraqi interests.

?Mr. Bush, deeply unpopular with the American people, is counting on the general to restore credibility to his discredited Iraq policy. He frequently refers to the escalation of American forces last January as General Petraeus?s strategy ? as if it were not his own creation,? the editorial adds. ?The situation echoes the way Mr. Bush made Colin Powell ? another military man with an overly honed sense of a soldier?s duty ? play frontman at the United Nations in 2003 to make the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush cannot once again subcontract his responsibility. This is his war.?

The opinion ends by stating, ?The United States needs a prudent exit strategy that will withdraw American forces and try to stop Iraq?s chaos from spreading.?

Portions of other related editorials and columns Sunday included the following:

The Washington Post:

?First and foremost, President Bush must accept the fact that what he defined as the principal objective of the military offensive, the stimulation of an Iraqi political settlement, has not been achieved. As we and many others anticipated, the idea that Iraqi leaders would take advantage of greater security in the country to strike deals was unrealistic; few of the political benchmarks Mr. Bush agreed on with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have been met.

?But Democrats who have spent the past few months proclaiming that ?this war is lost,? as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) put it, also have an adjustment to make. That’s because the military results of the past few months have been in some respects undeniably positive. The surge appears to have modestly improved security in and around Baghdad and reversed the previous momentum toward all-out civil war. According to the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, a group of retired U.S. military officers and police commissioned by Congress, there has been improvement in the Iraqi army and security forces, and more progress can be expected if U.S. training programs continue.?


?Instead of political posturing on Iraq, what we need now is a bipartisan approach to the question of when and how to start drawing down troops. They’re going to have the wrong debate on Iraq this month in Congress. The question should not be whether the United States should start withdrawing troops now, with a date certain. It ought to be about how we withdraw: how quickly or how slowly, and what comes in the aftermath. And that would be better done with bipartisan support than with another contentious, distorting political donnybrook.

Financial Times:

“Spare a thought this week for General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq to whom the job of judging the success of a policy so bungled as to be irretrievable has been subcontracted by the bunglers-in-chief in the Bush administration.

“His report on the ‘surge’ of US troops is likely to be non-committal, and overshadowed by 9/11 anniversary stagecraft designed to eclipse any suggestion of failure in a surge of patriotism as Americans recall the atrocity visited upon them by the al-Qaeda attacks six years ago.”

The Washington Times:

“To no one’s surprise, the character assassins haven’t waited for Gen. David Petraeus to deliver his report on the Iraqi troop “surge” before starting the campaign to trash his honor and reputation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed Gen. Petraeus made statements “over the years that have not proved to be factual,” and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin suggested Gen. Petraeus had “manipulated” statistics. The Democrats’ ideological soulmates at MoveOn.org have an advertisement scheduled to run in today’s New York Times titled: “General Petraeus or Gen. Betray Us?” The MoveOn.org announcement in particular is worth keeping in mind the next time you hear lectures from the Democrats and the far left about how the Bush administration is “questioning our patriotism.”

Philadelphia Daily News:

“The president has made his move and now is waiting for Congress to throw in the towel, so he can go off and take a nap, leaving us all to look at the mess of a chess board. Congress – especially [Sen. ?rlen] Specter – must not let this happen. They must confront the reality of President Bush’s blind adherence to staying in Iraq.”

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