Syndicated Columnists React to Iraq War Testimony on Capitol Hill

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By: E&P Staff

The reaction of syndicated columnists to the Iraq War testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker has been mostly predictable along ideological lines. But not every conservative pundit has echoed the Bush administration’s stance.

For instance, George Will wrote: “Before Gen. David Petraeus’ report, and to give it a context of optimism, the president visited Iraq’s Anbar province to underscore the success of the surge in making some hitherto anarchic areas less so.”

The Washington Post Writers Group columnist added: “More significant, however, was that the president did not visit Baghdad. This underscored the fact that the surge has failed, as measured by the president’s and Petraeus’ standards of success.”

Here are some other columnists’ comments about the Iraq hearings — with liberal and centrist pundits quoted first, followed by conservative columnists.

— Eugene Robinson, Washington Post Writers Group: “The next six months in Iraq are crucial — and always will be. That noise you heard yesterday on Capitol Hill was the can being kicked further down the road leading to January 2009, when George W. Bush gets to hand off his Iraq fiasco to somebody else.”

— E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: “Through a hard sell of the surge in the past six weeks, Bush has held most of his party in line. Petraeus’ central political objective was more to reassure Republicans than to persuade Democrats. Given the president’s veto power and the Democrats’ slim majorities in the House and Senate, this may be enough to keep American troops heavily committed in Iraq for the rest of Bush’s term.”

— Maureen Dowd, New York Times News Service: “The Republicans seemed happy that the witnesses’ calm presentation bolstered the president’s case for continued war funding. In his speech tomorrow night, W will be able to accept the recommendations of the Surge Twins, who are only recommending what he wants to hear.”

— Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate: “This is the week of the generals. ‘Oh,’ you say, ‘you mean the generals who have been serving in Iraq and are now testifying before Congress about our troops staying there?’ Nope, sorry, friend. I mean the growing ‘revolt of the generals,’ as some are calling it, AGAINST the war and against the entire war policy. They are, of course, almost all retired generals….”

— Jules Witcover, Tribune Media Services: “Petraeus’ declaration that the troop surge has worked sufficiently to start withdrawing troops has grabbed headlines. But it doesn’t change the fact that the surge by definition was intended all along to be temporary. The pullout of about 30,000 forces will still leave the U.S. level at 130,000 into July of 2008, as it was before the surge.”

— Gene Lyons, United Media: “The bitter but unmistakable truth about Iraq is this: From the vaunted ‘Petraeus Report’ onward, U.S. policy will have one overriding purpose, deflecting blame for the ongoing catastrophe everywhere but where it belongs — on President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Bush remains incapable of accepting responsibility, Cheney of admitting error. All the rest is misdirection. Anybody who imagines differently hasn’t been paying attention.”

Some conservative commentary:

— Kathleen Parker, Washington Post Writers Group: “On the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Americans were treated to two starkly contrasting images that speak centuries of difference between the U.S. and its enemies. In Frame One, we see Gen. David H. Petraeus testifying before Congress on the status of the war in Iraq. In Frame Two is Osama bin Laden in a new video — resplendent in white robes, his beard recently rinsed dark to conceal the gray — promising that Islam will subjugate the West. One an image of courage, integrity, and honor; the other a caricature of manhood.”

— Cal Thomas, Tribune Media Services: “The gist of the opposition to the war and to the reports by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is that they are either not telling the truth about Iraq, or they are not telling the entire truth…. [But] the only hope in this war is to win it, no matter how much frustration, or division in Iraq (and America) and no matter how long it takes.”

— Jonah Goldberg, Tribune Media Services: “Opponents of the war denounced Petraeus’ testimony before he said a single word, not because they know the facts better than Petraeus — please — but because anything that doesn’t fit the narrative of an ever-worsening quagmire must be a lie.”

— David Limbaugh, Creators Syndicate: “Has the left no remaining ounce of shame? Its latest target: the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, whom Senate Democrats unanimously confirmed. Remember Democrats faulting President Bush for being inflexible, not following the advice of the generals and having no strategy in Iraq…? Yet, when he took decisive action that can fairly be said to have addressed all of these criticisms, they reflexively opposed him again….”

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