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Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus Appear before the Senate


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Guest American for Progress

The appearance of Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus before the Senate yesterday offered few surprises. The two men largely repeated their testimony last September: Iraq's "armed forces continue to improve, levels of violence are lower than they were last year," and political reconciliation is happening slowly. Echoing the words of his boss, Petraeus characterized the situation in Iraq as "fragile and reversible." It could not go unnoticed that Petraeus and Crocker gave their testimony as hundreds of Iraqis fled intense fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, with U.S. and Iraqi forces battling Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Petraeus and Crocker's unwillingness to offer specifics on what conditions might permit a U.S. withdrawal left even conservative senators dissatisfied. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) asked, "Where do we go from here?" Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) added, "I think people want a sense of what the end is going to look like." Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) suggested an alternative course: Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt need to be told, "Hey guys, we're on our way out."

 

SURGE SUCCESS?: Petraeus and Crocker both tried to paint a positive picture of the surge's success. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has been one of the strongest supporters of the war, claimed, "We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat." Challenged by McCain on the troubled Basra offensive in late March, Petraeus insisted that Prime Minister Maliki "had rejected his advice to delay the offensive until Iraqi troops were better prepared." The Washington Post's Tom Ricks reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) "tried to set up...a useful sound bite," asking, "What would be the military consequences of pulling out one brigade a month, starting in January?" Petraeus didn't cooperate, however, responding that, "If conditions were good, it would be doable." Ricks said that this exchange demonstrated where the "'surge' cheerleading runs into a lot of trouble. ... If things are going so well, then we should be able to begin the process of withdrawing our forces. But they say we can't." Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) challenged the idea that the U.S. must stay indefinitely in Iraq. "A year ago, the president said we couldn't withdraw because there was too much violence," he said. "Now he says we can't afford to withdraw because violence is down."

 

IS IRAQ WAR MAKING US SAFER?: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) challenged Crocker on whether focusing on al Qaeda in Iraq was the wisest use of resources, noting that the United States is "currently spending five times as much in Iraq as we are in Afghanistan on a monthly basis." Crocker said that "Osama bin Laden fairly recently referred to Iraq as the perfect base for al Qaeda," to which Bayh responded, "I would...caution us to not take our marching orders from Osama bin Laden. And it might occur to some that he says these things because he wants us to respond to them in a predictable way and we should not do that for him." At the Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) cornered Crocker on "whether Al Qaeda is a greater threat to US interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?" After trying hard to avoid the question, Crocker replied that he would "pick Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border." Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) picked up that thread, stating once again his belief that "the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder," and that the problems of "Al Qaeda in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region...are a direct result of that original decision." Voinovich suggested the war is helping to achieve al Qaeda's goals, claiming that "Osama bin Laden is sitting back right now looking at this thing [and saying] in effect, 'We're kinda bankrupting this country.'"

 

HOW DOES THIS END?: After spending nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars, and losing 4,000 American lives alongside hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the central question of this war is "how does this end?" Yet Petraeus's response to this question -- a unified, independent, and stable Iraq that is an ally in the global war on terrorism -- is more elusive today than it was when President Bush's military escalation began in early 2007. Addressing the issue of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) put Crocker in a tough spot when she pointed out that the Iraqi parliament, but not the U.S. Congress, would have an opportunity to vote on a status of forces agreement between the two countries. "It seems odd, I think, to Americans who are being asked to commit for an indefinite period of time the lives of our young men and women in uniform...if the Iraqi parliament may have a chance to consider this agreement [and the] United States Congress may not." Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) also expressed concern over the amount that U.S. taxpayers were providing for Iraq. "Levin estimated that the Iraqi government has about $30 billion in Iraqi banks, while the United States is largely funding reconstruction efforts and paying more than 100,000 workers engaged in those activities." This year, the U.S. will also hand over more than $150 million to Sunni tribal groups in exchange for their cooperation with the U.S. forces in Iraq, something which has been a central element in the surge's success. In a new article in Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon of the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out that "the sheiks take as much as 20 percent of every payment to a former insurgent -- which means that commanding 200 fighters can be worth well over a hundred thousand dollars a year for a tribal chief."

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Guest HUMAN_*

"Jesus Christ" how long is it taking to build the border fence?

You just can't snap your fingers and say to people <DO IT NOW>.

 

The Iraqis are dying by the tens of thousands to rebuild the country. This is the Reality; IT TAKES TIME.

 

You can arm chair quarter back to your hearts content, but it still does not change the reality of the situation in Iraq.

 

Just to get a cyber warfare department in place, it took over ten years to get it in place.

 

I've been in politics for three decades, I would LOVE to just snap my fingers and get things in place, but it doesn't work that way.

 

Before 9/11, I and others were begging STATE to talk with FAA in just to keep the terrorists out of this country, and I was labeled by your side "democrats" as racist, far right winger.

 

It was the atmosphere that your group created that left us ALL vulnerable, and your side "The democrats" are STILL doing it by supporting the like of chavez, and just to make this administration look bad. For GOD'S SAKES, GET REAL..................................................................

 

 

 

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The appearance of Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus before the Senate yesterday offered few surprises. The two men largely repeated their testimony last September: Iraq's "armed forces continue to improve, levels of violence are lower than they were last year," and political reconciliation is happening slowly. Echoing the words of his boss, Petraeus characterized the situation in Iraq as "fragile and reversible." It could not go unnoticed that Petraeus and Crocker gave their testimony as hundreds of Iraqis fled intense fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, with U.S. and Iraqi forces battling Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Petraeus and Crocker's unwillingness to offer specifics on what conditions might permit a U.S. withdrawal left even conservative senators dissatisfied. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) asked, "Where do we go from here?" Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) added, "I think people want a sense of what the end is going to look like." Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) suggested an alternative course: Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt need to be told, "Hey guys, we're on our way out."

 

SURGE SUCCESS?: Petraeus and Crocker both tried to paint a positive picture of the surge's success. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has been one of the strongest supporters of the war, claimed, "We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat." Challenged by McCain on the troubled Basra offensive in late March, Petraeus insisted that Prime Minister Maliki "had rejected his advice to delay the offensive until Iraqi troops were better prepared." The Washington Post's Tom Ricks reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) "tried to set up...a useful sound bite," asking, "What would be the military consequences of pulling out one brigade a month, starting in January?" Petraeus didn't cooperate, however, responding that, "If conditions were good, it would be doable." Ricks said that this exchange demonstrated where the "'surge' cheerleading runs into a lot of trouble. ... If things are going so well, then we should be able to begin the process of withdrawing our forces. But they say we can't." Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) challenged the idea that the U.S. must stay indefinitely in Iraq. "A year ago, the president said we couldn't withdraw because there was too much violence," he said. "Now he says we can't afford to withdraw because violence is down."

 

IS IRAQ WAR MAKING US SAFER?: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) challenged Crocker on whether focusing on al Qaeda in Iraq was the wisest use of resources, noting that the United States is "currently spending five times as much in Iraq as we are in Afghanistan on a monthly basis." Crocker said that "Osama bin Laden fairly recently referred to Iraq as the perfect base for al Qaeda," to which Bayh responded, "I would...caution us to not take our marching orders from Osama bin Laden. And it might occur to some that he says these things because he wants us to respond to them in a predictable way and we should not do that for him." At the Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) cornered Crocker on "whether Al Qaeda is a greater threat to US interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?" After trying hard to avoid the question, Crocker replied that he would "pick Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border." Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) picked up that thread, stating once again his belief that "the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder," and that the problems of "Al Qaeda in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region...are a direct result of that original decision." Voinovich suggested the war is helping to achieve al Qaeda's goals, claiming that "Osama bin Laden is sitting back right now looking at this thing [and saying] in effect, 'We're kinda bankrupting this country.'"

 

HOW DOES THIS END?: After spending nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars, and losing 4,000 American lives alongside hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the central question of this war is "how does this end?" Yet Petraeus's response to this question -- a unified, independent, and stable Iraq that is an ally in the global war on terrorism -- is more elusive today than it was when President Bush's military escalation began in early 2007. Addressing the issue of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) put Crocker in a tough spot when she pointed out that the Iraqi parliament, but not the U.S. Congress, would have an opportunity to vote on a status of forces agreement between the two countries. "It seems odd, I think, to Americans who are being asked to commit for an indefinite period of time the lives of our young men and women in uniform...if the Iraqi parliament may have a chance to consider this agreement [and the] United States Congress may not." Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) also expressed concern over the amount that U.S. taxpayers were providing for Iraq. "Levin estimated that the Iraqi government has about $30 billion in Iraqi banks, while the United States is largely funding reconstruction efforts and paying more than 100,000 workers engaged in those activities." This year, the U.S. will also hand over more than $150 million to Sunni tribal groups in exchange for their cooperation with the U.S. forces in Iraq, something which has been a central element in the surge's success. In a new article in Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon of the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out that "the sheiks take as much as 20 percent of every payment to a former insurgent -- which means that commanding 200 fighters can be worth well over a hundred thousand dollars a year for a tribal chief."

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I actually agree with both of you. I think elected officials should be straight forward with the facts. It is difficult to see which spin is actually the truth. I think some parts in Iraq are better, but some parts are worse. In my opinion, the British cut out way too soon.

 

I also think two major tactical mistakes were made.

 

Our military should never have disbanded the revolutionary guard.

 

Our military should have had more troops engaged in the first place.

 

I also think we made major political mistakes after taking over Iraq.

 

The Bush administration should have given more jobs to Iraqi people.

 

The Bush administration should have never told Congress that this war would be funded with Iraqi oil.

 

The State Department should not be running a private army.

 

The Bush administration should have waited for the Iraqi government to define International Oil rights.

 

Currently I see the Iraqi government getting closer with Iran. This is only logical since they are neighbors. But, it does not help speed up the process of troop withdrawal. Now I see that the British are slowing down their withdrawal.

 

Iraq's forces should not have engaged Basra without a green light from Washington.

 

I am sure that there are many logistical aspects we do not see due to security reasons. But, our government has to realize that this is not simular to any wars in the past. People communicate faster on what is really going on. Our television networks filter out some, but the world wide web is too fast. Usually the truth or most outlandish rise up to the top of the noise. But, spin masters of both parties do their very best to Psyop our emotions. But, the tolerance of the American People is waning.

 

 

 

What is sad is that I know people fighting for Old Glory. They are getting more confused every day. So the only thing I ask of our military and political leaders is to tell the truth.

Our country is going to be blindsided by deadlier threats in the near future if we are not prepared.

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Guest Human_*

Knowing politics the way I know them? There is a certain restraint that one takes on because of there level of understanding of the situation/s being played out.

 

The general public wants to know it all, and that is not possible.

 

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I actually agree with both of you. I think elected officials should be straight forward with the facts. It is difficult to see which spin is actually the truth. I think some parts in Iraq are better, but some parts are worse. In my opinion, the British cut out way too soon.

 

I also think two major tactical mistakes were made.

 

Our military should never have disbanded the revolutionary guard.

 

Our military should have had more troops engaged in the first place.

 

I also think we made major political mistakes after taking over Iraq.

 

The Bush administration should have given more jobs to Iraqi people.

 

The Bush administration should have never told Congress that this war would be funded with Iraqi oil.

 

The State Department should not be running a private army.

 

The Bush administration should have waited for the Iraqi government to define International Oil rights.

 

Currently I see the Iraqi government getting closer with Iran. This is only logical since they are neighbors. But, it does not help speed up the process of troop withdrawal. Now I see that the British are slowing down their withdrawal.

 

Iraq's forces should not have engaged Basra without a green light from Washington.

 

I am sure that there are many logistical aspects we do not see due to security reasons. But, our government has to realize that this is not simular to any wars in the past. People communicate faster on what is really going on. Our television networks filter out some, but the world wide web is too fast. Usually the truth or most outlandish rise up to the top of the noise. But, spin masters of both parties do their very best to Psyop our emotions. But, the tolerance of the American People is waning.

What is sad is that I know people fighting for Old Glory. They are getting more confused every day. So the only thing I ask of our military and political leaders is to tell the truth.

Our country is going to be blindsided by deadlier threats in the near future if we are not prepared.

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Guest Gerry J. Gilmore

The efforts of U.S. and Iraqi surge forces have boosted security in Iraq, but those gains are uneven and subject to reversal.

 

"There has been significant, but uneven, security progress in Iraq," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told panel members.

 

"Levels of violence and civilian deaths have been reduced substantially," Petraeus pointed out, noting that al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremists "have been dealt serious blows" by surge-fortified U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

 

Iraqi security forces capabilities and numbers have grown over the past seven months, Petraeus said, noting there are now nearly 550,000 Iraqi soldiers and police. Membership in concerned Iraqi citizens groups that aid in local security efforts also has increased to more than 91,000 participants, he added.

 

However, the security situation in some areas of Iraq remains uneven and unsatisfactory, Petraeus said, citing recent flare-ups of violence in parts of Baghdad and in Basra. Those incidents, he said, indicate security challenges that remain to be resolved.

 

The recent violence in Baghdad and Basra has demonstrated that "the progress made since last spring is still fragile and reversible," Petraeus said.

 

"Nonetheless, security in Iraq is better than it was when we reported to you last September," Petraeus told the panel members. "And, it is significantly better than it was 15 months ago when Iraq was on the brink of civil war and the decision was made to deploy additional U.S. forces to Iraq."

 

Petraeus attributed recent security gains in Iraq to three factors:

 

-- The engagement of some 30,000 U.S. and more than 100,000 Iraqi surge forces;

 

-- Employment of U.S. and Iraqi security forces in joint counterinsurgency operations to safeguard the Iraqi people and battle extremists and criminals; and

 

The Iraqi people's adoption of anti-insurgent attitudes, as Sunni tribes in Anbar province have united to fight al-Qaida extremists and Shiia-based anti-insurgent groups also have emerged.

 

However, a multitude of forces -- not only al-Qaida and Iranian-allied terrorists, but also garden-variety criminals -- are competing to sow destruction and discord in efforts to topple Iraq's government for their own purposes, Petraeus said.

 

"This competition continues, influenced heavily by outside actors, and its resolution remains the key to producing long-term stability in Iraq," the four-star general said.

 

Ethno-centric disagreements continue to occur among Iraq's population, but there are signs of improvement and growing accord, Petraeus said.

 

"Iraq's ethno-centric competition in many areas is now taking place more through debate and less through violence," he told the panel. "In fact, the recent escalation of violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq was dealt with, temporarily at least, by most parties acknowledging that the rational way ahead is political dialogue, rather than street fighting."

 

Five years ago today, U.S. troops pulled down Saddam Hussein's statue in a Baghdad square, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker, who accompanied Petraeus at the hearing, told panel members.

 

Crocker concurred with Petraeus that things are looking up in Iraq. Enhanced security and other positive developments achieved in Iraq over the past several months "have strengthened my sense of a positive trend," the diplomat said.

 

Yet, immense challenges remain in Iraq, Crocker said, describing the progress achieved there as "uneven and often frustratingly slow."

 

However, the Iraqi government recently passed some key legislation dealing with the vital issues of reconciliation and nation building, Crocker pointed out. Newly passed laws that reform the de-Baathification process, establish pensions, and define the relationship between the central and provincial governments help to solidify Iraq's political landscape, he said.

 

Sustaining the gains made in Iraq "will require continuing U.S. resolve and commitment," the ambassador said.

 

"What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible," he added.

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