When Gen. Petreaus and Amb. Crocker appear before both houses of Congress tomorrow and Thursday, Democrats should ideally position themselves through these hearings to achieve the following overarching goals:
-- Debunk the fiction that the military surge has achieved sustainable military or political objectives.
-- Undermine Sen. McCain's argument that staying the course is a patriotic duty.
-- Demonstrate to the American people that the recent Iraqi government defeat at the hands of the Mahdi Army was indeed the "defining moment" that Bush claimed it was.
-- Offer a credible Democratic approach to stay the course that logically will achieve more in the long run for American security in the Middle East than what more of the same can possibly achieve.
With this in mind, and if I were staffing the hearings, here is the list of questions I would be proposing to our Democratic inquisitors:
1. Prime Minister Maliki launched an offensive to defeat the Mahdi Army in Basra. He was forced, despite U.S. logistical and air support, to sue for a ceasefire. President Bush declared during the fighting that this was a "defining moment" for Iraq. Why shouldn't the American people view this "defining moment" as exactly what it was: a defeat for us, the Iraqi government and a victory for radical Shiite militias?
2. If the U.S. military cannot adequately defend the Green Zone from missile attack from Shiite militias, why should the American people believe that the surge has achieved tangible, and not momentary lulls in violence?
3. General Petraeus, you are proposing that the current level of military forces remain static longer than planned. Isn't this proof that the amount of troops in Iraq will never be enough to adequately reduce the level of violence against U.S. and Iraqi forces?
4. Define "victory" within the context of the current Iraqi political and military environment? Why should this not be a recipe for disaster given the inability of the Iraqi military to meet its training goals and objectives?
5. America has now suffered the loss of over 4,000 soldiers and tens of thousands wounded. How willing, General Petreaus, are you prepared to stretch the military's capability to sustain troop levels at even the 100,000 level beyond the summer and what are your specific goals and objectives?
6. If the next American president planned a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops within 16 months of assuming office and within the context of such a withdrawal, was able to negotiate a responsible regional initiative to pacify Iraq, why wouldn't this approach achieve "victory" by creating an environment on which the future was not dependent on either U.S. troops or intra-Shiite reconciliation?
7. Incubating Iraqi political reconciliation was supposed to be one of the byproducts of the surge. Yet, the Iraqi government is as dysfunctional and disunited as ever -- and our forces are now caught not just between Sunni and Shiite, but between one radical Shiite faction and another. If we are not fighting principally Al Qaeda, but one Shiite faction against another, isn't this just "mission creep" with no end in sight?
8. How much will this war cost the American taxpayer in 2008? Has the Iraqi government contributed any oil revenue to offset the cost of this war to the American taxpayer? Please explain where Iraq's oil revenue is going?
8. The Iraqi government continues to embrace anti U.S. policies and U.S. adversaries. Isn't it an insult to those killed and injured in Iraq that Prime Minister Maliki rolls out a red carpet to Iranian President Ahmadenijad whose Revolutionary Guards, by your own account, is sending arms and funds into Iraq to kill and injure U.S. troops?
9. Admiral Fallon, the former head of Central Command (CENTCOM) recently resigned (actually was forced to resign). Please explain what was Admiral Fallon's assessment of your recommendations with respect to troop levels and the overall goals and objectives that the strategy was designed to achieve in Iraq?
10. If Al Qaeda's threat has been substantially reduced, why shouldn't we more expeditiously draw down our forces in Iraq to facilitate a transfer of American forces to Afghanistan where the real struggle against Al Qaeda must be waged?
I have a question for every one of our killed and injured, as well as for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have lost their lives due, in part, to the malfeasance of the Bush/Cheney policy in Iraq... but no question and no answer can adequately do justice for all of the losses.
A McCain-inspired "staying the course" is nothing more than a direct route to defeat and disaster for the United States. If John McCain was able to argue to the media's content that he orchestrated a new approach to Iraq that is more of the same, than surely Democrats have it within their power to convince the American people that the better approach is not more of the same given events in Iraq in recent weeks.