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Petraeus and Crocker: Déjà Vu All Over Again

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This week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testified before the House and Senate about the Iraq war. As we might have guessed, their testimony has amounted to simply announcing the administration's plans to continue on its current path -- to maintain at least 140,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely.

It's déjà vu all over again. Echoing their testimony from last September, Petraeus and Crocker claim that certain indicators in Iraq are positive, that they need more time to build on these marginal successes. But while they ask us for more time, more blood, more treasure, they still cannot provide any sort of strategy for success in Iraq.

Indeed, the definition of success has changed so many times in this war it probably would be impossible to design a strategy to achieve it. Going after the 9/11 attackers, finding weapons of mass destruction, getting rid of Saddam -- these initial goals were proved unnecessary or false, or have already been accomplished. So now, we have a new set of goals: creating a model democracy for the Middle East, wiping out al-Qaeda, limiting the influence of Iran -- problems this war has done more to exacerbate than to resolve.

After five years of chaos and destruction, we are told, once again, to trust them. To stay the course. To sign another blank check.

These requests, from an administration that has not an iota of credibility left, simply boggle the mind. In every aspect of this war, from the reasons given for the invasion, to the utter incompetence displayed at every turn, from the waste, fraud, abuse and war profiteering, to the lack of any strategy beyond waiting it out till the next administration, the Bush administration has given us literally no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt, and every reason to demand immediate and drastic change.

We find ourselves bogged down in the midst of a sectarian civil war, with our troops caught in the crossfire as Iraqi factions exploit our presence to position themselves not to build democracy, not to create a stable and free Iraq, but to dominate each other.

There is simply no valid rationale left for staying in Iraq -- not that there ever was one. Meanwhile, a full 60 percent of Americans now think the United States should set a firm timetable for getting out of Iraq and stick to it, regardless of the situation on the ground.

In his famous "Beyond Vietnam" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the way war diverted needed resources and energy "like some demonic, destructive suction tube." According to the Congressional Research Service, we are spending $10.3 billion a month, or $339 million per day, on the war in Iraq. For one day's spending in Iraq, we could provide access to health care for 2.6 million Americans for a year. For one day's spending in Iraq, we could give 48,000 homeless veterans housing for a year. We could achieve each of these goals by cutting the Iraq war short by one day. Imagine what we could do with a week's spending, or a month's!

Of course, the conservatives who refused to spend $50 billion dollars over five years to provide health care for needy children don't think twice about spending that amount for five months of war in Iraq. With our economy facing a serious downturn, and the baby boomer retirements on the horizon, the Bush administration is asking us to continue financing this war on credit.

Clearly, we are faced with a question of priorities. We can pour money down a destructive suction tube, for a war that is creating more enemies than it can destroy, in pursuit of impossible goals. Or we can invest in our priorities here at home, while showing a new face to the world, one characterized by respect for human rights, diplomacy, and the rule of law. To me, the choice could not possibly be any clearer.