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Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman

Posted: December 23, 2010 06:08 PM

Representative John Conyers, Chair of the Congressional Out of Afghanistan Caucus, is pressing President Obama to make General David Petraeus available to testify on the administration's review of Afghanistan policy, Amanda Terkel reports for the Huffington Post. Thirty Democratic Members of Congress have joined Rep. Conyers in a letter to President Obama, urging the President to make Petraeus available to testify early in the new Congress. California Rep. Buck McKeon, incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has also called for Petraeus to testify, so this is a request that will be hard for the administration to ignore.

Rep. Conyers' request is straightforward. As the Democrats' letter notes, "the enormous cost and importance of our war policy in Afghanistan warrants vigorous constitutionally-mandated congressional oversight as early as possible next year." General Petraeus is the principal author of current Administration claims of "progress." To conduct effective oversight, Congress should call Petraeus to testify.

The Politico reported in November that the administration was trying to bury the Afghanistan review, because they knew that after a year of the current military escalation policy, their claims of progress were thin. The administration doesn't want Petraeus to testify, Politico reported, because it does not want to call attention to the fact that military escalation has failed.

As the Los Angeles Times and the New York Timeshave reported, the consensus reports of U.S. intelligence agencies contradict the rosy claims of progress of the White House/Pentagon review. Congressional testimony by Petraeus will call attention to the contradiction between claims of "progress" and the more pessimistic -- and realistic -- assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies.

This is important for ending the war, because while U.S. officials have conceded rhetorically that there will be no military victory, and that the end of the war will include a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban, actual U.S. policy today isn't centered on political negotiations to end the war. Actual U.S. policy today is still centered on the escalation of military force. In order to compel U.S. policy to focus on political negotiations to end the war, Washington resignation and acceptance that military escalation has failed and will continue to fail must become stronger than it is today.

Thus, the nose of official Washington must be rubbed in this failure as often and as intensely as possible.

People rightly complain that there is not enough controversy and not enough reporting about Afghanistan policy, but part of the reason for this absence is that major news media tend reflect what Washington is talking about. Put Petraeus on the witness stand; I guarantee the press will come.

 

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