The Petraeus/Crocker testimony on Capitol Hill this week was quite grim. In comparison to their last testimonials in September 2007, they reported that almost nothing has changed. Is it their fault? Of course not. I have no desire to "armchair quarterback" the people who are tasked with making Iraq an enjoyable place to live. However, we can't ignore the fact that Iraq is showing no signs of improvement under the continued occupation of the U.S. military.
General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker didn't paint a happy picture of security and stability operations in Iraq. Neither of those gentlemen were touting that democracy is flourishing over the Iraqi desert nor did they say Iraq is doomed to become America's worst nightmare. For me, it was a lot of "yes but no."
My analysis of the hearings follows:
* Progress is slowly taking place, but it is reversible.
* Important measures have been taken toward political reconciliation, but not yet important enough to be implemented.
* The Iraqi government is strong, but needs our help to fight militias, tribes, insurgents, and extremist.
* Nouri al-Maliki's crackdown on Sadr's Shiite militias in Basra and Baghdad was viewed as a great achievement while simultaneously establishing that the feud seriously jeopardizes a democratic Iraqi election process.
* Al-Qaeda is in retreat, but still poses a serious threat.
* Syria provides strong support to Iraq's Sunni insurgency, but we need to engage them in a diplomatic effort while we threaten them at the same time.
* Iran arms, trains, and supports the Iraqi Shiite militias and death squads, but Maliki is an ally of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
* The presence of the U.S. military is required for an indefinite period of time to assist in Iraq's uncertain success, but eventually we will start drawing down our forces.
Anyone who watched the hearings could clearly see that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker seemed very hesitant in giving their progress reports. They provided substantial evidence of a total stalemate in regard to political and military progress combined with the resurgence of large-scale domestic violence. For "naysayers" like me, it was a rather sobering assessment of just how fragile the situation is in Iraq.
On the other hand, we have the "true believers." If you are easily influenced by the rhetoric of John McCain, Joe Leiberman, and Lindsay Graham you would think Baghdad is now an exotic tourist attraction with water parks to take the wife and kids for a summer vacation. So go ahead and make your travel arrangements.
From the information we received from the Petraeus/Crocker testimonies one can only assume that the debate on Capitol Hill regarding whether we "cut and run" or "stay the course" is gridlocked. Both sides will exploit and exaggerate the given information for their own political agendas.
The Republican Party, for the most part, has made it clear that they will carry out the orders of George W. Bush come "hell or high water." Their strategy of unification will make it possible for them to prevail on their war plan despite the fact that its overwhelmingly unpopular with the American people. If they detect any minuscule stipulation that is resistant to the current strategy in the war-funding legislation, they will filibuster it before it makes it's way over to Bush for a veto.
The Democratic party is much more complex and has chosen to play it safe. They have decided that control of Congress isn't enough to change course in Iraq. Instead, they will need the White House too. Unfortunately, this doesn't even amount to an insufficient strategy. It prematurely assumes that they have the 08' elections all wrapped up -- but it is quite the contrary.
How can the Democrats use the war issue against McCain and Republicans in Congress if their voting records are identical? It doesn't seem plausible to me. It actually puts them in a worse position because if they vote for "blank check" funding they'll also be on record acknowledging it was the wrong thing to do prior to voting for it. They vote the same way as the Republicans, but they complain about it. Not exactly trying to win over your disillusioned base now are you ? This timid approach/lack of remedy will undoubtedly cost Democrats the votes of not only the peace-movement, but also life long party loyalists.
Over 70% of the American people are against the continued war/occupation of Iraq. So why won't our elected leaders do something about it? Because in their minds they believe that the majority of us will not formulate our opposition to the war into comprehensive political will. This is the same mentality that allows Vice President Cheney to utter the word "so" when asked about opinion polls that indicate the American people's opposition to our presence in Iraq.
We must prove them all wrong.
I would like to quote Ambassador Ryan Crocker in his opening statement to the House Armed Services Committee's hearing on Iraq:
"Americans have invested a great deal in Iraq in blood, as well as treasure, and they have the right to ask whether this is worth it, whether it is now time to walk away and let the Iraqis fend for themselves."
For me, that says it all. I urge all concerned Americans to ask themselves these very questions presented by Ambassador Crocker. Once you have found an answer, please convey it your member of Congress.