Democrats today assailed the recommendations of US Commander in Iraq David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who called upon the US to maintain surge-level forces in Iraq until summer of 2008.
"The time to end the surge and to start bringing our troops home is now," said Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), "not six months from now." Obama added that he "can only support a policy that begins an immediate removal of our troops from Iraq's civil war, and initiates a sustained drawdown of our military presence."
At a campaign stop in Florida shortly after Petraeus testified before congress, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) told the audience, "Our troops who have performed heroically and have done everything they've been asked to do in Iraq have no business refereeing an Iraqi civil war... We need to get our troops home and let the Iraqi government take responsibility for themselves."
Other presidential contenders joined in the chorus. Calling the recommendations part of a "false debate," former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) said that "President Bush's Iraq strategy has failed, and Congress must not cave. Congress must support our troops by using every tool available to force the president to agree to a withdrawal."
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson blasted the recommendations as "unacceptable, irresponsible and dangerous," noting that he did not "question the integrity or competence of these gentlemen, but the strategy George Bush and Dick Cheney have asked them to execute has failed."
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) also pointed to the White House as the source of the recommendations. "The fact that there are questions about General Petraeus' report is not surprising," he stated, "given that it was brought to you by this White House. In contrast, independent report after report indicates that the whack-a-mole strategy has made this the bloodiest summer of the war."
"Debating the merits of a tactic when the strategy that underlies it is failed," added Dodd, "is nothing more than a distraction from the work that needs to be done to bring this war to a close."
Democrats are confident that public opinion is on their side. "The stay-the-course strategy by General Petraeus and the President to leave all troops in Iraq has been rejected by the American people," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who pointed to the National Intelligence Estimate, GAO and Jones Commission reports as proof that the surge is not helping the Iraqi government meet benchmarks set by President Bush earlier this year.
"We need a new direction in Iraq," Pelosi concluded, "that will protect our troops, promote stability in the region, and make America more secure."