We noted yesterday the bizarre way that General Petraeus' testimony changed between his Tuesday appearance before the Senate committees and his Wednesday presentation before the members of the House of Representatives:
Perhaps sensing that his testimony on Tuesday was undermining the official White House version of events in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus today offered a dramatically different interpretation of the recent violent unrest in Basra...
The recent armed conflicts there, paced by the powerful Sadrist faction, are the rock in the road that Petraeus and Crocker have had to get around since these hearings began, as the ill-timed flare-ups have provided ample evidence that the "surge" strategy may not be working as either a security measure or a means to sectarian reconciliation. The Bush administration has little choice but to spin every dire crisis as a sign of evident success, so Petraeus offer[ed] an argument [on Wednesday] that Maliki's response to Basra was evidence that the government is essentially functional...
All of which sounds hopeful, or, at least it would, were it not for the fact that Petraeus spent the [previous] day suggesting precisely the opposite.
Today, in response to President Bush's assessment of the current state of play in Iraq and the testimony proffered by Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi homed in on this discrepancy, suggesting that the administration was trying to "put a shine on what happened in Basra."
Additionally, her assessment of the Basra conflict squares with the facts, namely, that the Iraqi security effort "didn't perform up to par, that the U.S. had to come in to bail them out, and the only reason that any level of peace or a reduction in violence occurred is because al-Sadr decided not to continue his side of the violence."
"So that determination was made by al-Sadr, not by the success of the Iraqi military," Pelosi said.
PELOSI: In fact, the generals there have said the greatest threat or the greatest obstacle to peace and reconciliation in Iraq are not the Sunnis, are not the Iranians, are not the al Qaeda. The biggest obstacle to reconciliation and peace in Iraq is the Iraqi government.
Now let me say this. You talked about the performance of the military. Before the general and the ambassador came up, the end of last week, I said -- and maybe it was -- yeah, it was the end of last week -- I said that one of the tests I had as to whether General Petraeus was going to put a shine on what happened in Basra -- what we know happened in Basra is that -- well, the facts are these: that in Basra the Iraqi military planned to go into Basra because of the violence and unrest that existed there. They did not inform us until 48 hours in advance of that initiation of engagement. Why did we have to find out 48 hours in advance? They should have told us sooner. But don't we spend tens of billions of dollars on intelligence? Why didn't we know?
Secondly, he honestly responded on Monday to the Senate when he said that the Iraqi government -- the Iraqi troops did not perform up to par. And the facts are that we know that they didn't perform up to par, that the U.S. had to come in to bail them out, and the only reason that any level of peace or a reduction in violence occurred is because al-Sadr decided not to continue his side of the violence. So that determination was made by al-Sadr, not by the success of the Iraqi military.
So he gave a fairly straightforward answer, not all that I just said, but about the performance of the Iraqi troops. The next day he changed his tune as to what happened in Basra. I wonder why. Perhaps he heard from the commander in chief. I think it's time we hear from the commander in chief to these serious questions, because the president can have all the speeches he wants, he can make all the statements he wants, but we still have many unanswered questions as we continue to put our men and women in harm's way.