Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Parsing the Petraeus Promenade™

For two days they appeared before open congressional committee meetings, answering questions from the legislative branch. Five of the members they faced are running for the presidency, and one of the inquisitors today will likely be the commander in chief they will answer to come January 2009. Another Senator was the opponent Petraeus sided against in 2004. That Senator did not bring up the infamous op-ed, but Senator Boxer did.

On balance, Tuesday was certainly not Monday. The man-crushes were, for the most part, kept in check - unlike Monday, when I feared that some of the overt, gushing, adoration would get the General in trouble under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

There were significant moments in the testimony Tuesday. Petraeus went on the congressional record that there was no connection between the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Saddam Hussein. When pressed, he could not say that America’s involvement in Iraq makes Americans safer.

But there was one question that Petraeus either could not – or would not – answer. It was the one he asked in 2003 as the invasion ramped up. How does this end?”

"Are we going to continue to invest American blood and treasure at the same rate we are doing now, for what? The president said let's buy time. Buy time? For what?" said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a Vietnam veteran who also will retire next year.

Most experts argue that stabilizing Iraq requires two things above all: political reconciliation among Shiite Muslims, Sunnis and Kurds, and Iraqi security forces that can stand on their own.

Petraeus and Crocker could promise neither.

As the day wore on, the unspoken consensus emerged that, yeah, George Bush really is a phenomenal fuckwit. And boy, did he ever screw the pooch when he charged headlong into this mess, and it should never have been done, and can’t be undone…All he can do is punt it to the next president and then start trying to cast blame. The men who were sitting in front of congress the last two days are, unenviably, charged with salvaging something from it.

By the end of the day, the testimony made it clear that there will still be a hundred thousand American G.I.’s in Iraq when Bush abdicates to Paraguay on 19 January 2009. And the war in Iraq had been moved front and center in the 2008 election campaign.

Starting today, it's a whole new campaign...