Politics & Policy

Hearing General David Petraeus

Colleagues: Just listen to the facts.

As General David Petraeus prepares to deliver a progress report on the troop increases in Iraq to Congress at a hearing on Monday, the Washington spin machine has gone into overdrive trying to frame the latest “reality” coming out of Iraq.

Despite tens of millions of dollars having been spent on advertising and targeted campaigns by liberal groups like Moveon.org, the incessant cries to precipitously retreat and withdraw from Iraq are now being overshadowed by reports showing some positive results and undeniable progress. It began with Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack’s trip to Iraq in July. The one-time war critics wrote in the New York Times that military progress is creating greater stability on the ground in Iraq. The anticipation of General Patraeus’ upcoming report on the developments in Iraq has sparked a new flame of optimism that the Democrats are having fits trying to ignore and spin, culminating just this week with Katie Couric reporting from Iraq about the “substantial progress” being made there.

While there is no doubt that mistakes have been made in Iraq, the reasons to be cautiously optimistic today are evident — at least for those that are willing to see them and understand that a different strategy has yielded different results. American troops have eliminated al Qaeda sanctuaries in the Baghdad Belt, forcing al Qaeda to abandon their safe havens and seek refuge outside the cities. Operation Phantom Strike, launched by Gen. Petraeus, has dismantled vehicle-bomb networks, prevented terrorists and militants from reconstituting their forces in Baghdad, and prevented Shiite militias from taking over al Qaeda’s former territories. While there is little doubt that the heroic action of American forces greatly contributed to these successes, they are not the sole reason behind recent progress. Iraqi citizens are volunteering to join the fight for their country with Iraqi security forces, which are held accountable to U.S. commanders. Even the Sunnis and Shiites are beginning to work together as part of the Iraqi Security Forces to defend their families from al Qaeda. Yet Democrats apparently don’t want to be confused by the facts.

Despite the mounting signs of progress and hope, Democrat leaders continue to blindly demand that our forces be precipitously withdrawn from Iraq. In addition to forcing politically driven votes in Congress that have no chance of becoming law, they continue to criticize our military leaders’ tactics in Iraq — at times even resorting to questioning their truthfulness and the motives of American operations. Many Democrats who initially voted in favor of removing Saddam Hussein’s regime quickly turned their backs on the effort as the mission grew more complex, and as a result, more difficult. Another newly elected Democrat walked out of a Committee hearing as retired General Jack Keane spoke of the progress being made in Iraq. Others even went so far as to threaten to cut funds without a troop withdrawal, which would have left the brave men and women who volunteered to serve our nation without the proper protection and support they need from their own government.

A critical moment in our nation’s history approaches. Will the Democrats take the time to listen to General Petraeus’s report, or are they already writing the talking points to withdraw from Iraq? If we listen to the words of the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House, I think we know the answer. It is worth noting that had we listened to them just a few months ago — when they referred to our mission in Iraq as a “failure” and already “lost,” — we never would have seen the Iraqi people participating in efforts to secure their nation.

General Petraeus will present his assessment next week, and from there Congress and the president will decide how to best proceed. The Democrats have already bet their entire political future on the notion that the U.S. mission in Iraq will end in catastrophic failure. James Clyburn, the third-most senior member of House Democrat leadership even admitted that a positive report from General Petraeus would be “a real big problem” for Democrats. Maybe they are blinded by their own pessimistic spin, but these days the chances of hearing hope or optimism about victory in Iraq from a Democrat leader or presidential candidate are, as we say in Texas, between slim and none… and slim got up and left.

Former Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg had the right idea, “politics stops at the water’s edge.” We live in a tumultuous world, and while no one would argue that there is a time for Democrats to be Democrats and Republicans to be Republicans, now is the time for Americans to be Americans.

Together, before we allow the political spin machine to corrupt reality, let us all listen to General Petraeus before we rush to conclusions. Let us reflect on his recommendations and observations instead of allowing the politically expedient to overshadow the long-term good. And most of all, let us remember that, as a nation, our greatest achievements and successes have been rooted in optimism and victory, rather than defeat and failure.

 – Congressman Jeb Hensarling, (R., Tex.), is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of over 100 conservatives in the House of Representatives.  

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”


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