Politics & Policy

Harry Reid’s False Spin on the Surge

This week, Senator Harry Reid not only defended his “war is lost” remark, but also claimed in a Q&A with the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he, as majority leader, was “successful in forcing President Bush to finally abandon his failed approach” which “ultimately paved the way for the Iraqi government.”

Here is the full context of the statement his office provided when asked about Reid’s 2007 “lost” statement:

At the time Sen. Reid made this comment, President Bush had been pursuing a failed, stay-the-course strategy that had cost thousands of American lives and billions of taxpayer dollars. Iraq appeared to be on the verge of a sectarian civil war. He was simply pointing out what our military leaders, including Gen. Petraeus, had been saying for months: that we could not win by staying the course; the war needed to be won diplomatically, politically, and economically. Sen. Reid and his colleagues were successful in forcing President Bush to finally abandon his failed approach and refocus on political reconciliation. This is what ultimately paved the way for the Iraqi government to take greater responsibility for Iraq’s future.  [emphasis added]

But the chronology doesn’t add up. President Bush had announced the surge–a key element in the eventual stabilization of Iraq–in January, four months before Reid’s “lost” comment. In fact, while Reid was sponsoring a Senate resolution opposing the surge, additional troops were deploying to Iraq. Reid then made his famous “lost” comment in April of 2007, here:

Reid’s statement came after the Bush administration had already decided on a new strategy, which Reid strongly opposed and which the Bush administration never in fact “abandoned.”

Last month, a Reid spokesman tried to put a different spin on the “lost” comment, saying, “Senator Reid’s comment was in agreement with General Petraeus’ assessment that the Iraq War could not be won by military force alone and that a political solution was also needed as part of a two-part strategy — which President Bush refused to pursue.”

But when President Bush announced the surge in January, he spoke about political strategy and the Iraqi government, stressing that confidence was needed so “government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas.”

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