The Politician

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Gen. David Petraeus proved my point. He’s a political general. Worse than that, he said something in his Senate testimony that should infuriate the loved ones of every man and woman fighting in Iraq.

"Is everything you are doing over there making America safer?" Sen. John Warner asked. Petraeus tried to evade the question, but Warner wouldn’t let him off the hook. "Is it making America safer?" he persisted.

"I don’t know," Petraeus replied. In other words, maybe these nearly 4,000 young people who died and the 27,000 who have suffered wounds simply died and suffered for nothing. After all, their own commanding officer has now gone on record that he doesn’t know if the sacrifices they are making are doing anything to make their country safer. That’s a hell of a note.

Petraeus, like a true spin master, was trying his best to put a gown of optimism on the pig he brought to the dance. Like the bureaucrat he is (despite a chest full of ribbons, Petraeus has seen very little combat), he had his little charts and graphs purporting to show sectarian attacks and civilian deaths are down.

Whether his numbers are correct or not — and they differ from the numbers of several independent organizations — is beside the point. President George Bush pre-defined success of the surge. The purpose of the surge, the president said, is to buy time and space for the Iraqi government to reach agreement on reconciliation.

Did it? No. Ergo, the surge was a failure.

One congresswoman nailed him good. She read a report Petraeus had written after his earlier tour of training the Iraqi army three years ago. Oh, he spread good cheer. Everything was going swimmingly. Unfortunately for the general, he used almost the same words three years ago that he used in his current testimony. None of the promises and predictions he made three years ago came to pass.

Turns out the politician-general had, just before the last presidential election, written those words in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that painted the war in Iraq in glowing and optimistic colors. I may be wrong, but I know of no other general on active duty who wrote an op-ed piece so carefully timed to influence the outcome of a presidential campaign.

Petraeus’ testimony was also out of sync with the Government Accountability Office report, as well as a report done by a retired Marine Corps general. Petraeus tried to cover his political tracks by saying upfront that he personally wrote his report. Well, I personally write these columns, but that doesn’t mean I don’t confer with people, interview people and do other research. I’ll bet a six-pack to a shot of bourbon that Petraeus conferred many times with the White House spin doctors before he sat down to write his own report.

So the game goes on. The president says he will "accept" the general’s recommendations. What a surprise. That will leave 136,000 Americans stuck in Iraq until the new president is sworn in January 2009.

Congress should act and cut the funding off for this war. It is a moral outrage to sacrifice the lives and limbs of our men and women in uniform for nothing. The dumb Bush administration succeeded in creating a Shiite theocracy closely allied to Iran and set off a sectarian civil war. Well, let the Iraqis fight it out without us and without them stealing billions of American tax dollars at the same time.

May the most brutal and ruthless win.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2007 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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