What the locals said about Petraeus

Bay Area House members clearly went into today’s hearing with a certain mindset, and Gen. David Petraeus’ testimony clearly did nothing to sway them.

lee3.jpgRep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: “I am afraid that with his testimony today, General David Petraeus may be following in the footsteps of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and I fear that he may face the same fate, namely that of respected military man whose credibility is forever tarnished for propping up the Bush administration’s disastrous policy in Iraq.”

“In fact, the White House’s effort to buy more time for the President’s surge policy is premised on the credibility of General Petraeus himself, and not the string of cherry-picked numbers being deployed this week. If the Pentagon or the administration had any confidence in the numbers that ostensibly show progress – which have been contradicted by every other independent assessment – they would release the data and the methodology used for arriving at them. It is telling that they have not.

“The debate about alleged military progress in Iraq is a distraction – a smokescreen – that only serves to obscure the basic, fundamental fact that there is no military solution to the situation in Iraq.

“Our troops are trapped in a civil war and occupation, a situation where there can be no ‘victory.’ Our continued presence there is not only breaking our military, it is undermining our national security and our efforts to fight international terrorism.

“Congress has the power to end to the Bush administration’s failed policy in Iraq. We should not approve another penny to continue that policy. Instead, we should use our constitutionally-mandated appropriations power to provide all the money necessary to fully fund the safe, timely and responsible redeployment of our troops and contractors from Iraq.”

Tauscher, Stark, McNerney and Pelosi, after the jump…

tauscher2.jpgRep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo: “After a first hand visit to Iraq a few weeks ago where signs of Iraqi reconciliation were scarce, and a grim National Intelligence Estimate followed by dismal reports from the nonpartisan GAO and the independent commission led by General Jones, it is disheartening to hear an analysis that seems out of touch with both reality and the prevailing thought about when we should remove our troops from Iraq’s civil war.

“The surge is a tactic, not a strategy. We cannot wait another year for the so-called surge to straighten its learning curve. At a cost of $330 million per day, increasing troop casualties, and continuing ethnic strife, we cannot continue to accept minor security increases as indicators of a sound policy for continued engagement in Iraq’s civil war.”

pete-stark.jpgRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont: “Up is not down, the earth is not flat, and the surge is not working. In his testimony before Congress, General Petraeus sounded like a broken record for the Bush Administration. Rather than speak factually about the lack of progress and the rising death toll in Iraq, Petraeus chose to carry water for the President who appointed him.

“As the independent and non-partisan Government Accountability Office reported last week, Iraq failed to meet 15 of the 18 political and security benchmarks President Bush himself had deemed critical to evaluating the surge. No matter. Petraeus and Bush remain stubbornly committed to a war the American public opposes.

“Petraeus’ willingness to withdraw thousands of troops by next summer is too little, too late. So are suggestions that the United States should wait another six minutes, six months or six years to bring all of our troops home. Only our immediate and complete withdrawal will compel Sunnis and Shiites to make political compromises and bring an end to Iraq’s civil war.

“For the sake of America and Iraq, I will continue to oppose additional funding for the war and to work with my colleagues to bring our brave men and women home.”

mcnerneyportrait.jpgRep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton: “Earlier today, the American people heard testimony from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, about the situation in that country.

“They both spoke of the exemplary job that our troops have done there – of which there is no question. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve our utmost respect and praise. They have performed admirably and done all that has been asked of them despite frequent repeat deployments and the extension of some deployments beyond the original time commitment.

“But, unfortunately, much of the testimony heard today was disappointing.

“When the President proposed his surge strategy to escalate the war, he said it would be a short-term effort to provide the ‘breathing space’ necessary to allow Iraqis to conduct political and national reconciliation to permanently reduce the violence and bring the country together.

“Today, Gen. Petraeus testified that troop levels would remain at post-surge levels until at least next summer. But officials have long suggested that the surge would have to end by April 2008 or risk straining an overstretched military to its literal breaking point.

“With the anniversary of September 11 and the newly released video from Osama bin Laden appearing over the weekend, we are reminded both that the terrorist threat is real and that we need military capability to meet that threat. At a certain point, our over-commitment in Iraq has meant diminished military readiness and diverted attention from combating global terrorism.

“I believe that the way to compel the Iraqi government to step up and take real control of their nation is to lay out a public timeline for withdrawing American troops from the country. The redeployment of troops should begin soon and it should end on a fixed date.

“Ambassador Crocker testified that while success may be attainable in Iraq, it is far from certain. And the assessments from the independent Government Accountability Office and from retired-General Jim Jones, chairman of the Commission on the Iraqi Security Forces painted an even bleaker picture.

“I applaud the efforts of our men and women in our military many of whom, like my son, joined the Armed Forces after the events of September 11. I am sobered by all of their commitment to country, but to honor that service is to demand accountability and a new course in Iraq.”

pelosi12-14-06.jpgHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco: “Last November, the American people voted for a New Direction in Iraq, but the President chose instead to escalate the war by reverting to a ‘surge’ strategy that had failed four times before. The President promised the American people that this surge would be a short-term effort to provide space for political reform and national reconciliation in Iraq. Today, despite overwhelming evidence that neither goal has been achieved, General Petraeus testified that the surge would last at least until next summer. This is simply unacceptable.

“Iraqis do not believe their security has been improved by the surge or by the American military presence in Iraq. The American people want to know why our troops must continue to sacrifice when a majority of the Iraqis want our forces out of their country. At home, an overwhelming majority of Americans want us to responsibly redeploy our troops so we can begin to address the dire readiness state of our military and refocus on fighting terrorism around the world. Standing in the way is the stubborn refusal of President Bush to change course, regardless of the facts.

“The President’s strategy in Iraq has failed. It is time to change the mission of our troops to one that will promote regional stability and combat terrorism, so that the numbers of our brave men and women in uniform in Iraq can be reduced on a much more aggressive timetable than the one outlined today by General Petraeus.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.