Skip to content

“What’s your answer?”

Tom Ricks of The Washington Post has a feature regarding the trials and tribulations (and political b.s.) that General David Petraeus had to go through. It’s worth the read. Here’s an excerpt:

Petraeus and [U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan] Crocker liked to go running together, and during their runs in the summer of 2007 they spent considerable time talking about how they would handle their joint appearance before Congress in September. It was Petraeus’s calculation that the debate in the United States over the war was stalemated, especially over the consequences of a troop pullout from Iraq.

For months, congressional Democrats had expected the hearings to be a decisive moment in the war. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) had said in May, “If we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, September is going to be a very bleak month for this administration.”

Even some Republican allies of Bush agreed that the Iraq strategy was doomed. But Col. Steve Boylan, Petraeus’s communications adviser, believed that congressional Democrats, not the general and the president, were the ones in a bind.

“My feeling was that Congress wouldn’t be able to put together enough votes to override a presidential veto, because then they’d own it,” he said, putting his finger on the Democrats’ basic dilemma: how to end the war without being blamed for how it ended.

Petraeus and Crocker were determined to deliver a sober assessment of the situation in Iraq that would not open them up to the charges of blind optimism that had undermined the credibility of past officials. At the Pentagon, Boylan set up a “murder board” to help Petraeus rehearse the weekend before his testimony. Boylan’s most pointed question was “Sir, explain to me why we have to lose one more American life in Iraq.”

Petraeus responded, “Okay, what’s your answer?”

Boylan didn’t have one — but he wanted Petraeus to think about it.

On Sept. 10, the day the hearings began,, an antiwar group influential in the Democratic Party, ran its now-famous full-page advertisement in the New York Times mocking Petraeus as “General Betray Us.” Petraeus, the ad charged, was “at war with the facts.” And the facts, as MoveOn saw them, showed that “the surge strategy has failed.” In addition, it said, “General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war.”

That morning, Rapp rode with Petraeus in a car from Fort Belvoir, near George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, to the Capitol. “Petraeus did a good job of not showing it, but I know it stung,” he said. “He was just a little quieter than usual.”

Crocker, the lifelong diplomat, took an unemotional approach. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. As he read the ad again, his disbelief gave way to a grim smile. “They’ve screwed themselves,” he thought. He knew what Petraeus planned to say, and that it would amount to a “word-by-word rebuttal of that allegation.”

One would hope that such short-sighted erroneous nonsense from would forever discard them to the ash heap of history, but probably not. At least the Post deserves some credit for highlighting their slanted stupidity.