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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

The takeaway from yesterday's round of Iraq hearings: President Bush is content to leave the hard decisions on Iraq for the next President.

Spencer will be providing ongoing coverage at TPMmuckraker today of the second round of hearings. First up is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning, followed by the Senate Armed Services Committee this afternoon.

In 2004, Gen. Petraeus penned a Washington Post op-ed with a glowing account of the progress made in the training of Iraqi security forces, a program over which he was then in charge. In today's hearing, Petraeus was questioned about that op-ed and what, as events have borne out, were his overly optimistic assessments.

Several readers pointed out that the format of the chart of Iraqi civilian casualties produced by General Petraeus in the House committee hearing today didn't match up with the civilian casualty charts we had produced at TPMmuckraker. So we've combined the numbers into a single chart for comparison purposes (click to enlarge):



A couple of points of clarification. The Iraq Body Count provides a maximum and minimum range of casualties per month. We have included only the IBC minimum number in this chart (you can see both IBC numbers charted here). Also, as you can see from the chart, the most recent month for which IBC numbers are available is June 2007.

Let me emphasize again that this chart is not comparing apples to apples. The AP and IBC used different methodologies, and Petraeus has not revealed his command's methodology, which tellingly remains classified. So comparisons among the numbers have limited utility.

Late Update: One other point that should be emphasized is that the IBC's final numbers lag because of a reporting lag. The IBC expects its numbers, especially from more recent months, to rise as additional casualty reports are received.

Later Update: We've created a larger version of the chart above for your viewing pleasure.

It caught our ears when Gen. Petraeus testified that the U.S. military never gives weapons to Sunni tribal groups in Iraq. But that may be literally true, as the military actually gives the tribes money with which they are free to buy weapons.

In his testimony today, Gen Petraeus was asked about a Washington Post story over the weekend that reported on a "schism" between Petraeus and his immediate superior, CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon. The Post quoted a senior civilian official as saying about the relationship between Petraeus and Fallon, "Bad relations? That's the understatement of the century. . . . If you think Armageddon was a riot, that's one way of looking at it."

In response to questioning today, Petraeus denied that there was any disagreement among top military officials about his recommendation on how to proceed in Iraq, saying he had the support of both Fallon and Joint Chiefs. Take a look at the exchange.

Given the usual difficulties of sorting through internal Pentagon politics, we may have to stash this one away for the historians to unpack later. But something tells me there is more here than what Petraeus is letting on.

Sen. Larry Craig was so harried by potential press coverage of rumors that he was gay that, in a "state of intense anxiety," he caved in and pleaded guilty to charges of which he believed himself to be innocent.

Got that?

He was so fearful of being wrongly outed as a gay man that he wrongly pleaded guilty to charges arising from seeking gay sex in a public restroom.

We have the latest documents filed in the case, as Craig attempts to withdraw his guilty plea.

For ease of comparison, here are all three of the charts on Iraqi civilian deaths that we've been writing about today. The first chart was presented by Gen. Petraeus in his opening statement this afternoon to the House Armed Services Committee. The other two charts we created at TPMmuckraker, based on numbers compiled by the AP and Iraq Body Count, respectively.

Petraeus' numbers:



The AP's numbers:



The IBC's numbers:



We are still waiting to hear about the methodology employed by Petraeus in arriving at his numbers on civilian casualties, a methodology that he says was signed off on by two unidentified U.S. intelligence agencies. Earlier today, Spencer Ackerman provided an in-depth explanation of the AP and IBC numbers.

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