Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have given an overall positive review of U.S. progress in Iraq today, but both have laden those statements with clear caveats. When asked about political reconciliation in Iraq, Crocker has tended to prefer characterizing it as “moving in the right direction.”
But Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) thinks that all too much emphasis has been put on the caveats. Clearly criticizing the questioning by Democrats today, Lieberman said that “there’s a kind of hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, and most of all, speak of no progress in Iraq.”
Lieberman, at least, sees no harm in overstating the progress in Iraq: “The Iraqi political leadership has achieved a lot more political reconciliation and progress since September than the American political leadership has.”
Finally, he seemed to indicate that if only Democrats would accept the clear success of the surge, we “can move to more success so we can bring more of our troops home.”
Thereafter, Lieberman went into a kind of reprise of his questioning last September, wanting to know about Iran’s activity in Iraq.
The transcript is below.
General and Ambassador, thank you for your extraordinary service in the cause of freedom in Iraq.
I must say that, as I listen to your testimony, which is encouraging and yet quite realistic, and in my opinion, not overstated — you’ve told us that the strategy associated with the surge is working, progress has been made, but it’s entirely reversible. You’ve been very frank about some of the problems that we still face.
What I’m about to say, with respect to my colleagues who have consistently opposed our presence in Iraq, as I hear the questions and the statements today, it seems to me that there’s a kind of hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, and most of all, speak of no progress in Iraq.
The fact is, there has been progress in Iraq, thanks to extraordinary effort by the two of you and all those who serve under you on our behalf.
I wish we could come to a point where we could have an agreement on the facts that you are presenting to us, the charts you’ve shown, the military progress, the extraordinary drop in ethno-sectarian violence, the drop in civilian deaths, the drop in American deaths, and the very impressive political progress in Iraq since last September.
Hey, let’s be honest about this: The Iraqi political leadership has achieved a lot more political reconciliation and progress since September than the American political leadership has. So we’ve got to give credit for that.
I repeat, I wish we could have an agreement on the facts which you presented. You work for us. I don’t distrust those facts.
And I wish we could go from an agreement on those facts to figure out how we can move to more success so we can bring more of our troops home. That’s apparently not going to happen in the near future.
LIEBERMAN: Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands — excuse me — hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?
PETRAEUS: It certainly is. I do believe that is correct.
Again, some of that also is militia elements who have been — subsequently have been trained by these individuals. But there is no question about the threat that they pose, and, again, about the way that has been revealed more fully in recent weeks.