After phony patriotism failed, the last refuge of the Bush Administration in Iraq has been competence, replacing robot generals and servile ambassadors with two men of substance, David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker.
For months, Bush has kept Congress from taking action to start stopping the war by hiding behind Petraeus’ September progress report. Now, worried about what the General and Crocker will say, the Administration is trying to have them testify in private while Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates do the public cheer-leading.
No dice, the Democrats answer. "Americans deserve an even-handed assessment of conditions in Iraq,“ House Democratic Chairman Rahm Emanuel declared, not “a snapshot from the same people who told us the mission was accomplished and the insurgency was in its last throes."
Administration’s worries are reflected in what the straight-talking Petraeus told reporters yesterday: "We know that the surge has to come to an end. I think everyone understands that, by about a year or so from now, we've got to be a good bit smaller than we are right now.”
Five years ago, Crocker was one of the authors of a State Department memo on the pitfalls of an attack. Based on long experience in Iraq, Crocker warned that an invasion could "unleash long-repressed sectarian and ethnic tensions" and that “the Sunni minority would not easily relinquish power, and that powerful neighbors such as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia would try to move in to influence events."
If you’re still trying to sell that war, you don’t want Petraeus and Crocker to do the pitching. You need a toady like George Tenet out there to predict a slam dunk.