Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Republicans and Democrats
Squabble over Iraq Reports
Thursday, September 6, 2007 8:40 AM
Author: Kenneth R. Timmerman
and Democrats sparred in Congress on Wednesday as they received a
much-disputed report from the Government Accountability Office,
assessing the progress of the Iraqi government in meeting eighteen
The GAO is a non-partisan,
investigative arm of Congress that conducts studies and evaluates
government programs at the request of Congress.
The U.S. military sharply criticized
the assessment by Comptroller General David Walker for failing to
accurately assess progress on the ground against insurgents, and
convinced Walker to change the grades he gave the Iraqi government on
several of the eighteen security-related benchmarks after reviewing a
draft of the report last week.
The benchmarks were established by
Congress earlier this year to measure legislative, security, and
economic progress of the Iraqi government, and required the GAO to give
a pass or fail grade.
Bowing to administration pressure,
the GAO agreed belatedly to add a third grade, “partially met.” But
that compromise hardly softened the blow of the GAO report card
delivered to Congress.
“As of August 30, 2007,” Walker said,
“the Iraqi government met 3, partially met 4, and did not meet 11 of
its 18 benchmarks.”
That was music to the ears of many
Rep. Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on
the House Foreign Affairs committee, used the GAO report card on
Wednesday to scold the Bush administration over the war in Iraq, and
called the troop surge a failure.
“Prime Minister Maliki has run his
government like a Shiite factional leader,” Lantos said. “Maliki’s
Shiite-first policies have contributed directly to the inability of
Iraq’s leaders to reach agreement on the critical issues facing their
Lantos accused the Bush
administration of “cooking the books” by claiming that sectarian
violence was diminishing. “While the White House might have us believe
that the troop surge is working, it has become manifestly apparent to
all objective observers that it is not.”
Those words were mild compared to the
criticisms from other Democrats.
Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., suggested that
the administration had not merely failed in Iraq, but in its efforts at
home to rally the country behind the war effort.
“When a nation goes to war… one would
expect the national leadership to mobilize the country in support of
such an endeavor. President Bush on the other hand has urged the
American people to go shopping and enjoy their tax cuts,” he said.
Ackerman urged his colleagues to cut
off funding for the war, drawing quick applause from two women in the
hearing room wearing Code Pink t-shirts and top hats emblazoned with
anti-war political slogans.
Elsewhere in Congress, members of the
left-wing Out of Iraq Caucus led by Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Jan
Schakowsky, D- Ill., and Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., issued similar calls
to cut off war funding and bring U.S. troops home.
And speaking with reporters from
Baghdad, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said he thought the U.S. troop surge
was a “failure” and called for a new U.S. strategy with a dramatic
reduction in troops.
But Republicans strategists believe
the Democrats may have overplayed their hand.
“Remember that the Democrats pledged
a ‘white hot summer’ with demonstrations in the home states of members
of Congress who supported the war,” a White House aide told
conservative activists on Wednesday.
“Nothing happened. They have made a
gigantic mistake. They have politicized the war. When you go to
military families with that, you can never go back,” he added.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Republicans
fought back with pointed questions directed at GAO comptroller general
Former committee chairman Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., asked him what criteria he used to “score” the 18
benchmarks, and noted that reports from her own constituents gave a far
more positive picture of events on the ground.
Rep. Mike Pence said he was struck by
the fact that the GAO made no mention of the most significant
development of all, the decision by Sunni tribes to turn against the
“I witnessed the Anbar Awakening in
my visit there this past April,” he said. “It is an extraordinary
development that the so-called Triangle of Death a year ago now has
tribesmen, community leaders, who are working hand-in glove with
American Marines… and stating publicly that an attack on an American is
an attack on an Iraqi.”
A recent United Press
International/Zogby poll showed that Americans are divided on Iraq
along strict partisan lines, so the Congressional battles are likely to
continue even as Gen. David Petraeus makes his much-awaited report on
the war next week.
According to the poll, despite recent
reporting out of Iraq of U.S. military victories, 66% of Democrats
believed the Iraq war is “lost,” as compared to just 9% of Republicans.
Democrats go to Iraq and see failure,
and Republicans go there and see victory.
In reporting on her one-day trip to
Iraq during the August recess, anti-war Congresswoman Schakowsky said
the trip “reinforced my believe that this – the surge has not been a
success… and that we have to bring our troops home as soon as possible.”
She said that she remained in the
Green zone except for a brief tour in a Black Hawk helicopter “with a
machine-gunned soldier holding it outside of the window.”
The military wouldn’t let her
delegation travel on the roads with U.S. troops where they “have to
drive and encounter IEDs.” Schakowsky added, “I was grateful for that.”
By contrast, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R,
Okla., who made his fifteenth trip to Iraq during the recess, traveled
to Anbar province, which he said was “now under total control,” and
ventured north to Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein and a
long-time Baathist stronghold.
Inhofe, who is an experienced pilot,
was sitting in the cockpit when the C-130 taking his delegation to
Jordan was fired upon by rockets from the ground. He praised the pilots
for taking evasive action, but said the experience was “exhilarating.”
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