Sen. Reid Is Right About Gen. Petraeus

In a democracy it is extremely unhealthy to put any commander in the position of being the de facto commander in chief for credibility.

It is true, the president's credibility is in tatters with a majority of the American people and world opinion doubting the truthfulness of his word. No war policy can be sustained when an overwhelming majority of the nation has lost confidence in the war and in the integrity of the commander in chief.

This is not merely obvious, or my opinion. This is what Republicans have told the president and what the strong majority of Senators and members of the House, in both parties, believe.

No general should be asked to substitute his name for credibility that can only be held by the commander in chief. No general should be used as a political shield, a political football, a public relations talking point, or a lobbyist in chief.

This is Gen. Petraeus's third major task in Iraq. In his first task he did a spectacular
job in the aftermath of the first stage of war, when he brought Iraqis together politically within his areas of command. In his second task he was in charge of training the Iraqi military and did a mediocre to poor job.

Regarding what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said about Gen. Peter Pace: The problem with Pace was not his ability as a military leader, but his lack of political courage in speaking out when he knew that policies were wrong.

Gen. Pace was almost universally called "Perfect Peter" throughout the Pentagon and
the command structure. He was seen, very correctly, virtually universally, as constantly
allowing bureaucratic politics and career advancement to trump the courage to speak
truth to power.

Everyone should be clear about one thing.

When the president overruled his military leadership and ordered the escalation:

First, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously advised against the surge.

Second, the Iraq commanders at the time equally strongly opposed the surge.

Third, as Gen. Abizaid, then the highest ranking commander in the region, testified:
He sought the opinion of battlefield level commanders throughout Iraq and they all
opposed the escalation.

From the beginning of this war, the president has ignored and overruled much of the most important advice given by the commanders, while he publicly claimed to be the "commander guy," which was flat out untrue, and a major reason the president's credibility is in tatters.

Think about this: Gen. Sheehan was offered the job of "Iraq Czar" and flat out turned it down, then publicly attacked both the policy and the manner in which the policy was made and managed by the president.

Think about this: Gen. Lute was named as the "Iraq Czar" and when he was interviewed for the post, and when his appointment was publicly announced, he made
it clear he had joined the others in opposing the surge.

Ask yourself this: Could the president not find one general or admiral for the post who has supported the escalation? What does this suggest? What it suggests is obvious, and true.

Many have reacted to Reid's remarks, but few have actually understood what he was saying and very few have read the June 13 USA Today story that prompted his warning.

Everyone should read that story closely. In the story, Petraeus painted an almost rhapsodic portrait of the progress he suggested was being made by the surge.

Granted, in other statements Petraeus has been far more direct about the problems. Granted, as all of us who deal with the press know, statements can be taken out of context.

But read the story. It is genuinely alarming because the portrait Gen. Petraeus paints
is dangerously out of touch with the reality on the ground in Baghdad. He makes Baghdad appear like a Fourth of July picnic, with soccer balls in green grass parks, and friendly markets with happy faces.

There are places in Baghdad where this is true, but they are few and far between, and
the portrait from Petraeus in this story is far out of touch with the ugly reality in Iraq. Had he given that portrait in testimony before the Congress it would have been a disaster.

Sen. Reid was firing a cannon across the bow of the president to stop the talking points
and spin, to end the public relations hype and happy talk of war. Reid was warning that our country has paid a heavy price for the distortions, misrepresentations, falsehoods and lies that have far too often surrounded this war and led us to the crisis today.

The USA Today story, following the sorry history of this war, creates significant doubt
that Gen. Petraeus will call it straight in September.

Harry Reid leveled a powerful and important warning and was absolutely right in doing so.

Petraeus's comments in the story build on doubts that exist for more than two-thirds
of the American people. He should take every opportunity, starting today, to put those doubts to rest. He must speak with total candor and honesty about the good, the bad and the ugly in Iraq today.

If Gen. Petraeus does this, he will well serve the president, the troops, the nation
and the truth in what must not become a war without end, pushed by a politics without truth.

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