Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Congress hears testimonies from Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker

A joint committee hearing was held Monday on Capitol Hill to hear testimony from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about progress in Iraq. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, led the hearing along with Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.) were the ranking House members.

Skelton opened the hearing by stating, “Today is a critical moment. This Congress and this nation are divided on the pace with which the United States should turn over responsibility to the Iraqis. But every member here desires that we complete our military involvement in Iraq in a way that best preserves the national security of the United States.” He continued to raise his concerns about the U.S. presence in Iraq, saying, “We must be sure, before we talk about continuing this effort, that Iraq is the war worth the risk of breaking our army and being unable to deal with other risks to our nation.”

Lantos concluded his opening statement by stating, “The situation in Iraq cries out for a dramatic change of course. We need to get out of Iraq, for the country’s sake and for our own. It is time to go – and to go now.”

Petraeus and Crocker both testified that progress is being made, but more time is needed to address a number of concerns. These include the threat of a more powerful al-Qaeda, the spread of extremism over cyberspace, and the assistance Iraqi militants are receiving from neighboring countries such as Iran. As Petraeus observed, “You cannot win in Iraq solely in Iraq.”

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) questioned the role Iraq played in the global war on terror, and asked how much more blood the U.S. should spill in the country, and if it would be worth it. The response from Petraeus and Crocker centered on the argument that al-Qaeda in Iraq is part of the larger al-Qaeda organization, which they deemed the central threat to the U.S. While al-Qaeda in Iraq has been destabilized, there is a good chance they will try to reconvene, according to Petraeus and Crocker.

While the training of Iraqi troops has continued to improve, without American support it is likely the country will be overrun by extremism, the witnesses said. Moreover, the timeline needed to gradually remove the troops while ensuring stability in Iraq will be much longer than the American people would like, they asserted.

“While noting that the situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult, and sometimes downright frustrating, I also believe it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy,” Petraeus said.

In order to create a lasting government in the country, the witnesses said that Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and other ethnic groups need to work together and compromise for the good of the nation.

“Iraq is experiencing a revolution – not just regime change,” Crocker said. “It is only by understanding this that we can appreciate what is happening in Iraq and what Iraqis have achieved, as well as maintain a sense of realism about the challenges that remain.”


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