Launching a new assault on the president's war strategy, congressional Democrats have begun to dismiss the Bush administration claims of military progress as unreliable spin ahead of Monday's testimony from the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
In a shift from recent comments that the military buildup appeared to be making some gains, Democrats are now questioning the statistics being used to back up the reports of progress.
They are also increasingly casting Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' upcoming report as a product of the White House rather than an independent analysis by a top military commander.
"By carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working," said Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin, his chamber's No. 2 Democrat, in a speech Friday in Washington. "Even if the figures were right, the conclusion is wrong."
The attacks are not without political risk for Democrats, who are sensitive to accusations of not supporting the troops and who have sought to avoid criticizing the military as they have declared the Iraq war a lost cause. Their new criticisms imply doubt about the credibility of a general who less than eight months ago won Senate confirmation as the top U.S. military commander in Iraq without a single dissenting vote.
Durbin said he did not want to question Petraeus' integrity: "I respect him very much. And I believe he is an extremely competent military leader who has been given an almost impossible military assignment."
The Democratic rhetoric in advance of Petraeus' scheduled testimony Monday before two House committees underscores how polarized the war debate in Washington remains. It also highlights how deeply congressional Democrats distrust the Bush administration.
This is an interesting development. At the same time that moderates of both parties are recognizing progress on the ground, and negotiating future plans on reducing the numbers of troops deployed, the most hardline antiwar foes in Congress are bucking such trends for pure partisan gain.
Rahm Emanuel's remarks at the end of the Times piece are classic:
"Instead of a new strategy for Iraq, the Bush administration is cherry-picking the data to support their political objectives and preparing a report that will offer another defense of the president's strategy," Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, said in a floor speech Friday.
"We don't need a report that wins the Nobel Prize for creative statistics or the Pulitzer for fiction."
Read the whole article. I would think Emanuel - as one of the top congressional Democrats - might show a little more leadership and little less partisanhip on this issue. His comments are especially interesting, given how the article notes that Petraeus will seek to provide testimony from the perspective of pure military objectivity.
Update: I have removed the Photobucket image from the top of this post. After doing some fact-checking, I've discovered the quote found in that image is not Abraham Lincoln's, but intead is attributed to a conservative scholar named J. Michael Waller, who claims the false attribution to President Lincoln was the result of a copy-editing error.
Darn it too, because I thought the "arrested, exiled, or hanged" line added some nice spice to my entry!