Spinning Gen. Petraeus

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Today, Hewitt and Bandow discuss Petraeus' testimony and the various reactions to it. Later in the week, they'll debate the status of post-9/11 security, Osama Bin Laden's latest video and more.

MoveOn.org's slander of Gen. PetraeusBy Hugh Hewitt
Doug,

Rarely has the left in America shown its true colors in quite so candid a fashion as did MoveOn.org today with its ad in the New York Times headlined: "General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the books for the White House."

Democrats in Congress and across the country need to denounce this George Soros-funded front for its slander on Gen. David Petraeus. Democratic senators especially need to find a microphone and loudly condemn the slander that Gen. Petraeus is a traitor and the lesser alleged offense that he will distort his report. Gen. Petraeus was confirmed by the Senate on an 81-to-0 vote, and no senator then or now has indicated other than complete trust in Petraeus' integrity. Because the antiwar hysterics of MoveOn.org and other warrens of the left have grown concerned that Petraeus is leading U.S. troops not to the retreat they demand but to an important victory in one front of the war against radical Islamist forces, that left has gone into full shrieking mode.

Today's ad is just the latest and most obvious chapter in the growing assault on Gen. Petraeus that began as soon as he began to note the progress being made in Iraq. The attacks have accelerated as the good news has accelerated.

The imputation of treachery to this distinguished American warrior is a new low for the left, but also a moment of clarity that Democrats and their allies will have trouble avoiding. To allow such an imputation of dishonor to go unrebuked is to abet it. This is not some foaming blogger posting crazier and crazier squeals at Daily Kos in the hopes of attracting attention to an otherwise largely unnoticed existence, or a professional extremist like Glenn Greenwald or Keith Olbermann whose job in life is to provide the far reaches of the left with assurance that they too have representatives with bylines no matter how lunatic the position defended.

This is MoveOn.org, the first and largest of the hard left's aggregation machines, and a conveyor belt of money and volunteers to the Democratic Party. It is all but an official affiliate of the DNC and Team Hillary, and when it calls America's commander of forces in Iraq a treasonous dissembler, all but the worst political cowards in the U.S. Senate ought to react immediately with a sharp and unconditional rebuke of the nutters who fear U.S. victory in Iraq far more than they do its defeat.

Gen. Petraeus is on his fourth deployment to Iraq, and he enjoys a deserved, across-the-board respect from serious analysts no matter their party affiliation or professional association. Only ideologues untethered to any concern for fact or decency can persuade themselves that Gen. Petraeus is an agent of the dreaded BushCo.

Pete Hegseth, executive director of VetsForFreedom.org, was quick to react to the MoveOn.org slander this morning:

Let's be clear: MoveOn.org is suggesting that Gen. Petraeus has "betrayed" his country. This is disgusting. To attack as a traitor an American general commanding forces in war because his "on the ground" experience does not align with MoveOn.org's political objectives is utterly shameful. It shows contempt for America's military leadership, as well as for the troops who have confidence in him, as our fellow soldiers in Iraq certainly do.Gen. Petraeus has served this country for over 35 years with honor, distinction and integrity. And this is not just about Gen. Petraeus. After all, if Gen. Petraeus is "cooking the books," then the entire military chain of command in Baghdad and the staff, military and civilian, who have been working with Gen. Petraeus are complicit, because Petraeus did not write his report in isolation. They are all, apparently, "betray[ing] us."
Hegseth's reaction will be common among the men and women of the U.S. military, and it ought to be universal on the Hill.

Most telling will be the reactions of Sens. Clinton, Obama and Edwards. These would-be commanders in chief are presented with much more than the opportunity for a Sister Souljah moment, though they surely have that opportunity before them. They face a crucial choice: to unambiguously defend the man who is leading the American military's defense of the young government in Iraq and of that country's neighbors and, ultimately, of this country, or to stand silent as an accomplice to this ugly charge of deceit and treason.

I interviewed Gen. Petraeus on July 18 (the transcript is here), and he was immediately attacked by anti-war/anti-Bush vigilantes like Andrew Sullivan for the offense of talking to a journalist from the center-right. Yet when the general gave interviews to journalists of the center-left like Alan Colmes, the center-right audience applauded the general for his availability and read or listened to his answers to Colmes' questions with interest.

This difference in approach to the war and to the general who leads it on the ground in Iraq defines the left as in opposition not to President Bush but to American forces and American interests. It is quite simply impossible to attack the general who leads the troops and enjoys their respect and admiration and not be understood as also attacking those troops and their mission. The attacks on Gen. Petraeus are attacks on the U.S. military whom he represents and represents extremely well.

MoveOn.org has thrown down an unprecedented attack on an American general's character and honesty. It is a disgusting overreach, one that brings to mind Joe McCarthy's attacks on the Army half a century ago.

Perhaps my debating partner here at Dust-Up will be among the first to ask of MoveOn.org "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" and begin what should be a broad rush by the Democrats on the Hill and then across the country to denounce MoveOn.org and to refuse their sponsorships and their money. To associate with this repulsive group today is on the same level of standing with Joe McCarthy in 1954.

Because of the visibility of MoveOn.org, the repulsiveness of its charges, and the placement of its slander in the most visible newspaper in the world, avoiding the issue is not an option. To stand by silently and allow the verbal fragging of this distinguished American is to agree with it. Watch closely how the would-be presidents among the Democrats respond to this moment: It will tell you all you need to know about their suitability to serve as commander in chief.

Hugh Hewitt is the executive editor of Townhall.com and a nationally syndicated talk-show host whose show can be heard in more than 100 cities across the United States. He blogs at HughHewitt.com and his most recent book is "A Mormon In The White House?: 10 Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney."


The issue is the administration's credibilityBy Doug Bandow
Hugh,

I hold no brief for MoveOn.org and do not doubt Gen. David Petraeus' integrity. But the more relevant question is whether the administration will consider critically Gen. Petraeus' views, or simply cherry-pick his report to back its preexisting position. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is obvious.

After all, this administration ignored any intelligence estimates that conflicted with its view of Baghdad's WMD capabilities. This administration has proved wrong in virtually every prediction it has made about Iraq, from "Mission Accomplished" to the insurgency being in its "last throes."

Of course, you and the president are right to argue that the administration's troop escalation has had some positive effect. It would be shocking if adding nearly 30,000 troops had no effect. But this step has not changed Iraq's internal political dynamic, which is necessary for "victory," however we define it.

Violence has fallen in parts of Baghdad and in Anbar province. Whether sectarian killings are down overall is harder to assess, because casualty counts conflict. "Let's just say that there are several different sources within the administration on violence, and those sources do not agree," Comptroller General David Walker told Congress last week.

Unfortunately, violence is up elsewhere in Iraq; the average number of attacks on civilians is down only slightly, if at all; sectarian cleansing in Baghdad has continued; and the number of people fleeing their homes has increased. While the overall number of killings may have fallen from its peak earlier this year - in part because of the continuing disappearance of mixed neighborhoods - it remains higher than a year ago.

Moreover, any progress remains dependent on the continued presence of U.S. troops. Yet the surge will be difficult to sustain past April. To the extent insurgents have gone to ground, they will reemerge when American patrols end. Yet the Iraqi security forces remain inadequate; a commission headed by former Marine Corps Gen. James Jones even suggests disbanding the Iraqi police and starting over.

Nor do we see political reconciliation - the original goal of the surge. The national government remains dysfunctional, and sectarian divisions remain wide. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office has concluded that the Iraqis have failed to fulfill 11 of 18 benchmarks and have made only partial progress on another four.

The other area of success is Anbar province, but that has less to do with the addition of 4,000 U.S. troops and more to do with shifting tribal sentiments that began before the surge. This change in Sunni allegiance is welcome, but we should have no illusions: Providing weapons to these Sunnis risks equipping them for future battle against Shiite-dominated government forces or even U.S. personnel.

Gen. Petraeus is an honorable officer and a patriot, but because of the president's irresponsible optimism, the administration never did place enough troops in Iraq to even hope of achieving its goals. While the troop escalation has helped the U.S. win more military battles, it has not enabled the U.S. to win the larger political war.

Doug Bandow is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the American Conservative Defense Alliance. A former special assistant to President Reagan, he is the author of "Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire."

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