Lantos on Petraeus

Rep Tom Lantos, (D-CA-12), Chairman ofthe House Foreign Affairs Committee, on the upcoming testimony of General Petraeus. Mind you, this is his introductory statement, prior to any testimony. (note: transcript does not start at the very beginning of Rep. Lantos’ statement and it ends before the end of the statement as I didn’t hit the record button fast enough, I wasn’t expecting him to speak quite so long)

But the fact remains gentlemen, that the administration has sent you here today to convince the members of these two committees and the congress that victory is at hand. With all due respect to you I must say I don’t buy it. And neither does the independent General Accountability Office or the commission headed by General Jones.

Both recently showed deeply disturbing and pessimistic reports. The current escalation in our military presence in Iraq may have produced some technical successes but strategically the escalation has failed. It was intended to buy time, for Prime Minister Maliki and the other Iraqi political leaders to find ways to move toward the one thing that may end this terrible civil conflict. And that, of course, is a political settlement.

As best we can see, that time has been utterly squandered.  Prime Minister Maliki has not shown the slightest inclination to move in the direction of compromise. Instead of working to build national institutions, a truly Iraqi army, a competent bureaucracy, a non sectarian pollice force, Maliki has moved int he opposite direction. The so-called unity accord, announced with such fanfare, a couple of weeks ago is just another in a long list of empty promises. Instead of acting as a leader for Iraq as a whole, Maliki has functioned as the front man for Shi’ite partisans. And he has presided over a Shi’ite coalition that includes some of the most notorius militias, death squads, and sectarian thugs in Iraq.

This is not what the American people had in mind. And when Mr. Maliki states, as he recently did, that if Americans leave he can find quote new friends, we are reminded most forcefully of his and his party’s intimate ties to Iran. In his recent visit to Anbar province, the President made much of our cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda with Sunni tribal militias. This alliance may, in the short run, be a positive development, but it also raises some serious and profound questions. Anbar, of course, includes just five percent of the population of Iraq. An important five percent, but still only five. What’s more, by arming, training, and funding the Sunni militias in Anbar province, we are working against our own strategy of building national Iraqi institutions.

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