Republican leaders and news outlets whipped up a little furor over MoveOn.org’s ad headlined “General Petraeus or General Betray Us? — Cooking the books for the White House.“x01 A common comment was that the ad was “over the top.“x02. The ad came out in the New York Times September 10th, the day of Petraeus’s testimony to Congress on the progress of President Bush’s Iraq “surge” operation. Two days ago, the Senate passed a resolution finding that “Moveon.org impugns the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces.“x03 The resolution states the sense of the Senate to “repudiate the unwarranted personal attack on General Petraeus by the liberal activist group Moveon.org.” Bush called the ad “disgusting”, and said: “I felt like the ad was an attack, not only on General Petraeus but on the U.S. military.“x04 So we can see by the reaction that the ad’s headline was catchy — but what about its content? It was a factual refutal of claims Petraeus had made or was likely to make in the very near future:
- In 2004, just before the election, [Petraeus] said there was “tangible progress“ in Iraq and that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” (The ad did not bother to refute this one.)
- And last week Petraeus … said “We say we have achieved progress …” [But] every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed.
- … the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because … the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. … assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. … there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there.
- We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed.
- Most importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows; Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war.
* We may hear of a plan to withdraw a few thousand American troops. But we won’t hear … a timetable for withdrawing all our troops. General Petraeus has actually said American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years.
So we can see that this ad was not an attack on the U.S. military. And it is not a personal attack to dispute someone’s claims with facts.x05 Are the Senate (all the Republicans and half the Democrats) and the President saying that someone wearing four stars should not get criticism for public comments? And why is a general making public comments in support of the President’s war policy anyway? We have a Defense Secretary for that.x06 So to me, the Senate’s resolution and the President’s comments were “over the top”.
02 “Over the top”:
Some Democrats (including John Kerry and Jack Reed) have publicly distanced themselves from the ad, saying it was over the top. (Both Kerry and Reed voted against the resolution. – hungeski) – MSNBC
‘Do you want to distance yourself from that ad?’ asked anchorman John Roberts (of Sen. Clinton). ‘Was that MoveOn.org ad over the top?’ – report on CNN interview
‘The personal attacks on General Petraeus were way over the top,’ said Michael Noonan, a defense scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and an Army Reserve officer who served in Iraq. – The Seattle Times
“There’s room for reasonable people to disagree over Gen. David Petraeus’ take on Iraq. But MoveOn.org’s personal attacks on him go way over the top.” – Kansas City Star
Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Zach Wamp on Monday denounced an ad taken out in the New York Times by MoveOn.org ad attacking Commanding General David Petraeus. … Rep. Wamp said, “… That they would do this the day before the sixth anniversary of 9/11, to me is outrageous. It is over the top and I think the American people should reject it.” – The Chatanoogan
04 “ Bush: MoveOn.org ad on Petraeus ‘disgusting’ – CNN, September 18, 2007″:http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/09/20/bush.petraeus/?iref=mpstoryview
As long as General Petraeus is “untouchable” the President can continue to hide behind him. That’s why the public needs to know that Petraeus is neither objective nor trustworthy when it comes to assessing progress in Iraq.
Moreover, every word of the ad was entirely accurate—the General has in fact cooked the books, and in doing so, he betrayed the public trust.
Quoted from article by By Bruce Ackerman in the Financial Times: President George W. Bush’s campaign to stay the course in Iraq is taking a new and constitutionally dangerous turn. When Senator John Warner recently called for a troop withdrawal by Christmas, the White House did not mount its usual counterattack. It allowed a surprising champion to take its place. Major General Rick Lynch, a field commander in Iraq, summoned reporters to condemn Mr Warner’s proposal as “a giant step backwards”.
It was Maj Gen Lynch who was making the giant step into forbidden territory. He had no business engaging in a public debate with a US senator. His remarks represent an assault on the principle of civilian control — the most blatant so far during the Iraq war.
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