- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

The Pentagon’s top general yesterday told legislators that military forces are making progress toward transferring power to a new Iraqi government and praised some of the intelligence provided by Ahmed Chalabi in a House hearing marked by partisan bickering.

Testimony by Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and two other top generals was interrupted four times when Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee began arguing over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The generals watched in silence.

During one exchange, Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, Florida Democrat, criticized the panel for not doing enough to investigate prisoner abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. He said members had been ill-equipped to explain the events to their constituents.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and committee chairman, took issue with the comments.

“I don’t know where you were, but we’ve had more hearings, open and closed, on this one subject than any other issue that has been before this committee,” Mr. Hunter said.

Mr. Hunter said the press has been too focused on the prison abuse at a time the United States is in the middle of fighting a war against Iraqi insurgents.

“We have spent more time on Abu Ghraib than we have on any weapons system in this $422 billion budget,” Mr. Hunter said.

In another exchange, Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, challenged Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, California Democrat, as she criticized Gen. Myers for not providing enough information on the transfer of sovereignty to a new Iraqi government.

Gen. Myers said the Iraqis forming a new government “understand that the security situation in the country of Iraq is not something that Iraqis can handle today, that they’re going to need coalition help.”

“The Iraqi people, understandably, want to know that their efforts are in support of their own country and their own government,” Gen. Myers said. “Iraqi security forces want to work under an Iraqi chain of command, and put their lives on the line for their own country.”

Gen. Myers also defended Iraqi National Congress leader Mr. Chalabi, whose office was raided this week as part of an Iraqi police investigation into suspected criminal activity.

Mr. Chalabi had been supplying intelligence to U.S. intelligence agencies until recently.

“What I can tell you is that the organization that he is associated with has provided intelligence to our intelligence unit there in Baghdad that has saved soldiers’ lives,” Gen. Myers said. “I know at least that part of it has been beneficial. I cannot comment on the rest. I just don’t know.”

The intelligence from Mr. Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress “was accurate and useful in many cases,” he noted.

The four-star general said that U.S. forces have stepped up security for military supply convoys along major supply routes in Iraq.

Iraqi insurgents had been attacking the supply convoys, he said.

“I think the overall situation now in terms of convoys and their security is much different than it was just three or four weeks ago because of the tactics, techniques and procedures that have been changed,” Gen. Myers said.

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