Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has won high praise from Democrats for his frankness in discussing Iraq and other issues, says President Bush’s Iraq troop surge is still in its early stages, but is proceeding as planned, with Iraqis meeting their share of the commitment.
“I think that the way I would characterize it is ‘so far, so good,’ ” Mr. Gates said yesterday during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It’s very early. … But I would say that the Iraqis are meeting the commitments that they have made to us, that they have made the appointments, the troops that they have promised are showing up.”
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley described the various Iraq resolutions being considered by Democrats in Congress as mandating defeat.
“The only question is timing,” Mr. Hadley said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “And in any event, it’s an arbitrary schedule. They come out without regard to progress on the ground against the enemy. And the problem is, that is mandating failure, and that is forfeiting the sacrifice we have made in Iraq.”
Mr. Hadley also said Democrats were being disingenuous in pushing for a bill they know President Bush will veto.
“The president has said he will veto it if it passes. That is clear to the Democrats in the Congress,” he said. “Our plea is, let’s not go through this charade. Let’s have the Congress present to the president a responsible bill that gives General [David] Petraeus and the men and women in uniform the funding they need and the flexibility they need to get the job done.”
Mr. Gates’ positive comments carry added weight because he has been praised by leading lawmakers in both parties for his openness in discussing the challenges faced in Iraq and other military matters. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of the leading Democrats on military issues, called Mr. Gates a “breath of fresh air” after his response to poor conditions reported at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“They are allowing operations in all neighborhoods. There is very little political interference with military operations,” Mr. Gates said of the Iraqi government’s cooperation. “So here, at the very beginning, the commitments that have been made seem to be being kept.”
Despite Mr. Gates’ upbeat remarks, Rep. John P. Murtha, chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, said the administration could not be trusted on Iraq.
“Here’s the problem: They’ve mismanaged this war,” the Pennsylvania Democrat told CNN’s “Late Edition.” “They talk about us micromanaging. They’ve mismanaged the war so badly, they put the commanders in impossible positions.”
Mr. Murtha also disputed reports of cooperation by Iraqi security forces. “There’s only 50 percent of them showing up. That’s the problem. They said 86 percent in the first couple weeks of this redeployment, and now it’s only 50 percent of them showing up.”
A resolution calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq pushed by Senate Democrats failed to win the majority of votes last week. Nonetheless, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, one of the resolution’s co-authors, told “Fox News Sunday” the 48-vote total was a positive development. It would have needed 60 to overcome procedural hurdles and move to a vote on the resolution itself.
“Last summer when I brought that resolution to the floor, I got 13 votes. Forty-eight to 13. That is an enormous change in a very short time,” Mr. Kerry said. “And what we’ve learned in the great fights of the Senate and historically in this country is you have to keep fighting. You keep trying.”
Mr. Kerry, the Democrat’s 2004 presidential nominee, who originally voted for the resolution giving President Bush authority to invade Iraq, recently announced he would not seek his party’s nomination again in 2008.