Thursday, April 3, 2008

With Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker preparing to testify next week about military progress in Iraq, Republicans are arguably more unified than ever, while Democrats and their allies on the political left have been squabbling among themselves over how to make known their opposition to the war in Iraq. During Gen. Petraeus’s visit to Washington in September, he was greeted with a advertisement in the New York Times that slurred him as “General Betray Us.” And Hillary Clinton appeared to suggest that Gen. Petraeus had been dishonest in his testimony outlining the progress being made by the U.S. troop surge in Iraq. “The reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief,” she told him.

Congress has approved slightly under $87 billion in fiscal 2008 funding for the war in Iraq — less than half of the approximately $199 billion requested by President Bush. Democrats are divided on how to respond. Some prominent Democrats like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer question the idea of of cutting off funds for military operations in Iraq. But Stand Up Congress, a coalition of 40 anti-war groups that includes, the American Friends Service Committee, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, the National Organization for Women and the National Council of Churches has launched a petition drive to persuade Congress to cut off funding for the war.

But these groups face a tremendous political problem: The surge’s success in reducing the level of violence in Iraq is undermining their ability to rile voters up. Although public opinion polls consistently show the war is unpopular, the political left is becoming less successful at using Iraq to demoralize the American public about the larger military campaign against radical Islamists. Rasmussen Reports said last week that 47 percent of likely voters believe that the United States and its allies are winning the war on terrorism, up from approximately 33 percent at the beginning of the year.

The Republican Party has been united on the war issue. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner have done a solid job of driving home the point that, with violence down and parliament making political progress that would have been unthinkable a year ago on issues like sharing oil revenues and amnesty for lower-level Ba’athists, it would be a grave mistake to abandon Iraq now.

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