- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

Where is the respect for Gen. David H. Petraeus, the West Point graduate and commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq? He’s known to be an honest broker, straightforward leader and professional soldier, who explains what’s really going on on the ground. This is the same Gen. Petraeus who articulated the surge strategy to the Senate last January, and executed and delivered an interim report on Iraq that July. In it, the general stated that coalition forces had made satisfactory progress on many of the benchmarks set by Congress. In September, Gen. Petraeus added that while much military progress had been made, the political progress hoped for, had not.

Democrats and liberals pounced right away. Anti-war crowds, like those participating in yesterday’s coast-to-coast protests, demonized him. The liberal Moveon.org horrifically dubbed him “General Betray Us” in a $65,000 full-page ad in the New York Times. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton offered a rebuke.

Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Bill Burton, was quoted then as saying: “Sen. Obama’s question is not about General Petraeus’s patriotism, it’s about his logic. There’s no evidence that this surge is producing the political progress needed to resolve the civil war in Iraq, or that it will be accomplished through more of the same.”

There was no evidence in their eyes because they were blinded by partisan politics.

Phil Singer, spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said then that “America’s troops have done all that has been asked of them and then some, but the reality is that there is no military solution to what is going on in Iraq which is why our focus must remain on getting the president to change course.” Mrs. Clinton herself said just this Monday that America “cannot” win in Iraq. While Mr. Obama said yesterday: “We still have the wrong strategy in Iraq.”

But there is a large body of evidence that the surge is working. Sectarian violence has decreased dramatically in the past year, and key legislation has been passed by the Iraqi government. According to the Defense Department, attack levels are down 60 percent since June 2007, civilian deaths are down 75 percent since a year ago and a growing number of local citizens (“expert civilians”) are taking greater control. As President Bush said yesterday: “[The surge] has opened the door to a major strategic victory. … The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable, yet some in Washington still call for retreat.”

Now is not the time for political partisanship — whether it’s Republicans prematurely declaring victory or Democrats exhibiting denial.

Gen. Petraeus is expected to issue another assessment and offer new recommendations to Congress next month, particularly as it relates to troop levels. While our mission is not yet accomplished — as al Qaeda remains a constant threat in Iraq — we urge Congress and the candidates to put principle over politics by acknowledging that the surge is working and that we need to continue to support the tough job ahead for Gen. Petraeus, our troops and the Iraqi people.

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