“That really pisses me off, Duncan. Those assholes.” Eight words, two sentences. By themselves, they aren’t particularly interesting — that is, until you realize they came from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.).
p. His words were an ominous prelude to the year’s, perhaps the decade’s, most anticipated congressional hearings: the Iraq Progress Report. Skelton was speaking, not of the Iraqis, but rather of a group of demonstrators causing a ruckus in the back. There wasn’t much need for the fuss on either side, however, because these hearings will prove almost entirely irrelevant.
Already members of Congress have entrenched themselves in the battle over what to do with forces in the Iraq — it was a foregone conclusion that General David Petraeus’ suggested troop draw-down to pre-surge levels by next summer would be ignored. Even before the hearings commenced yesterday, The New York Times and The Washington Post had published stories covering Petraeus’ anticipated testimony.
p. His appearance, then, along with that of Ambassador Ryan Crocker, seems perfunctory. On the heels of two gloomy assessments from independent commissions, it was expected that his report would be more in line with the administration’s claims (highlighting progress locally, while ignoring the national picture). Liberal view: We’ve fed enough from this trough already. Conservative view: The commander on the ground should know best. Opening statements from the congressmen bore this out.
p. Knowing full-well that the general wouldn’t yet have the opportunity for rebuttal, Representative Tom Lantos (D-Ca.), chairman of the House Foreign Relations committee, lectured Petraeus on his anticipated draw-down strategy, saying it was “nowhere near enough,” and concluded that money would be better spent on programs in our own country.
p. The implication, of course, is that prior to having heard a word of testimony, he had determined that American schools and roads were of higher importance than Iraqi lives. During further questioning, the representative curiously displayed a greater affinity for the recommendations of retired generals and admirals published in “reliable media sources.” One wonders why the man even chose to attend the hearings if he derives his policy positions from the Times’ editorial pages.
p. Even Skelton seemed to have made up his mind before walking into the chambers. “He’s the right person, three years too late and 250,000 troops short” he said of Petraeus. These were not the words of a man about to be swayed by 13 pages of glossy charts.
p. In the end, the American public was given a dog and pony show of the highest order — riveting debate without any substance. It will be front page news this morning, and the editorial staff will call for an end to partisan intractability. But back in the chambers on Capitol Hill, Petraeus and Crocker will sit, with their biggest question still left unanswered: Who are they trying to convince?
p. __Andrew Peters is a junior at the College.__