Long-awaited report on Iraq must not be tainted by pols

Although Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have not given any indication what their Sept. 15 report on the war’s progress will say, Republican and Democratic politicians are already spinning the issue.

That’s shameful and unacceptable.

The American people, who have watched with dismay as the U.S. occupation of Iraq marks its fifth year, have a right to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but truth about the Bush administration’s troop surge and the political situation.

Petraeus and Crocker must not let themselves be hijacked by the Republican White House, nor must they succumb to pressure from the Democratic-led Congress. With credibility in short supply in Washington on the question of Iraq, these two men have it in their power to do something that is highly unusual in the nation’s capital: Speak honestly.

Americans, weary of the war being used as a political football, should be allowed to decide for themselves whether the situation in Iraq is improving and, therefore, justifies continued U.S. presence, or whether victory is so elusive that it’s time to withdraw American soldiers.

The administration’s announcement that the Iraq report will be written inside the White House, rather than by Petraeus and Crocker, has given Democrats on Capitol Hill — especially those opposed to the war — reason to charge that there won’t be an honest appraisal next month.

Sept. 11

Even the scheduled appearance of Petraeus and Crocker before congressional committees has become a point of contention. This week, the White House said that the general will testify on Sept. 11, the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America’s homeland that claimed more than 3,000 lives.

Despite denials by administration officials of an ulterior motive for this schedule, the fact remains that Sept. 11 is a day of national mourning. Given the eagerness of supporters to accuse critics or opponents of being unpatriotic, it is not difficult to imagine members of Congress pulling their punches in questioning Petraeus and Crocker.

A bill passed by Congress and signed into law by Bush requires a report on the 30,000-troop surge in Iraq by Sept. 15 and says that the general would appear before Congress prior to its release. But in light of the White House’s unexpected authorship, we believe lawmakers should reserve the right to recall Petraeus and Crocker after the document is released.

That would give members of Congress the chance to not only publicly discuss the report, but also to determine whether the two key players agree with its tone and substance. And, they should be asked to discuss in detail the conclusions and recommendations that the administration will offer about the situation in Iraq.

There is an underlying question that should be addressed: Will the success of the troop surge in going after the insurgents who are conducting a campaign of death and destruction result in a stable political climate in which the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds participate fully in the governance of the country?

Initial reports suggest that progress is being made on the military front, but Iraq seems to be imploding politically.

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