Scott Cavanagh
Freelance Writing, Editing and Photography

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WH meddling tarnishes Petraeus/Crocker reports

Monday, August 20, 2007

As the White House and Congress prepare for next month’s public assessment of the success of the Iraq “troop surge," a review of military interviews and documents by the Associated Press has painted a picture of a U.S. Army on the brink of exhaustion.

With all 38 available combat units already deployed and no fresh replacements available, the Army is considering everything from extending the grueling 15-month tours of duty of those already deployed (already increased from the traditional max of 12 months) to balking on the commitment to providing soldiers a year at home before redeployment.

These developments make it all the more critical that Gen. David Petraeus’ highly touted progress report is presented as transparently and honestly as possible. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening decreased dramatically on Friday – when it was announced that the report would not be written by the General himself, but rather cobbled together piecemeal by members of the White House staff.

This decision flies in the face of President Bush’s repeated assertions that he would wait for Petraeus to return from Iraq and present the naked truth of his findings to Congress and the American people.

We’ve seen this game played out before. In July, the administration spun the results of the mid-term war assessment to show satisfactory performance in a number of questionable “benchmark” areas, despite the fact that the prior three months had produced the highest number of U.S. and Iraqi casualties in nearly two years.

To make matters worse, the White House has been trying to convince Congress that the report should not be made public in open hearings with Petraeus, but instead should be delivered in closed congressional meetings by the secretaries of defense and state. After months of touting the General's independence and candor, the President now believes that Petraeus' honesty and character can best be conveyed through the mouth of Condoleezza Rice.

On Friday, the President seemed to veer off course momentarily, announcing that Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker's testimony would be made available in "both" open and closed sessions.

Column copyright 2007 Midland Avenue Communications. Reprints without permission are a violation of Federal Law.