Both Democrats and Republicans have begun rallying around a September deadline to reassess Bush’s Iraq strategy. Whether the September reassessment successfully results in a drawdown currently depends on whether Gen. David Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, issues a candid report about the deteriorating conditions resulting from the escalation. Already, Petraeus has said that his report will not say “anything definitive.”
Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and former Reagan Pentagon official Lawrence Korb writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer today that Petraeus cannot be trusted to deliver an unbiased report:
Many lawmakers will formulate their position on the basis of a coming report from Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force, to the president. Unfortunately, based on behavior in his last command in Iraq and the manner in which he received his current position, Petraeus is not a reliable source for an unbiased assessment.
As evidence, Korb cites the fact that just before the 2004 election, Petraeus wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post proclaiming there was “tangible progress” because Iraqi forces were “stepping forward.” Korb writes, “If Petraeus wrote on his own initiative, he was injecting himself improperly into a political campaign. If he was encouraged or even allowed to do this by his civilian superiors, he was allowing himself to be used for partisan political purposes.”
That wasn’t an isolated incident. Patreaus has allowed himself to be used as a “political prop” to support the White House’s war czar nominee. And, Petraeus has echoed President Bush’s line that al Qaeda, not sectarian civil war, is the greatest threat in Iraq — an assessment that contradicts the intelligence.
In light of the concerns over Patraeus, Korb suggests a worthy solution for Congress to consider:
The answer is to have an independent assessment by an outside group, like the Iraq Study Group, but not including members of that group who might also have an ax to grind. The House and Senate each should appoint one member and the administration another. Only then can we be sure that we will get an unbiased assessment, and that this country will come to grips with the real situation in Iraq.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) warned yesterday that Petraeus will come back in September with a desire to prolong the war. To make sure Congress has unbiased information, it should seek independent counsel.
UPDATE: Third Way has also recommended the appointment of “an independent commission to study the success or failure of the surge in September and report back to Congress.”