"Sen. Whitehouse: Petraeus Has ‘Conflicting Loyalty,’ Independent Iraq Report Needed"
Many members of Congress have rallied behind a September deadline to reassess President Bush’s Iraq strategy, saying they will rely on a report from Gen. David Petraeus to determine whether escalation has been effective.
But despite numerous indicators that Bush’s strategy is failing, ABC News reported recently that Petraeus wants the “surge” to “continue until at least December,” and expects “to report enough progress by September to justify the extension.”
In an interview this week with ThinkProgress, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) became the first member of Congress to call for an independent analysis on the state of the war in September, in addition to Petraeus’ report. Whitehouse charged that Petraeus has an inherent “conflicting loyalty” between “the desire to please the president” and to report the unvarnished truth about Bush’s strategy.
“[H]ow General Petraeus chooses to balance those conflicting prerogatives is up to him and his conscience and I’m hoping and expecting that he’ll come back and speak very candidly to us,” Whitehouse said. But noting President Reagan’s maxim “trust but verify,” he added, “I don’t think it’s necessarily to distrust Petraeus to want to verify.”
Center for American Progress senior fellow Lawrence Korb, a former senior Reagan Pentagon official, called for such an independent assessment last month, writing that Petraeus “is not a reliable source for an unbiased assessment.” The group Third Way has a similar proposal. This past Sunday, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), a 37-year Marine Corps veteran, acknowledged that he has “lost a lot of confidence in many of the military leaders” because “they say what the White house wants them to say.”
WHITEHOUSE: I think that would be a good idea. It’s nothing against General Petraeus. But people who are appointed to high positions in government by a president, sort of inherently have a conflicting loyalty between the desire to please the president who appointed them and to stay on the team because it’s wonderful to be important and on the team and all that good stuff. And on the other hand, particularly where the president’s view is in conflict with the interests of the country, or the men who serve under them — the men and women who serve under them — with their duties to the country and to those men and women. And how General Petraeus chooses to balance those conflicting prerogatives is up to him and his conscience and I’m hoping and expecting that he’ll come back and speak very candidly to us. But it’s always prudent, what did Ronald Reagan say? Trust but verify? So I don’t think it’s necessarily to distrust Petraeus, to want to verify. So I think the idea of having another look, is not a bad idea.