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Petraeus Hedges On Whether Iraq War Makes U.S. Safer: ‘It Can Only Be Answered By History’

By Satyam Khanna on April 8, 2008 at 1:22 pm

"Petraeus Hedges On Whether Iraq War Makes U.S. Safer: ‘It Can Only Be Answered By History’"

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In last September’s hearing, Gen. Petraeus was asked whether the Iraq war makes the U.S. safer. “I don’t know,” Petraeus responded. Today, Sen. John Warner (R-VA) pressed Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker again. “Is all this sacrifice bringing about a more secure America?” he asked.

But Petraeus — seemingly glancing at his notes — did not directly answer. “There is no longer a ruthless dictator in Iraq,” he said. “Ultimately, it can only be answered by history, once the outcome in Iraq has been determined. … I believe the more important question is at this point how to achieve our our important interests in Iraq.”

Warner, noticing Petraeus’s hedge, pressed again:

WARNER: It was a fairly simple question: does that translate into a greater security for those of us at home? … Can you now just tell us in simple language tell us yes it is worth it, and it is making us safer here at home?

PETRAEUS: Senator, I do believe it is worth it, otherwise I would have not accepted. … I took on the task of, the privilege of command of MNF-Iraq because I do believe that it is worth, and I do believe the interests there are of enormous importance, again, to our country, not just to the people of Iraq and the people of that region and the world.

When Warner asked Crocker the same question, Crocker praised efforts against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), saying AQI has been “lessened.” “I do believe that makes America safer,” Crocker said. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/04/PetraeusAmericaSafer.320.240.flv]

Petraeus and Crocker refused to admit that fighting in Iraq does nothing to decrease the threat from the global al Qaeda terrorist network. FBI Director Robert Mueller recently cited the “three-tiered threat” that al Qaeda poses to the West, but Iraq is not referenced in that analysis:

The top tier was the core of the organisation which had established new sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The middle tier was the most complex, consisting of small, self-directed groups like the London bombers of 7/7 who had some ties to al-Qaeda’s leadership. The bottom tier, said Mr Mueller, was made up of homegrown extremists who met on the internet instead of in foreign training camps.

Similarly, the New York Times reported today that fears of Iraq becoming a terrorist incubator “appear to be overblown,” as “the number of fighters going to Iraq [from Europe] has been extremely small,” according to French intelligence. But the longer the U.S. occupies Iraq, the danger that Iraq may become an incubator will increase.

Update

Iraq Insider notes that our “nation’s lack of readiness” affects our national security as well.

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