Questions for Petraeus and Crocker

What they didn't answer on Day 1.

Published September 11, 2007 1:28PM (EDT)

A few questions we'd like to see asked -- and maybe even answered -- as Gen. David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker testify before the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services committees today.

1. Ambassador Crocker, you said last month that the "whole premise" of the "surge" was to bring down violence in Iraq so that "there would be the time and space for political leadership to get on with the business of national reconciliation." By all accounts, the "political leadership" in Iraq has not taken advantage of whatever "breathing space" it has been given. By definition, then, hasn't the "surge" been a failure?

2. Gen. Petraeus, you claimed Monday that there has been a 45 percent reduction in civilian killings between December 2006 and August 2007 -- a number that conflicts with the findings of the Associated Press, which reports just a 17 percent drop in civilian killings since December 2006 and nearly a 100 percent increase in killings since August 2006. How do you explain the difference between your numbers and the AP's? And if your method of counting sectarian killings is "not that complicated," as you said Monday, will you tell us, in detail, how you do your math?

3. Ambassador Crocker, Gen. Petraeus told the House of Representatives Monday that his written testimony had "not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress until it was just handed out." Can you provide us with the same assurance about your testimony? And if you can't, please identify each member of the Bush administration -- or anyone else -- with whom you consulted in crafting your testimony today.

4. Gen. Petraeus, you suggested Monday that the success of the "surge" so far -- and the "further progress" you say you expect to make "over the next few months" -- leaves you comfortable suggesting that the U.S. troop levels in Iraq can be reduced to pre-"surge" levels by next July. But isn't it true -- as Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno and Adm. Mike Mullen have acknowledged -- that the current strain on the military means that troop levels in Iraq would have to be reduced starting next spring regardless of whether the surge is a "success" or not?

5. Gen. Petraeus, you said Monday that nobody could have predicted back in January the sort of progress you're seeing in the Anbar province now. But isn't it true that you yourself noted the positive "trend" in Anbar when you testified before the Senate in January? Is it really fair to credit that as a success of the "surge" now?

6. Gen. Petraeus, you were asked Monday about differences between you and Adm. William Fallon with respect to troop levels in Iraq. You answered the question narrowly, saying that "Adm. Fallon fully supports the recommendations that I have made." In light of press reports that both Fallon and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have expressed different views than yours about the way forward in Iraq, please describe the nature of your discussions with Fallon and Gates or their surrogates and explain and how it is -- if it is -- that Adm. Fallon has come to support your recommendations. Is the president really listening to the generals, or is the president or anyone else in the administration shaping what the generals say?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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