Rupert Cornwell: Democrats are powerless as testimony buys more time for Bush


After weeks of feverish build-up, the general has finally spoken. But even before he opened his mouth yesterday one thing was clear. Whether or not General David Petraeus is correct in asserting that the surge is finally bearing fruit in Iraq, here in Congress, where the domestic argument over the war will be decided, the battle is raging more inconclusively than ever.

The appearance of the top US commander in Iraq before a joint session of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees was billed as the most important by an American general in time of war since William Westmoreland went before Congress in 1967 to plead for more troops for Vietnam. And at least until they fumbled for 10 minutes to make his microphone work, it was.

Introductory statements by committee big-wigs are usually polite occasions. But not this time. From the opening bell, Democrats and Republicans were at each other's throats.

With its policies, the Bush administration had created "a fiasco", said Tom Lantos, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Affairs panel, a debacle that was "wrecking the military, forcing great sacrifices by families and the endless spending of young lives". Forget the gradual troop drawdown offered by General Petraeus, to return to pre-surge levels by next summer. That was "nowhere near enough", Mr Lantos said. "We need to go, and the time to go is now." Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was only marginally more polite. General Petraeus might be the right person – but he was "three years too late, and 250,000 troops short".

Their Republican opposite numbers of course would have none of it, and an own goal by MoveOn.Org played straight into their hands. "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" screamed a full-page ad in The New York Times yesterday, placed by the anti-war group on the Democratic left. Slandering your political opponents is one thing. Suggesting a top general is committing treason is quite another.

Duncan Hunter and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the senior Republicans on the committees, rushed to denounce this attack on the general's integrity. Perish the thought that Petraeus might be reading a White House script. In case anyone doubted it, he denied it in person: "This is my testimony. It has not been shared with anyone."

The words of General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, Washington's envoy in Baghdad, counted as little against the raw arithmetic of Congress. Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to force a withdrawal timetable through the Senate. In short, the surge will run its course and President Bush will run his war pretty much as he wishes. It will be for his successor, probably a Democrat, to clear up the mess.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas