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

Share

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

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£70 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Learning Support Assistants n...

Teachers required for Cambridge Primary positions Jan 2015

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in Cambridge...

British Sign Language Teaching Assistant

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education are lookin...

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The appearance of Miguel Arias Canete at a Brussels hearing last Wednesday caused 100,000 people to sign a petition to prevent his appointment  

TTIP is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the EU's suspect relationships with corporations

Lee Williams
 

Being catcalled, groped and masturbated at is a common part of the female experience

Bryony Beynon
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain