Senate Democrats

Iraq Accountability Project: A Wrap-Up of This Week’s Senate Oversight in Iraq

This week Senate Democrats continued holding oversight on the President’s conduct of the war.  Senate Democrats are united in their determination to hold the President accountable for his failed strategy in Iraq and guarantee American veterans receive the care they earned, and deserve.  

Thursday, July 19th

 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
“Hearing on Iraq: An Update from the Field” 

  • Ambassador Crocker described the prevailing feeling among Iraqis as “fear” and testified that violence continues to hinder the Iraqi government’s ability to function effectively.
  • Ambassador Crocker retreated from the idea of using benchmarks to measure progress in Iraq, while Senator Kerry accused the Bush Administration of changing the definition of success in Iraq.
  • Senators agreed that time is running out before America’s strategy in Iraq must be altered.

Ambassador Crocker described the prevailing feeling among Iraqis as “fear”

RYAN C. CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: If there is one word, I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level that word would be “fear.”

Ambassador Crocker testified that violence continues to hinder the Iraqi government’s ability to function effectively.

AMBASSADOR CROCKER: I will not present the Iraqi government as a model of smoothly running efficiency…. Because it is not…. The stresses and strains and tensions throughout society are reflected in the government.

 Ambassador Crocker retreated from the idea of using benchmarks to measure progress in Iraq.

 AMBASSADOR CROCKER: The longer I am here, the more I am persuaded that progress in Iraq cannot be analyzed solely in terms of these discreet, precisely defined benchmarks because, in many cases, these benchmarks do not serve as reliable measures of everything that is important – Iraqi attitudes toward each other and their willingness to work toward political reconciliation….

SEN. BIDEN: You say that the benchmarks, in your statement, are not a reliable measure. Then what is the measure of whether or not political process and reconciliation is taking place? And I would add the very progress you show in Anbar Province is the very thing having Shia leaders call me here in Washington saying we’re picking sides, that we are aiding and abetting the Sunnis in a civil war. I’m not suggesting that’s right or wrong. I’m relaying the fear. The idea that we are making progress in the provinces relative to Al Qaida I respectfully suggest is making it harder for you to deal with the Shia generally in accommodating a real political reconciliation. But what are the benchmarks – not benchmarks. What are the objective criteria we should be looking at to determine whether or not Iraqi attitudes toward each other and the willingness to work together on reconciliation is happening?

Senator Kerry accused the Bush Administration of changing the definition of success in Iraq.

SEN. KERRY: In the absence of that political settlement, our troops are going to remain in the same trap they’re in today, where there’s, as Senator Lugar said, inadequate people to do the job and the ability of Al Qaida and others to use our presence to continue to be the magnet for terrorism and for jihadists and for naysayers and opponents and so forth. So where do we go in looking for that political compromise if you’re moving the goalposts at this point in time and what do Americans have to look forward to in terms of a real resolution, since there can only be a political settlement of this conflict?

Senators agreed that time is running out before America’s strategy in Iraq must be altered.

SEN. BIDEN: I believe there is no possibility we will have 160,000 troops in Iraq a year from now. It’s just not going to be the case. So time is running out in a big way….

SEN. VOINOVICH: There’s got to be some real evidence that action’s taking place there and everything you can do to convey to Mr. Maliki and his executive committee, to the other players in the region that the American people’s patience is running out.…

SEN. HAGEL: So I’m a bit puzzled because if, in fact, we’re buying time, I think the question needs to be addressed, we’re buying time for what? How long is enough time? We’re in our fifth year and we still see no political reconciliation occurring. Actually, I think we’re going backward.

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