Senate Democrats

Troubling Questions About the September Report on Iraq

Yesterday, a Los Angeles Times story raised grave concerns that the President may rely on White House operatives rather than seasoned experts when he writes his September report to Congress on whether his surge strategy in Iraq has achieved its original goal of providing a political solution for Iraq.  Today, theWashington Post reported that the White House was proposing to restrict General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to testifying to Congress only in closed session. These reports contradict the repeated statements by Administration officials that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker would provide their frank and candid assessments without political interference and that their testimony would be key to informing the debate about future strategy in Iraq. These moves by the White House are troubling and beg a number of questions: Has the Bush Administration purposely invoked Petraeus and Crocker to add credibility to what they intend to be a report full of spin? Will the report provide an objective assessment of the situation in Iraq if it is written by the White House? And what is the Administration trying to hide by limiting their testimony to closed session?

Contrary to prior statements, White House staffers will write September Report on Iraq:  

Los Angeles Times Reported White House Will Write Report. “Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/15/07]

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker said they would make an assessment in September:

General Petraeus Said He and Ambassador Crocker Would Provide a Forthright Assessment in September. Asked if he was backing away from how much he was going to be able to say in September, Petraeus answered, “I am not. In fact, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, my diplomatic wing man here, and I will go back in September and we’ll provide a snapshot of where we are at that time, and it will be a forthright assessment of what we’ve achieved and what we haven’t achieved. I’ll talk, obviously, about the security aspects of the situation and he will address the political and economic ones.” [Fox News Sunday, 6/17/07]

Ambassador Crocker Said that He and General Petraeus Will Make an Assessment in September. “Well, General Petraeus and I are both fond of saying that there are two times out there, two clocks, an Iraqi clock and an American clock, and the American clock is running quite a bit faster than the Iraqi one. In September, he and I will be going back to Washington. We will make an assessment. What we say obviously will depend on how we evaluate circumstances at the time. We will clearly have something to say. The long-term process leading to what we all hope is eventual stabilization, security and political accommodation may well, indeed — it will take a lot longer than September. What we all hope to be able to point to by September are signs that the general direction is right.” [Fox News Transcripts, 6/3/07]

Bush Administration officials repeatedly asserted that report would come from General Petraeus and Ambassado Crocker:

President Bush Said He Would Base Strategy in Iraq on Petraeus’ Report. “I will repeat, as the Commander-in-Chief of a great military who has supported this military and will continue to support this military, not only with my — with insisting that we get resources to them, but with — by respecting the command structure, I’m going to wait for David to come back — David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees. And then we’ll use that data, that — his report to work with the rest of the military chain of command, and members of Congress, to make another decision, if need be.” [President Bush Press Conference, 7/12/07]

President Bush Said General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker Will Report on the Success of the Surge. “As you know, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be coming back to report on the findings of the success of the surge. The surge success will not only include military successes and military failures, but also political successes and political failures.” [President Bush Press Conference, 8/8/07]

Secretary Rice Said We Will Wait to See What Petraeus and Crocker Report. “Well, the President will get this report and then we will be able to chart a coherent way forward. But I think that there are many very good elements here. Clearly, the security situation with American forces working closely with Iraqi forces has improved some. Clearly, the situation in Anbar, which just a little while ago was considered the epicenter of al-Qaida’s activities, has really turned; and there, we’re working with locals. Clearly, too, we have a lot of work to do on the political side. But Chris, I would not underestimate the importance of the continuing work of the leaders of these very powerful parties in Iraq working through the presidency council with the Prime Minister to try to forge a compromise on some of these very essential elements. So I think there are some very good elements. There are clearly some — there’s a lot more work to do. But we will see what General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report. But, obviously, the President is looking to chart a way that is coherent, a way that stabilizes Iraq, and a way that exercises our obligations to the region to leave the region more stable with a stable Iraq at its center.” [Fox News Sunday, 8/5/07]

Secretary Rice Said We Will Have a Better Assessment When Petraeus and Crocker Report in September. “I think we will have a better assessment of where we are when General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker report in September, because right now we are beginning to see progress on what I would call inputs, the security forces that are going into the field, the policies that are being adopted. But what we now need to see are the results of those inputs and that includes movement on legislation.” [CBS News Transcripts, 7/13/07] 

Secretary Gates Said We Should Have Confidence in the Evaluation Petraeus and Crocker Will Make in September. “Well, I think that what we should have confidence in is the evaluation that Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are going to make in early September. These men have been on the ground for quite some time now. They are the best of our professionals. They will look at this. Their report–certainly General Petraeus’ part of it–will be examined by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent to me and then to the president. So it, it won’t be entirely General Petraeus; it’ll be mostly General Petraeus. But what we’re trying to do is get an honest an evaluation of this situation as we possibly can so that the president and the Congress can decide how to move forward.” [Meet the Press, 8/5/07] 

Tony Snow Said September Report Would Be a “Joint Report By General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.” “Now, let us keep in mind that the full burden of this report does not fall on his shoulders. A lot of the key judgments, especially about politics, will fall on Ambassador Crocker. So this is — although I know a lot of people talk about "the Petraeus report," in fact, you have a report that is a joint report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. And so we trust him.” [White House Press Briefing, 8/1/07]

Tony Snow Said Crocker and Petraeus Would Be Issuing a Report by September 15th. “Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus will be issuing a report, again pursuant to that legislation, that’s due September 15th.” [White House Press Briefing, 7/23/07

Dana Perino Said General Petraeus Would Bring His Recommendations to the President in September. “What the president is asking for is for people to allow David Petraeus’ plans to have a little bit more time to work so that by September when we have that final report when the general brings his recommendations to the president, we’ll have a much more fuller picture based on the results of the surge.” [Fox News Transcripts, 7/12/07]

Dana Perino Said There Is Going to Be a Report from Crocker and Petraeus in September. “Obviously, there is going to be a report from Ambassador Crocker and General David Petraeus in September.” [White House Press Gaggle, 8/14/07]

Bush Adminstration proposed limiting Petraeus and Crocker’s public testimony:

Bush Administration Proposed Allowing Petraeus and Crocker to Only Testify to Congress in Closed Sessions.  “Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration’s progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense… White House officials suggested to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Petraeus and Crocker would brief lawmakers in a closed session before the release of the report, congressional aides said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide the only public testimony.” [Washington Post, 8/16/07]

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