Not to worry if you don’t have time to watch this now; Petraeus’s answer will be replayed endlessly tonight and tomorrow morning on the news. It’s an unfair question since he’s only trying to execute the mission with which he’s been tasked, but since Bush is relying on him so heavily to persuade Americans of the war’s merits Warner really had no choice.
Warner at least was one of the few people there who wasn’t auditioning.
The Times’s Baghdad bureau hit the streets today to find out what Iraqis thought of Petraeus’s refusal to recommend a drawdown beyond the 30,000 surge troops, which Bush is expected to confirm later this week. The verdict:
About 20 Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities said in interviews that they viewed the report favorably because it — or at least the parts shown on television in Iraq — portrayed the situation accurately and because it signaled that there would be little change in the status quo.
There is a rueful recognition of their vulnerability and that they must allow foreign troops to help keep order for some time to come…
A city worker in Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province, described his ambivalence in strong terms…
“The withdrawal of the occupation forces is a must because they have caused the destruction of Iraq, they committed massacres against the innocents, they have double-crossed the Iraqis with dreams,” said Ahmad Umar al-Esawi, a Sunni worker. “I want them to withdraw all their troops in one day.”
But, he added, dropping his voice: “There is something that I want to say although I hate to say it. The Americans forces, which are an ugly occupation force, have become something important to us, the Sunnis. We are a minority and we do not having a force to face the militias. If the Americans leave, it will mean a total elimination of the Sunnis in Iraq.
“I know I said I want them to leave, but if we think about it, then I have to say I want them to stay for a while until we end all the suspicions we have of each other and have a strong national government.”
I don’t know how to square that with the ABC poll from a few days ago showing 47% support (a plurality) for immediate withdrawal.
Meanwhile, U.S. troops in Baghdad tell CNN that they want U.S. politicians to embed with them to see what conditions are really like: “‘If you don’t come out here, then you really have no clue,’ says [Sgt. Antonio] Gonzales, a member of Task Force Justice, which is operating in northern Baghdad. ‘They don’t understand what it is [like] driving down the road and to wonder if you are going to get blown up or not.'”