General Petraeus returned this week trumpeting victory in Iraq (as if anyone expected anything different).
While Democrats claim that Petraeus is presenting a rosy picture of Iraq, word from the judges is that it looks like Petraeus has won this round. Bush’s numbers are up in the polls and the Democrats have backed down on a withdrawal timeline for Iraq.
Part of the reason for their victory is that Bush has spent a great deal of time in building the credibility of General Petraeus unopposed by the media or the opposition. Suddenly this figure, this “boot on the ground,” rises up with all the respectability attributed to the military in general and we’re supposed to believe everything he says.
MoveOn tried to characterize him as General “Be Tray Us”. While clever, this doesn’t ring true. Even opponents seemed begrudgingly impressed when Petraeus didn’t lie in response to Senator John Warner’s question if the war was making our country safer:
WARNER: Are you able to say at this time, if we continue what you have laid before the Congress, this strategy, that if you continue, you are making America safer?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe that this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.
WARNER: Does that make America safer?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I don’t know actually. I have not sat down and sorted out in my own mind. What I have focused on and been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the Multinational Force in Iraq.
In order to betray us, the General would have to be setting the policy and objectives. As it is, he is only following orders. The funny part is that Bush is taking his cues from Petraeus. The beauty of the situation is that no one is responsible for the decision. Petraeus is following orders and Bush is leaving the decisions to the “boots on the ground.” Does this mean that no one is in charge?
The best response to this situation has come from Mike Gravel. Gravel was asked about the “Betray Us” ad and he instead focused on the real issue – Petraeus is a yes man. This is the story that Americans, in their hearts, believe. We don’t believe he betrayed us, we just think he’s a yes man. Some would say, what’s the difference? The difference is, someone who would betray us is willfully against us, while a yes man is just following orders. One is hard to believe, the other has credibility.
The stand that we should take is that we should call a spade a spade. Do we want a military full of yes men? Senator Gravel said it best when he said we need people in the military who are “not afraid to tell the truth to the president and to the American people.”
We should also ask the question, if Petraeus is following orders and Bush is listening to Petraeus, then who’s in charge?