Bush Calls for Immediate Halt of Troop Withdrawals, By Recommendation of General Petraeus

My younger sister, Rachel, received notice that her National Guard unit will be deployed to Iraq in February 2009. It's a little difficult for me to think forward to next year, but when discussing the Iraq War, February is not that far away. Even more difficult to comprehend is my 23-year-old sister going off to war.

My poor mother is devastated. It was only a year and a half ago that my younger brother Nathan returned from his 17-month deployment in Kuwait. Having two children in the military is the most difficult thing my mother has had to endure. I can't imagine watching my son or daughter going over seas for a year or more to defend whatever it is that our U.S. troops are fighting for.

The Iraq War has been in the news quite often these last few days. Senator Hillary Clinton believes she is the only presidential candidate who can begin a "prompt drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq."

Clinton said McCain is unwilling to withdraw troops, and Obama cannot be trusted to do so. Her comments came one day after the three candidates spent a rare day in the Senate questioning the top U.S. Military commander in Iraq.

"One candidate will continue the war," she told an audience at Hopewell High School, near Pittsburgh. "One candidate only says he'll end the war. And one candidate is ready, willing and able to end the war."

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell believes that the next President of the United States will have to come to grips with the reality that the United States cannot continue to keep such large numbers of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Without taking sides in the race for the White House, Powell said, "Whichever one of them becomes president on Jan. 1, 2009, they will face a military force that cannot continue to sustain 140,000 people deployed in Iraq and the 20 (thousand) odd or 25,000 people we have deployed in Afghanistan and our other deployments."

General David Petraeus has recommended the immediate halt of all troop withdrawals from Iraq, and President Bush has backed Petraeus' advisory.

Seven months after telling Congress that he would offer a plan for reducing the troop presence, the general instead recommended a halt in troop withdrawals after roughly 30,000 ''surge'' troops leave this summer, followed by at least 45 days to consider any further pullbacks. The situation, he said, was too tenuous to do more than that.

General Petraeus believes that further pullouts might trigger defeat, but will still complete the withdrawal of troops sent to Iraq last year:

Petraeus wants the U.S. to complete, by the end of July, the withdrawal of the 20,000 troops that were sent to Iraq last year to deal with the violence there. Beyond that, the general proposed a 45-day evaluation period, to be followed by an indefinite period of assessment before he would recommend any further pullouts.

Bush said U.S. forces have made major gains since he ordered a buildup of about 30,000 U.S. forces last year. "We have renewed and revived the prospect of success" the president said.

Since my sister revealed the news of her deployment, I've laid awake at night. I keep thinking of the hundreds of thousands of men and women currently serving in the military, stationed thousands of miles from their homes, away from their families. I worry about the many more who will be sent over to Iraq and Afghanistan to serve 12 and 15 month terms.

General Petraeus and President Bush claim that progress is being made in Iraq. Wouldn't it be wise, then, to start bringing some of our troops home? In so many ways, these men and women of the military are almost serving a prison sentence, under the guise of fighting for the freedoms of others.

The complexity of this war is taking a toll not only on Americans who merely watch the news from the comforts of their living rooms, but also on the husbands, wives, children and parents of these soldiers. Our American troops are pushed to the breaking point every day they are stationed in the Middle East. Add to that our failing American economy and I wonder: Are we really making progress, or creating an even bigger problem for ourselves?

Fran from The Sirens Chronicles writes:

I don’t think any of us really believe the dog & pony show, otherwise known as the testimony from Petraeus & Crocker would yield any earth shattering revelations. They are kind of like wooden dummies on the lap of the bushco ventriliquists- they are told what to say & how to say it.

A View From Middle England writes:

[Petraeus'] Capitol Hill showing displayed all the body language of a man trying to please his masters, whilst desperately keeping his intellect in check. John McCain and his 100 Years War psyche were well satisfied. Others were less sure. I'm very much a conservative opposed to this pantomime of trying to suggest that al-Queda is the enemy in Iraq. Thankfully, one senator, Joe Biden, got Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador to admit that Afghanistan and Pakistan, not Iraq, was the central front in the battle against al-Qaeda. Is Mr.Crocker spending too much time in a fantasy world?

From Crooks and Liars (regarding Bush's acceptance of Petraeus' recommendations):

The “debate” over the surge has always perplexed me. We can all acknowledge that violence has mainly decreased. One doesn’t need a masters degree in foreign affairs to know that flooding more troops in would help cause that. The real issue is whether (a) the levels are sustainable — they’re not — and (b) whether the “surge” has achieved the intended result of providing the Iraqi government the breathing room needed to make the essential political progress — it hasn’t. By every meaningful measure, the surge has been a failure, providing breathing room only to President Bush so that he can pass along the disaster he started to the next President. Then again, that was probably the goal all along.

Michelle Malkin liveblogged Petraeus giving his testimony in which she includes several charts and graphs.

Max Boot says we should resist the urge to leave Iraq:

The question that opponents of the war effort have to answer is: Will Iraq's problems become better or worse if we pull our troops out? Few who have spent any time in Iraq doubt that an American withdrawal would trigger chaos that would make the recent fighting in Basra look like a picnic. That would be not only a terrible stain on our honor (we might be indirectly responsible for genocide) but a significant strategic setback because it could destabilize the entire region.

Victory -- defined as a democratic state that does not oppress its own people, provide a haven for terrorists, proliferate weapons of mass destruction or threaten its neighbors -- remains eminently achievable if we listen to the best advice of Petraeus and Crocker and resist the urge to pull our troops out too fast. If we ignore their warnings and head for the exits, we are assured of the worst military defeat in U.S. history and a major victory for Shiite and Sunni extremists who will continue to attack us in the future.

After all these years of war, I'm at a loss for words. There really is nothing more I can say. I'm at my own breaking point. How do we know what the next move, the right move, should be? Can we trust Congress? Can we trust our President? Can we trust the candidates? Can we trust General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker? Can we honestly afford this war any longer?

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