A mission that is terribly wrong

A mission that is terribly wrong
To get a sense of just how varied the opinions are on our progress with the war in Iraq, and more specifically, with Gen. David Petraeus' outlook of our situation there, you need to look no further than our own delegation in Congress.

On Monday, Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq, outlined plans for the withdrawal of 30,000 troops by next summer. His comments drew praise from the White House, but he received a chilly reception from anti-war Democrats. On Tuesday, as he addressed members of a Senate committee, it was clear that members of both parties were not happy.

"It comes as no surprise that, as General Petraeus testified today, (Monday) we have seen some security improvements in parts of Baghdad over the past few months. I have never doubted that sending tens of thousands of additional American troops into any situation across the globe would have a positive effect on security," Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) said. "However, like most South Dakotans, I'm sorely disappointed that the objective of the President's surge strategy – to give the Iraqi government time to reconcile key political differences – has yet to be realized. The inaction and ineffectiveness of the elected leadership in Iraq has resulted in continued danger and loss of life and limb and other injuries for our troops.

"It has also resulted in increased impatience and skepticism among many here in the United States regarding the Iraqis' ability to resolve a number of serious and fundamental issues necessary for stability to take hold," she said.

"I appreciate the work being done by General Petraeus and our brave men and women in Iraq. That being said, his recommendations would merely bring our troop presence in Iraq back to pre-surge levels by July of 2008," Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) said.�The current strategy is not working and I certainly don't believe in more of the same.

"This war has already lasted longer than World War II. I believe now is time to transition our mission to one that focuses on training Iraqi security forces, conducting counter-terrorism operations, turning power over to the Iraqis, and decreasing the American footprint in Iraq," he said.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), however, is encouraged by what he heard from Petraeus. Thune is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Democrat proposals for immediate withdrawal or a complete withdrawal probably aren't going to do very well in light of the testimony being provided," Thune said during a break in the hearing.

"The ground has shifted a little bit and hopefully we'll be able to, on a bipartisan basis, look at what's in our national best interest going forward," Thune said, "with an eye and hope toward being able to draw down some of our troop levels next year."

It likely was no accident that Petraeus' final day of testimony was on Tuesday, Sept. 11, the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

History buffs compare that horrible day to Dec. 7,

1941, when Japan attacked the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor.

George W., however, has demonstrated that he is no FDR. The differences between our reactions following Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001 are striking. From the 1941 attack, there was forged a sense of national mission and purpose. Those feelings of shock, disbelief and anger became the building blocks of a consensus that we would do whatever, spend whatever, sacrifice whatever, until victory was won.

After the attacks of 2001, by contrast, we talked of national mission and purpose, but it soon became apparent that it was only talk.

Those feelings of shock, disbelief and anger became instead the building blocks of a political machine that duped the nation into a war of choice that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks.

This machine has eroded American civil liberties under the guise of protecting American lives and branded as traitors those who said, "Hey, wait a minute."

Worst of all, it squandered the moment. Our chief executive threw away a historic chance to build a national – and international – consensus that could have marginalized the architects of terror, maybe even reshaped the world, more effectively than all the bombs and bullets used to date in Iraq.

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