Petraeus Testimony: Hecklers and Faint Praise

Gen. Petraeus goes before Congress – Yahoo! News

Gen. David Petraeus went before a deeply divided Congress on Monday, the commander of 165,000 troops heckled and criticized by anti-war critics before he began to speak. “Tell the truth, general,” shouted protesters as the four-star general made his way into the crowded hearing room. Petraeus did not respond, either to them or to the sole heckler who interrupted the session in its opening seconds.

“We’re not going to have any disturbances,” declared Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., who presided over the long-awaited hearing. “We’re going to ask that they be immediately escorted out. Do that now. Out they go,” he said.

A moderate midwesterner and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Skelton welcomed Petraeus to hearing with wistful words of praise. Petraeus is “almost certainly the right job for the job in Iraq, but he’s the right person three years too late and 250,000 troops short,” Skelton said.

Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker listened quietly at the witness table as Skelton called on them to “tell us why we should continue sending our young men and women to fight and die if the Iraqis won’t make the tough sacrifices leading to reconciliation.” “….Are we merely beating a dead horse?” the congressman asked.

Skelton’s tone is exactly right. Petraeus is a senior leader tasked by the elected policy-makers of the country with an incredibly difficult task.

Further, the questions he’s asking are the right ones. It’s Congress’ job to conduct oversight on our bureaucracies — of which the military is merely a special case — and the job of the senior executives of those departments to provide Congress with information and expert advice to help them make sound judgments. The process, though, should be conducted with a certain amount of dignity.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Iraq War, Military Affairs, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    It’s Congress’ job to conduct oversight on our bureaucracies

    And whose job is it to conduct oversight on Congress? They sure as hell don’t listen to the US citizens which is apparent from the lowest approval rating in history.

  2. James Joyner says:

    They sure as hell don’t listen to the US citizens which is apparent from the lowest approval rating in history.

    We have elections for Congress the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years. There’s another chance for the citizens to make their voice heard fourteen months from now.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    James is right about the election. Anyone who supports the disgusting ad placed in the NYT by should be voted out of office.

  4. markm says:

    ““No one wants to call [Petraeus] a liar on national TV,” noted one Democratic senator, who spoke on the condition on anonymity. “The expectation is that the outside groups will do this for us.””

    As was pointed out by a commenter at another blog: “So much for any dissociation between and the Democrat party. And as of this morning, none f the Democrats running for their party’s 2008 presidential nomination has publicly condemned the MoveOn/NYT”