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Should generals be setting political policy?

President Bush, whose credibility on running the Iraq war is around 5 percent, says "America should listen" to Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is testifying today before Congress that the surge of armed forces is working and that major troop withdrawals should be delayed. This is also Bush's position.

Petraeus said the Iraq war was going well three years ago.

In an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post in September, 2004, Petraeus wrote:

"I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up. The institutions that oversee them are being re-established from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward."

Bush has made Petraeus a pivotal and polarizing figure. Right-wing talk shows are saying criticism of Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, is tantamount to treason. Moveon-org, a liberal organization, took out newspaper ads charging Petraeus with betrayal.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., observed that Petraeus is in town to tell people he is "doing a good job." The Democats as a party however, while critical of Bush, have backed away from setting a date for withdrawal.

The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee is calling on Democrats to denounce Moveon.org's "despicable ad." The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is distributing material showing that the Defense Intelligency Agency has data showing Petraeus's talk of progress is wrong.

American forces now number 160,000, not counting private security and other contractors, and the war is costing billions a month. The best that can be anticipated is the withdrawal of only 5,000 troops around Christmastime.

-- Douglas Turner

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