We obviously didn’t go into Iraq with the goal of creating an Al Qaeda stronghold there. But Al Qaeda came. And now we have it almost within our grasp to deal a devastating blow to America’s number one enemy. It may actually be easier to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq than along the Pakistani border because in Iraq we don’t have to worry about inadvertently toppling General Pervez Musharraf’s shaky regime.
That the U.S. has turned a corner in the fight with Al Qaeda in Iraq was one of the conclusions one might take away from what General David Petraeus said in two days of measured testimony on Capitol Hill. And are our representatives rolling in glee over the prospect of a potential victory against Al Qaeda?
“Despite what I view is your rather extraordinary efforts in your testimony both yesterday and today,” said Senator Hillary Clinton, the junior senator from New York and the frontrunner Democratic presidential aspirant, “I think that the reports that you provide to us really require a willing suspension of disbelief.”
In other words, Petraeus’ report was theatre. There is nothing in Petraeus’ long and distinguished career that would lead us to believe that this is a man willing to stand before both houses of Congress and lie. But Senator Clinton, perhaps the most important member of her party right now, came very close to accusing him of doing just that.
Congressman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, accused the general of carrying water for the hated Bush Administration. Lantos rejected outright the general’s assessment of improvements in Anbar province. At one point, Lantos seemed to say that he is a better general than Petraeus. Lantos described flying in a helicopter with Petraeus in 2003. Petraeus pointed to an abandoned ammunition dump and said he didn’t have enough people to guard it. 
“Well, General Petraeus, you saw it coming,” Lantos said. (You could look at this anecdote another way: Petraeus-not the overall general in charge of operations in Iraq in 2003-saw it coming and developed the surge strategy that has proven successful in Iraq, if not on Capitol Hill.) The Petraeus-Betray Us ad, a full page in The New York Times, paid for by MoveOn.org, was, of course, more despicable than anything said by elected officials. But MoveOn may have been, if you’ll pardon the expression, carrying water for war opponents unwilling to make slimy charges themselves. Indeed, an unnamed Democratic senator was quoted as saying this in the Politico, a Capitol Hill daily, “No one wants to call [Petraeus] a liar on national TV… The expectation is that the outside groups will do this for us.”
This despicable charge is merely a way to get out of discussing what many on the Hill don’t want to see: good news from Iraq. A legitimate tact might be that George W. Bush is a monster who lied us into Iraq and got thousands of young Americans killed (not, by the way, my view-I believe he will go down in history as a great man who stood firm against our foes when his ratings were lower than Arctic temperatures before global warming), but now, if we leave, we’ll cede victory to an enemy even more brutal than the Bush Administration, Al Qaeda. But the harshest war critics have, for the most part, opted instead for a smear campaign. They refuse to conduct a serious conversation about what happens (to us and the Iraqis) if we leave Iraq prematurely.

While Capitol Hill was preparing to receive General Petraeus, one of the country’s leading war opponents, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the Cleveland Democrat who is running Quixotically for president, was on a “peace” trip to Syria (Club Med for anti-war pols?) where he sucked up to dictator President Bashar Al-Asad. While there, Kucinich lambasted the Bush Administration, calling the Iraq war wrong, on Syrian television.

Kucinich didn’t go to Iraq, he told the Associated Press, because he didn’t want to “bless” the “illegal occupation.” He instead, as his hometown newspaper noted, “blessed a government that harbors terrorists and is under a U.N. cloud for possible involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.”

Kucinich has every right to voice his sentiments-but to attack the United States on television while visiting an authoritarian regime known for its vicious suppression of its own citizens? Our political discourse has reached a level of viciousness that threatens the ability to govern. A heretofore respected general brings good (i.e., bad to some on the Hill) news and instead of discussing the report, he is smeared. A U.S. congressman denounces the war-in a foreign capital. This is truly unprecedented.