Last Night Opens The Door
After seeing some of Bush's pitch last night, I have some observations aside from the anger I usually feel after one of his speeches.
After reviewing some of the testimony earlier this week by Petraeus and Crocker, how did we go in two days from Petraeus not knowing what things will be like next spring, to the White House leaking talk of a permanent Korea-type presence in Iraq, and Bush talking about "an enduring relationship?" I don't recall much if any testimony by Petraeus and Crocker touting an enduring relationship, nor do I recall them talking about the administration's plans for one. Therefore, Congress wasted two days with these guys, and after Bush's speech last night, must now call CENTCOM commander Admiral Willian Fallon and Condi Rice to justify such a presence and the planning and assumptions behind it.
This is not just a political exercise to get Fallon to Washington to trash Petraeus, but rather a congressional prerogative to find out what "enduring relationship" really means, why we should commit our military at those levels in this region, and what their mission is supposed to be, before Congress funds it. And Congress now can drag Fallon to Washington to ask how making Iraq into Korea affects the war in Afghanistan and the overall war on terrorists, namely how this affects CENTCOM. But first and foremost, his speech last night now opens the door for Congress to find out if any of this was thought out, or did Bush simply pull it out of his ass without talking to the Pentagon?
Congress has the authority to get the Pentagon to tell them the planning and assumptions behind making Iraq into Korea. Congress likewise has the authority to force the State Department to explain why we are now putting the military cart before the diplomatic horse by talking about permanent bases inside Iraq, when we haven't done any of the regional diplomatic work suggested by Baker/Hamilton almost a year ago.
If CENTCOM is already developing a counter-Petraeus report for January that will recommend a sharp drawdown, then it's clear that last night's speech didn't get run by Fallon before it was given. I also think Congress should immediately ask the State Department when and where did the Iraqis request this "enduring relationship" with the United States, specifically what does the Iraqi government envision in this area if anything. Perhaps the media can go back to al-Maliki today to see when and where he asked Bush to station ten brigades inside his country for decades.
And if it turns out that Bush didn't consult with CENTCOM before last night's speech, and if it turns out he lied to the American people about Iraq seeking a Korea-type American presence in their country, then it is time for Congress, and specifically the Democratic leadership to reveal this through hearings and hammer it over and over. But beyond that, if Bush lied to the country's face last night and didn't even consult with his chain of command, then it is time for Congress to take control of this war from him and tell Robert Gates he is working for a political corpse.