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Democratic Candidates Offer Their Questions for Petraeus


By Matt Stoller, Huffington Post

3500 people and more than 50 Democratic congressional candidates have endorsed a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, a plan validated by retired Generals, national security experts, and profiled in both the Washington Post and Dailykos (and mentioned on This Week with George Stephanopoulos). This is a new power center rooted in Congress, within national security elites, and among activists that offers a responsible approach to national security in which the question is not whether the tactics of the surge are working but whether our presence in Iraq is making us more secure. I've been asking several of the Congressional candidates who endorse the plan what they would ask Petraeus were they in Congress. Here are some of their questions.

Darcy Burner, Democratic candidate for WA-08:

Gen. Petraeus, in March 2007, a few weeks after taking charge of U.S. military forces in Baghdad, you said, "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq." More than a year later, rockets are still falling in the Green Zone and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are fighting each other for power in Baghdad and Basra. The political reconciliation the surge was intended to foster has not happened, nor has any significant diplomatic breakthrough been achieved. So, given that we agree that there is no military solution to the problems we face, is our costly open-ended military commitment to Iraq really making the Unted States safer?

Steve Novick, OR-Senate:

1) The hope of the surge was that it would create the space for political reconciliation and compromise in Iraq. But the Iraqi government and other power centers in the nation remains mired in disagreement with little real progress. Last week, it was the Iranians that reportedly brokered a truce between the Iraqi government and Sadr's Mahdi Army. The level of violence has settled back to 2005 levels. Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

Jill Derby, NV-02:

"The question I would ask Gen. Petraeus is this: 'The Army is saying that more than 25 percent of soldiers on third or fourth tours suffer mental health problems and Army Chief Of Staff General Casey called the Army "out of balance." What are we doing to help our troops, vets and their families deal with these issues?'"

Donna Edwards, MD-04:

My first question for the General is: When are you prepared to discuss and implement a multi-tiered approach to Iraq that includes economic, diplomatic, and political options to bring stability and sustainable progress to Iraq? Has the war in Iraq made the United States safer? Is the current U.S. force level in Iraq covering up the lack of political progress in the country and isn't that troop level unsustainable? Doesn't the violence of the last several weeks demonstrate that the central government is weak and that the Iraqi forces are not trained or prepared to defend against the insurgents?

I believe "The Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq" is a critical step in the right direction and is the kind of discussion we need to start having in Washington and across the country."

Bill O'Neill, OH-14:

"The question that needs to be asked is how is our current policy making us safer and why we wouldn't be better off spending that money to address problems at home?"

Don Wiviott, NM-03:

Has the War in Iraq actually made America safer?

What plans are in place to both get our troops out of Iraq and give the Iraqi army a chance to step up to the plate and protect their own country?

Since there is no military solution in Iraq, what steps are we taking to ensure Iraqi officials are working together and moving towards lasting political reconciliation?

The President and other top officials talk about winning the war. What criteria constitutes "winning" the war in Iraq? How will we know when we have "won"?

Leslie Byrne, Democratic candidate for VA-11:

General Petraeus: Since our National Security is at risk from a "broken military" according to many of your peers, how do you plan to salvage the military, given the lack of political and economic progress in Iraq, which after all you said was the purpose of the "Surge"?

Chellie Pingree, ME-01:

The number one question General Petraeus should have to answer is this: Has the war in Iraq made America safer?

Eric Massa (NY-29):

"General depending accounting used, this war will cost us from $2 - 3.5 trillion. Help me explain to my constituents why it is more important to rebuild Iraq and not rebuild America."

Alice Kryzan (NY-25) (in this video):

After five years in Iraq, are we really any safer?

Tim Cunha (FL-06):

When General David Petraeus and U. S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker meet with Congress Tuesday and Wednesday, Tim Cunha, Democratic 6th district congressional candidate, wants them asked: "Is the continued American involvement in the Iraq civil war making America safer?"

Steve Harrison, Democratic candidate for NY-13:

1. General do you believe advocating for a withdrawal from Iraq necessarily indicates either a lack of support for our troops, or a lack of patriotism?

2. General, troop withdrawal is a military operation. Given the current conditions in Iraq, in your expert opinion, what would be a reasonable time frame for complete withdrawal assuming the planning started tomorrow?

3..General, Prime Minister Maliki's surprising attack on the Sadr militia last week showed great weakness in the government's ability to provide security as well as weakness in the government's political ability to unite the country. It also showed great lack of judgment in the capabilities of his military. The Iraqi situation shows no signs of near term stability and it does not appear American military presence has facilitated that goal. In the absence of being able to meet that political goal, what other military goals, in your opinion justify American military presence in Iraq?

Richard Carter, NE-02 (who also sent this video):

"If the United States removed the combat forces in Iraq, would there be any direct threat to the United States? If any threat, what would it be and how could it be mitigated?"

Samm Simpson, FL-10:

In July of 2006, The Lancet, a British Medical Journal, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion. According to Opinion Business Research, those estimates have risen to over 1 million dead. General Petraeus, how do you ascribe the term "victory" in these circumstances? Additionally, how do these deaths make America safer?

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