What will end up being the most famous quote of the Iraq war? Remember, President Bush did not actually say "Mission Accomplished." Perhaps Vice President Cheney's "final throes" will take the prize. But increasingly, as the significance of Gen. David Petraeus grows (seemingly by the minute), it seems possible that it might end up being his once-obscure 2003 remark to a well-known newspaper reporter: "Tell me how this ends."It's 2008 and General David Petraeus still couldn't answer that question when he testified before the Senate and House this week. Dana Milbank reminds us that it wasn't just the Democrats asking the question this time.
From the GOP, the General Gets Unfriendly Fire
"The people of the United States have paid an awful price," thundered Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It's time for the Iraqis to pay that price for their own protection."I have no doubt that David Petraeus is a smart man and as such he has to know the game clock will run out in January, 2009 even if John McCain is elected. So how many Americans will die between now and then because he allows George W. Bush to kick the can down to the next President.
"I still have a hard time seeing the big picture and what constitutes success," complained Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). "That's not just one side of the aisle with those kind of concerns. Many on this side of the aisle have that as well."
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) demanded an explanation for President Bush's unmet promise that the Iraqi government would take over security for all provinces. "Of course, that has not happened," Tancredo complained. "I'm just wondering whether, General Petraeus, you have any idea of why he made that statement?"
By the end of the day, the general and his sidekick, Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, had become accomplished in the art of gulping.
When he appeared before Congress seven months ago, the general was greeted as a returning war hero. But missiles are again raining on the Green Zone in Baghdad, and sadder but wiser lawmakers tempered their enthusiasm.
For the newly skeptical, Petraeus gave the not-entirely-successful defense that he could not define success in Iraq, but that he would know it when he sees it -- much like the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's view of pornography.