As we all know, General David Petraeus is slated early next week to deliver his long-awaited congressional testimony on Iraq. Don't expect any big surprises. In fact, I happen to have the advance transcript right here, complete with the senatorial exchanges that haven't even happened yet. Here's an exclusive excerpt.
PETRAEUS: "...And so, in conclusion, my assessment of the most feasibly relevent metrics has led me to determine that while we are indeed making measurable progress and success toward achieving our strategic goals, some difficult challenges still need to be assessed in order to cement our success and progress. Put another way, while we do face many significant challenges in the short, medium, and long terms, with respect to our optimal stability goals, we are indeed making progress on some metrically measurable fronts. And therefore it would be prudent to ask for more patience, and to continue current policies, with the goal of reassessing all our success and progress in perhaps another six months. I thank the committee for this opportunity, and I look forward to answering your questions."
DEMOCRATIC Q: "Thank you, General, and if you would permit me, I would like to offer a note of skepticism. But first, I do want to emphasize that I am impressed and gratified by the rows of medals and ribbons that adorn your uniform, all of which are testaments to your unimpeachable bravery and valor and honor, and that goes as well for a uniform that, at least from my humble vantage point, seems truly to have been pressed and ironed with such patriotic precision that, dare I say, the buttons on your sleeves are glinting in the sunlight that is flooding our committee room -- "
REPUBLICAN Q: "Excuse me, but at the risk of talking out of turn, may I say that I think it is only fair to point out that the general's sleeve buttons are glowing, not merely 'glinting,' and the suggestion of only a glint constitutes an unfair Democrat attack on our brave fighting men and women. On this anniversary week of 9/11, this is a time when we all must support our troops, and for a member of this chamber to even imply that one of their commanding officers is less than fastidious about his -- "
DEMOCRATIC Q: "Oh my yes, yes, sorry, sorry, I do apologize, truly I do, and, yes, on second thought, I do concur that those buttons are indeed glowing. And I want to also assure the general that I intend no disrespect whatsoever, with respect to any skepticism I may wish to express regarding his testimony. I do confess, though, that I am a bit confused about one or two points. You testified, for example, that, according to Pentagon figures, sectarian violence in Iraq has declined since the surge began. Yet there have been a number of independent reports that have concluded otherwise. And I have here a Washington Post report, from last week, in which intelligence analysts complain that the Pentagon has simply eliminated whole categories of death, such as car bombs, in order to make the overall numbers go down. With your permission, may I read one quote from that Post story? 'If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian. If it went through the front, it's criminal.' I would be grateful if you could comment on that."
PETRAEUS: "I have not read that report, which appeared in a newspaper that is not known to be a friend of the administration, which I loyally serve. And if we fail to count deaths from bullets in the back of the head, then we will be fighting them over here."
DEMOCRATIC Q: "I appreciate the opportunity to follow up, by noting, with all due respect and deference, that you wrote a guest column for that same newspaper, shortly before the 2004 election, in which you expressed optimistic views about Iraq. At the time, you were being entrusted by the Bush administration to build and arm the Iraqi forces. You wrote - and I have it right here - that we were making "tangible progress...in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load of their own security." Yet now we have a new report, from an independent commission headed by a retired Marine general which says that the Iraqi forces will need at least another 12 to 18 months to stand up on their own. May we perhaps conclude, general, that, as you assess the surge,you are not the most objective observer? And in no way whatsoever do I consider that question to be an attack on our brave fighting men and women, please don't -- "
PETRAEUS: "We have made tangible progress because of the surge, but there is more hard work to be done - as that commission indeed suggests. So if it is wise to stay the course over the next 12 to 18 months, I am sure that our brave fighting men and women are up to the task of preventing another 9/11, the sixth anniversary of which is this week."
REPUBLICAN Q: "Mr. Chairman, I must protest this persistent star-chamber treatment of our illustrious guest in whom our president has rightly placed his trust. And at the risk of breaching the decorum of this august body, I also wish to note something that our president said the other day on the far side of the world. He reportedly told the deputy prime minister of Australia, that, with respect to our troops in Iraq, 'We're kicking ass.' Setting aside my Democrat friend's unhelpful questions, may I say that 'kicking ass' in the global war on terror is one metric we can all understand."
DEMOCRATIC Q: "I applaud my Republican friend for pointing that out, and I do believe that all my questions have been satisfactorily answered. But now I will issue a challenge to all my esteemed Republican colleagues. I want them to join us in sponsoring new war legislation - we just finalized the language - which is designed to take the notion of a cautious, incremental troop withdrawal, and turn that notion into a concept, whereupon, if there is tangible progress on the surge in six months time, we will take that concept and turn it into an idea, with the future objective of turning that idea into a goal. General Petraeus? Sir? Would you be willing, in six months time, to return here, with your glowing sleeve buttons, and assist us further in our deliberations?"
PETRAEUS: "You forgot to mention my uniform."