The tone of the political debate on the war in Iraq took another turn yesterday when Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) released a statement that claimed in part that the soon to be former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace was not as candid as he should have been about the war in Iraq. “General Peter Pace is a distinguished military veteran and public servant. Unfortunately, in my opinion he was never as candid as he should have been about the conduct and progress of this war.”

“It is my hope that Admiral Michael Mullen, if confirmed as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, will speak up and pull no punches. I also look forward to General Petreaus’s September report to Congress on the President’s escalation policy. We are counting on him to give a fair, honest and frank assessment that tracks with the reality of the situation on the ground. The American people and our soldiers in the field deserve no less,” Reid said.

There is also a report on “The Politico” website which claims that Reid called Pace incompetent in private phone conversation to a group of liberal bloggers last week. During a press conference yesterday, Reid wouldn’t deny this statement, and he did say that Pace, “had not done a very good job in speaking out for some obvious things that weren’t going right in Iraq.” He also said that he was concerned about Gen. Petraeus’s comments in USA Today this week about the situation in Baghdad.

When asked about the troop surge Petraeus said, “If you drive around Baghdad, you’ll find astonishing signs of normalcy in perhaps half to two-thirds of the city. … In fact, the car bomb numbers have come down fairly steadily as well until just a couple of days ago, and we’ll see if we can get those coming down again. …There’s a real vibrancy in certain parts of Iraq, and in others obviously there is continued fighting and a sectarian cycle of violence underway. Obviously, there is damage, a need to … help them stitch back the fabric of society that was torn during the height of the sectarian violence.”

The White House did what they always do with critics. They questioned Reid’s patriotism “We are a little bit concerned about some reports on the Internet that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a conversation with liberal bloggers, had referred to General Pete Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as incompetent, and apparently, again according to the reports, had said disparaging things also about General David Petraeus. We certainly hope it’s not true, because in a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man who is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq. Indeed, Senator Reid has, at some point, declared the war lost, and also has declared the surge a failure, even though it has not yet been fully enacted. I don’t know if it’s true or not. If it is true, I certainly hope he does apologize,” Press Secretary Tony Snow said.

I think Reid’s statements about Pace can be applied to anyone who was involved in the planning of this war. Only the outstanding ability of our troops on the ground has prevented the situation in Iraq from being even worse that what it is. What’s happening here is that Reid is starting to see the writing on the wall as far as the September Petraeus report is concerned. It should not be surprising that a military commander would write an assessment that is going to try to make the situation look good. No commander is ever going to write a report that concludes that his troops aren’t getting the job done, or are losing. It is my opinion that Petraeus will probably write a positive report that will add little of substance to the political debate. He isn’t going to criticize his troops or strategy, so anyone who might be looking to his report for answers is probably going to be disappointed.

Reid’s statement

White House press briefing

Petraeus in USA Today

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 6:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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