Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Carl Levin (D-MI) held a press conference today to discuss the Senate testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about the progress made in Iraq. Each of the senators was very critical of the Bush strategy in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Reid said, “The President’s plan is neither a drawdown nor the change in mission we need. His plan is more of the same. This is unacceptable to me.  It is unacceptable to the American people.  And I hope this is unacceptable to Senate Republicans. Supporting a plan that keeps at least 130,000 troops in Iraq for what could be years to come is not a change in mission.  I call on Senate Republicans to stay true to their word and work with us this month to craft legislation that changes the mission in Iraq and begins a true redeployment of our troops.” 

Senator Levin, who is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, “If President Bush is simply calling for reductions to pre-surge levels – and not a change in mission to get our troops out of a civil war – then it is not a change in policy, but simply an illusion of change.  We in Congress need to press for a real change in course.”

Sen. Reed pointed out that no matter what the U.S. military does not have the resources to continue the surge. “Regardless of the situation on the ground in Iraq, the so-called surge will end in April 2008 because we simply can not supply additional forces or sustain our troop commitment at its current level.  We have to start thinking about what is in our nation’s best interest.  We need to continue hunting down terrorists operating in Iraq.  But we do not need to put American soldiers in harm’s way to buy Iraqi politicians another six months of political breathing room.  We need to change course.”

The Petraeus and Crocker testimony probably contained enough positive news for Congressional Republicans to continue to stick with President Bush’s policy in Iraq. The reduction in troops really has nothing to do with the situation on the ground. It is a mirage, designed to lend the impression that things are getting better in Iraq. The truth is that the military can’t sustain the surge level. Democrats only have themselves to blame for the surge. They are the ones who voted for it. I still think that until the Democrats get a spine and make a move to cut off funding for this war, nothing will change.

This testimony wasn’t bad enough for congressional Republicans to jump ship yet, but look for them to make a move if they are facing another drubbing in the 2008 election. My feeling is that nothing will be done before next fall. I would be surprised if the Democrats pick up more than a handful of Republicans. The next piece of course change legislation that they propose won’t pick up 60 votes, and if it does, they won’t have the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.

Senate Democrats statement

Jason Easley is the politics editor at His column, The Political Universe appears every Tuesday and Friday.

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