Wicker Says Iraq Progress Being Acknowledged

Senator hears testimony on real progress from top generals in Iraq

May 26, 2008

A confirmation hearing last week for Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno gave members of the Senate Armed Services Committee the chance to receive an encouraging update on the situation in Iraq.  After hearing the generals’ testimony, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, my colleague who also serves on the committee, called the progress in Iraq “nothing short of thrilling.” 

In a marked contrast to the last time General Petraeus was before our committee in early April, the tone of other senators’ comments reflected those of Mr. Lieberman.  Shortly after the hearing, in what I believe is a clear acknowledgement of the progress in Iraq, the Senate voted 34 to 63 against placing restrictions on troop funding that would have tied the hands of our generals and made it more difficult for our troops to complete their mission.   

                                            IRAQIS TAKING LEAD
In January 2007, President Bush outlined the new “surge” strategy for Iraq.  The objective was to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods and allow the breathing room for the Iraqi government to begin providing its own security.  It has taken longer than anticipated, but there is little doubt that the surge is now working. 

As a powerful example, Generals Petraeus and Odierno highlighted recent action taken by the Iraqi government against Shiite militias in Southern Iraq and in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.  In both locations, militias had been using these towns as home base to wage attacks against the citizens of Iraq.  Supported by Iran and others, these militias had waged numerous acts of violence against innocent Iraqis and coalition security forces. 

In a sign of strong and surprisingly decisive leadership, Prime Minister Maliki ordered Iraqi Security Forces to take back the neighborhoods of Basra and Sadr City.  The fight got off to a shaky start which was well documented by the press, but the situation has now drastically improved.  Using minimal U.S. ground troops, the Iraqi Security Forces have regained control.  Basra is now stable and a recent cease-fire in Sadr City will help prevent future attacks against U.S. troops in Baghdad.   

                                   PROGRESS OFTEN IGNORED
The progress being made in Iraq is real.  Since our new military strategy was implemented last year, overall violence across the country is down, while civilian and sectarian deaths have fallen significantly.  In addition, attacks against our troops have declined, and our forces have continued to capture and kill al Qaeda members and other terrorists.

Unfortunately, many members of the national press have all but turned away from covering this success.  As retired Army colonel and now author Ralph Peters recently wrote in the New York Post: “When Iraq seemed destined to become a huge American embarrassment, our media couldn’t get enough of it.  Now that Iraq looks like a success in the making, there’s a virtual news blackout.” 

                                     SUCCESS IS VITAL
Significant challenges remain in Iraq, but the fact remains that our success there is vital for the long-term security of our nation.  As witnessed in Basra and Sadr City, real progress is being made by the Iraqi government.  Our troops should be given the opportunity to build on that progress so they can begin coming home after leaving a stable Iraq behind.