There was a moment Tuesday in the Petraeus hearings that made me sit up in my chair and laugh, and it had nothing to do with either Democrat presidential candidates Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
The comic moment was delivered by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, where some of her constituents are absolutely flummoxed over the war. They hate it, they can't stop it and it's all such a shock because they usually get their way. Ms. Boxer expressed that frustration perfectly. "I give up," she said at one point during the proceedings.
What the senator was so upset about is that Americans have paid in thousands of lives and billions of dollars for the Iraqis to have a shot at what most of the rest of the world views as a normal life: A measure of prosperity, a chance to raise your kids and the simple opportunity to cast your one vote about your future. And one of the ways we suffer, she correctly noted, is the deadly efforts made by neighboring Iran.
And yet, she said, exasperated, our president has to enter Iraq under the cover of darkness, with no advance notice, visit with Iraqis like a speed dating contest and be whisked out again before bedtime. Meanwhile, the president of Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad was greeted with hand holding, rose petals and kisses from Iraqi President al-Maliki.
How could this be? Boxer asked repeatedly. He is their enemy, yet he is treated as a friend. We are their friend and we must fear for our lives.
Well, Ambassador Crocker said we, of course, want the Iraqis to have correct relations with the Iranians and besides, Ahmadinejad does not have to worry about being attacked and killed by the biggest threat in Iraq: Iranian-backed militias. He is, after all, their boss.
Touche, Ms. Boxer. There was a titter of embarrassed laughter around the room.
She changed the subject immediately.
Perhaps she has forgotten that Ahmadinejad has said aloud that Iranian troops might move in to keep order after the Americans leave.
Do the Democrats who want to leave now want that to happen? We pull out, the Iranians roll in?
Oh yes, I know they are there now. That's what that clash in Basra was all about. The Quds Force, special forces of the Iranian Republican Guard, were reported to be directing Iraqi Shia on the ground. Surely, we want them to go home or suffer a smart bomb. Surely we don't want them running southern Iraq.
When Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Clinton questioned Gen. Petraeus about U.S. involvement in Basra operations, backing up the Iraqi forces of al-Maliki, it wasn't to praise him that the southern part of the country was not lost; instead it was to suggest by innuendo that he was somehow imprudently expanding the scope of the war.
Can you imagine had he not made certain the Iraqi forces prevailed in Basra? What would they have said had Gen. Petraeus come before the U.S. Senate, anti-war Democrats in charge, having just lost half the country? Oh, the howling we missed because the general gave his opponents so little to complain about.
Before I go, last Friday I offered my opinion that Barack Obama should apologize for the vile things left-wing radio host Randi Rhodes said about Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro. I said the statements were offered at an Obama fundraiser. I was wrong on that point. Ms. Rhodes voiced her insults at a fundraiser for a California radio station, not an Obama fundraiser. I'm sorry.
That's My Word.
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