More Questions for Petraeus

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Yesterday I posted tough questions that a dozen national security experts would like to pose to General David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, when he testifies before Congress next week. And two retired generals have additional queries to add to the list. Here they are:

Retired General William Odom, former National Security Agency director:

— What historical example is there for rebuilding a collapsed state from the bottom up except by civil war in which a single leader wins?

— Why is Iraq not on the road to Balkanization? Fragmentation?

— What historical example is there of the U.S. military building an army for a government whose leaders have neither the power to rule nor the capacity to bring warring factions under their control?

— Do you propose to string out the surge although the Army simply does not have forces to continue?

— Why did the Iraqi forces you trained a few years ago fail to emerge as an effective fighting force that survives and serves as the core of the Iraqi army today? If you succeeded, then why do we have this problem with standing up an effective Iraqi Army?

Retired Lieutenant General Robert Gard:

— The purpose of the surge was to provide an opportunity for progress on political reconciliation of contending Iraqi factions. Do you see any near-term prospects for the necessary compromises?

— We have undertaken a Sahwa program to arm and pay Sunni factions to provide local security. Do you see any hope for the majority of these 90,000 armed combatants being integrated into the Iraqi security forces or provided meaningful jobs by the central Iraqi government?

— Do you still hold to your previous position that maintaining peace between and among competing Shia factions in the south of Iraq should be left to the Iraqis?

And the military and national security experts at the Center for American Progress have released a report on the strategic failures in Iraq that ends with a series of questions for Petraeus. The last query on this list is one that is rarely asked in Washington: “Has the quality of life improved for ordinary Iraqis” between 2003 and 2007?

There are no shortages of hard questions for Petraeus. The question is, how far will members of the Senate and the House go in grilling the fellow who has become the chief pitchman for George W. Bush’s war in Iraq?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend