Democrats Taking Cues From Left-Wing Group, McConnell Says

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - Congressional Democrats who respond to pressure from far-left groups such as are attempting to debunk statistics that point to military progress in Iraq, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, said during a conference call Monday.

At a time when Army General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are reporting on positive trends in Iraq, some Democratic leaders are taking cues from left-wing groups, McConnell observed. Consequently, a number of Democrats are now working to undermine the credibility of military commanders and other high ranking U.S. officials, he said.

Before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee, Petraeus testified Monday that "substantial" security improvements have been achieved in the past few months as a result of the U.S. "surge" to quell sectarian violence in Iraq. For instance, the number of car bombings and suicide bombings has declined in past five months after reaching a high of 175 last March, he said.

The overall level of security incidents has also declined since offensive operations commenced in mid-June, the general noted. These declines have been observed in eight of the past 12 weeks, while civilian deaths (excluding natural causes) have also dropped by 45 percent since December, said Petraeus.

"A lot of Democrats have already made up their minds and are not interested in the facts," McConnell said. "They are looking for some way to attack General Petraeus, who was confirmed unanimously. This shows the level to which at least these outside groups and some of the Democratic members of the Senate are willing to put their own political goals ahead of the security of the country."

McConnell sharply criticized and its full-page newspaper ad, published Monday, which questioned the Petraeus's patriotism. MoveOn suggested in its ad that the general was simply doing the bidding of the White House. "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" the ad read.

"The vilification of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker is certainly deplorable," McConnell said. "Both men have given most of their adult lives to the service of our country, often at great personal peril."

McConnell also recalled how Democratic senators organized an all-night session in July that, he said, was arranged in large measure for the purpose of having MoveOn activists demonstrate on Capitol Hill.

"As the summer dragged on here in Washington, leftist groups continued to insist on an arbitrary withdrawal date, McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday. "And when they failed to get their wish in Congress, they followed Republicans home over the August recess, pouring money into misleading political ads and busing-in protestors. This was the other surge, a surge aimed at intimidating Republicans who supported the Petraeus Plan. These efforts were misguided and they failed."

The people connected with MoveOn seem to be "recycled from the 1960s," said McConnell. "They are not interested in what's good for the country in my view, and they don't care if our soldiers leave without honor and it's clear they don't respect General Petraeus at all, who almost everyone thinks is a straight shooter and an outstanding general."

McConnell also took exception to remarks made by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is now head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Speaking on the Senate floor last week, Schumer rejected the idea that security improvements in the Anbar province could be attributed to the heightened presence of U.S. forces.

"And let me be clear, "Schumer said. "The violence in Anbar has gone down in spite of the surge, not because of the surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from Al Qaeda said to these tribes, "We have to fight Al Qaeda ourselves."

Yet Petraeus testified that American forces, in cooperation with Iraqi allies, have made significant progress against Al Qaeda elements in the past few months. He pointed to the turnaround in Anbar province as an important development.

"Our operations have, in fact, produced substantial progress against Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq," he said. The areas where Al Qaeda once had sanctuary have been dramatically reduced as U.S. forces have taken the offensive, Petraeus explained. Although Al Qaeda is not yet defeated it is "off balance," he said.

A "synergy of actions" involving U.S. military forces, intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance have been successfully deployed against terrorist elements, according to Petraeus, who supported his claims with statistical data and charts on U.S. military achievements in Iraq. This is "hard data," said Petraeus.

He continued: "We do not, however, just rely on gut feel or personal observations; we also conduct considerable data collection and analysis to gauge progress and determine trends. ... We do this by gathering and refining data from coalition and Iraqi operations centers, using a methodology that has been in place for well over a year and that has benefited over the past seven months from the increased presence of our forces living among the Iraqi people.

"... Two US intelligence agencies recently reviewed our methodology, and they concluded that the data we produce is the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq."

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