General David Petraeus’ ‘landmark’ Iraq surge testimony, expected to hail a ‘turning point’ in war policy, was mundane and limited according to the sceptical bulk of the world media today:

The Washington Post: Petraeus Leaves Large Questions Unanswered The long-awaited testimony this afternoon of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, once seen as a potential turning point in war policy, seemed more like an exercise of kicking the can down the road. Appearing before two House committees, Petraeus confirmed that 30,000 U.S. troops could be withdrawn from Iraq by the middle of next summer, but that was hardly unexpected: Officials have been forecasting for months that the so-called surge would have to end no later than April 2008 or there would be unacceptable strains on the American military. But Petraeus left the larger questions — what will be the future size and mission of the American “footprint” in Iraq — unanswered. He offered hints that the reductions might continue beyond next summer but said he would not be able to offer a definitive judgment until March.

The Guardian: Telling it like it isn’t The general will get the extra months he wants. But it is equally clear that the high water mark of the deployment of US power in Iraq has passed. Whether by degrees, or more dramatically, US forces will start to withdraw. They will do so not, as they should, in the interests of the Iraqi people, but according to America’s political timetable. They will do so not because a US president has owned up to responsibility for launching a catastrophic war. He has instead abdicated it, by leaving the pullout of US troops as a matter for his successor.

Al Jazeera: Debating the US troop ‘surge’ Petraeus’ positive assessment seems to be based on selective reading of three recent developments: a decrease in US military casualties, an increase in pockets of calm and mounting internecine divisions and confrontations between groups in the Anbar province. For example, 20 per cent less deaths among the troops in July than in May or June could have been good news for the “surge” if it was not for the 23 per cent increase in the number of Iraqi deaths during the same period. Considering the “surge’s” central mission is to “protect the local population” in order to pave the way for Iraqi reconciliation, those figures are anything but positive. Likewise, the US general believes his strategy of “win, hold, and rebuild” is leading to calm in certain Baghdad neighbourhoods and Sunni regions.But in the long run carrying out house-to-house searches and arrests, like all military operations of proximity humiliates civilians, nourishes hatreds and produces fresh recruits for the organised resistance.

Slate: The House Tosses Softballs to Gen. Petraeus Maybe Tuesday will be Congress’ good news day. Monday was mainly a disgrace… Petraeus’ testimony was predictable, Crocker’s was almost pathetically strained, and the legislators’ questions were by and large weak-kneed, even by House standards. Nobody could have been surprised by the questions or answers. Nobody could have been satisfied by what anyone said. The situation is indisputably grim. Nobody seems to know what to do about it.

BBC: US surge has failed – Iraqi poll About 70% of Iraqis believe security has deteriorated in the area covered by the US military “surge” of the past six months, an opinion poll suggests. The survey by the BBC, ABC News and NHK of more than 2,000 people across Iraq also suggests that nearly 60% see attacks on US-led forces as justified. The findings come as the top US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, prepares to address Congress.

And in the blogosphere…

What Bush and Petraeus Won’t Admit. It is time to admit that the purpose of the surge, which was supposed to provide space for the Iraqi politicians to undertake political reconciliation, has failed. Let us not use it to provide cover for those who got us into this mess in the first place. Let’s begin a phased withdrawal. – Huffington Post

Petraeus: Overdressed for the “Party”. Cometh Petraeus, considered a liar and traitor before he sat down. Pre-determined as a book fixin’ Bush-sock-puppeteer, despite having been confirmed by these morons not so very long ago, Petraeus has shown the world a clear contrast between polish, discipline, readiness, and strength under fire and these characters who call themselves Congressmen. – Redstate

Welcome to the Petraeus Theatre. One has to wonder why people fear what Petraeus has to say so much that they feel it necessary to shout him down. Actually, in watching the hearing, the answer becomes rather clear. Petraeus has excellent presentation skills, and he has testified in measured, unemotional tones. He is giving Congress a dispassionate reading of the facts as he sees them. Petraeus has been responsive, respectful, engaging, and utterly devastating to those who have adopted panicky Chicken Little tones regarding the status of Iraq. – Captain’s Quarter

Meanwhile, the war goes on. As General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were telling Congress that the war should go on without let-up, the Pentagon announced that nine more American soldiers have died in Iraq. – The Old New Englander

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey