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Iraq

Per NBC's Mike Viqueira, Petraeus and Crocker will testify before the joint House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees at a hearing beginning at 12:30 pm. There will be a total of 107 members (!) combined at this hearing, including GOP presidential candidates Hunter, Paul, and Tancredo. The chairs and ranking members (Democrats Skelton and Lantos and Republicans Hunter and Ros-Lehtinen) will give five-minute opening statements, followed by opening statements from Petraeus and Crocker. Then all the members will be allowed five minutes to question the pair.

The New York Times: "General Petraeus … has informed President Bush that troop cuts may begin in mid-December, with the withdrawal of one of the 20 American combat brigades in Iraq, about 4,000 troops. By August, the American force in Iraq would be down to 15 combat brigades, the force level before Mr. Bush's troop reinforcement plan. The precise timing of such reductions, which would leave about 130,000 troops in Iraq, could vary, depending on conditions in the country. But the general has also said that it is too soon to present recommendations on reducing American forces below that level because the situation in Iraq is in flux. He has suggested that he wait until March to outline proposals on that question."

Pegged to the Petraeus report, a New York Times/CBS poll finds that 62% believe the Iraq war was a mistake; 59% say it's not worth the cost or loss in lives; and nearly two-thirds say the US should reduce its troops there now or withdraw them. That said, "Americans trust military commanders far more than the Bush administration or Congress to bring the war in Iraq to a successful end, and while most favor a withdrawal of American troops beginning next year, they suggested they were open to doing so at a measured pace." 
 
Also, "33 percent of all Americans, including 40 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats, say Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001."

The Boston Globe: "Two national polls released yesterday indicated that a majority of Americans believe the increased US troop presence has failed to deliver significant improvements in the war-torn country."

Petraeus has been getting all of the attention, but the Washington Post profiles the man who will be testifying at his side: Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. In fact, the Post notes that Crocker's testimony "may carry far more import for the long-term future of Iraq and the U.S. presence there. With little progress to recount in how the Iraqis have used the political 'breathing space' that Bush promised his war strategy would create, Crocker's inevitably more nuanced appeal for time and patience is likely to be the tougher sell."

Not only will Petraeus and Crocker introduce their war assessment today, but TV viewers in four states will be introduced to one of MoveOn's anti-war ads, which features children, "training to be soldiers in an 'endless war,'" reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The ad, part of MoveOn.org's $12 million ongoing anti-war campaign is rivaled by a pro-war $15 million TV ad campaign, featuring the burning World Trade Center and produced by former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer's group, Freedom's Watch. 

On Sunday, the New York Times wrote that seven months after Bush's troop surge began, "Baghdad has experienced modest security gains that have neither reversed the city's underlying sectarian dynamic nor created a unified and trusted national government… To study the full effects of the troop increase at ground level, reporters for The New York Times repeatedly visited at least 20 neighborhoods in Baghdad and its surrounding belts, interviewing more than 150 residents, in addition to members of sectarian militias, Americans patrolling the city and Iraqi officials. They found that the additional troops had slowed, but far from stopped, Iraq's still-burning civil war."

In a Saturday op-ed in the Washington Post, Richardson wrote, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested that there is little difference among us on Iraq. This is not true: I am the only leading Democratic candidate committed to getting all our troops out and doing so quickly… Let's stop pretending that all Democratic plans are similar. The American people deserve precise answers from anyone who would be commander in chief. How many troops would you leave in Iraq? For how long? To do what, exactly?"