Missourians react to Iraq testimony

Monday, September 10, 2007 | 11:10 p.m. CDT; updated 12:44 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Gen. David Petraeus’ much-anticipated testimony in front of Congress on Monday incited a reaction from prominent Missouri officials and experts.

• U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a radio statement that there still needed to be explanations on why benchmarks were not being met in Iraq, but Petraeus’ intentions to withdraw U.S. troops is good news. She said previous conversation had been too focused on two extreme choices concerning Iraq.

“I don’t think any of us in Washington want an expeditious drawdown of all our troops in Iraq. And on the other hand, I don’t think most people in America want us to continue to stand in the middle of civil war. I think there is something in between,” McCaskill said.

• U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said in a written statement Tuesday that he thinks the worst-case scenario would be for Congress to ignore military leaders. Bond said he believes there has been progress in Iraq, progress he witnessed during a trip to the country earlier this year and progress he's heard about in reports from troops. He also said that he agreed with the testimony that a quick withdrawal of troops would lead to a spread of violence and chaos across the region.

“After a misdirected military strategy over the last two years, the new counterinsurgency strategy to clear, hold and build has brought Iraqi citizens to our side in the fight against al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists,” Bond said.

• U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., said in a written statement that it is unfortunate that some were using the hearing as a political point instead of as a candid military evaluation. Hulshof agreed with Petraeus’ belief that U.S. objectives will be achieved over time.

“I am convinced that this is what the American people truly want from their leaders in Washington, and I believe that Gen. Petraeus’ recommendations are a good blueprint to continue those discussions,” Hulshof said.

• Retired Army Col. Steve Robinette, director of academic outreach at Missouri State University, said the surge strategy of using 15 service brigades in Iraq was designed to be a temporary policy. He said the drawdown in troop levels outlined by Petraeus is a necessary return to normal levels for U.S. forces in Iraq.

“The surge was designed to put more soldiers in so that we could get some stability and then return to normal levels,” Robinette said.

• Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said the question of whether the surge was successful was the wrong question for the American people to be asking. He said it was lies by the U.S. government and an illegal invasion which put the country in this position.

“Launching a war of aggression is both illegal and immoral,” Haim said. “Our troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, and reparations should be provided to the Iraqi people.”

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