Amidst all the smoke and mirrors being thrown up by pro-war pundits, it's easy to lose sight of the basic truth - there is still no administration answer to Petreaus' own question "tell me how this ends".
McClatchy continues to do the heavy lifting for the rest of the U.S. press and media.
Four and a half years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq — and four years after some Pentagon officials thought American troops would be home in triumph — two days of breathlessly anticipated testimony by Petraeus and Crocker appear to have produced another stalemate in Washington.McClatchy's reporter Warren P. Strobel points up the one thing the entire pro-war faction wants to put a smokescreen around - Crocker and Petreaus are "walking point" for the big guns of the Bush administration, who have no better idea of how it ends than their sniper-bait.
Democrats in Congress don't have enough votes to force a withdrawal from Iraq. The Bush administration can only offer the hope of slow progress in Iraq and an eventual, but undefined, U.S. withdrawal.
In response to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Petraeus predicted that 100,000 American troops would still be in Iraq a year from now.
"Two years from now, in the summer of 2009, we're still going to have 80,000 troops on the ground in Iraq," predicted one State Department official, who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly. "We knew that pretty much already. Now it's done."
But lawmakers complained that neither Petraeus nor Crocker could explain how the Iraq war fits into Bush's war on terror or how it's protecting Americans.
One of the most jaw-dropping moments in the hours of back-and-forth came when retiring Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Petraeus whether his proposal for Iraq — including a reduction of U.S. troops to pre-surge levels of 130,000 — would make the United States safer.
"Sir, I don't know, actually," Petraeus replied.
Late in the afternoon, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked Petraeus and Crocker what they'd recommend if, a year from now, the Iraqis have still failed to make significant political progress.Which means a year from now, we will have a new Saintly General in Iraq who will continue to kick the obvious down the road another few Friedmans.
Ever the diplomat, Crocker, who was somber, if not downright dour, throughout the two days, replied: "I can't say what I'll be seeing a year or even six months from now, but I can say that I will make the same honest assessment I made for this testimony."
Asked by at least two senators what he'd recommend if things are unchanged a year from now, Petraeus replied: "I would be very hard-pressed to recommend a continuation."