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The Weekly Fishwrap

General Wolff in Iraq: Democratic Senate Caucus is Wrong

Last week's final Blogger Roundtable was with Brigadier General Terry Wolff, US Army.  The transcript is here; audio is here; Wolff's bio is here.  The document I mention in my question, from the Democratic Caucus' Senate Journal, can be found here.

GRIM:  I noticed -- we were talking earlier about the Washington clock. I noticed yesterday in a document that was really about -- it was really a partisan document issued by the Senate majority leader's office [GRIM: my bad memory -- it was actually from the Democratic Caucus's Senate office] about Republican obstructionism. As sort of a throwaway line at the last part of the document, it said that several hundred soldiers have died in Bush's failed surge policy. Do you feel that it is fair to say that the surge has failed?

GEN. WOLFF: No. Simple answer is no. I mean, I think you have to see how this plays out over time. And again, you know, eight months ago, everyone was talking to us about insurgencies take time, and that they have to be dealt with on more than just the security front. And we know that is true.

So the first task was to get additional soldiers in here. And the last of those five brigades has only been on the ground a couple of weeks, and it's just begun combat operations. And so in concert with the Iraqis, it's going to take a little bit of time to clear the areas that have not been cleared in a long time.

Again, you know, six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, 10 weeks ago, four months ago, everyone was seized with Baghdad. Well, other than the occasional, you know, large-scale IED or suicide vest or car bomb that gets through the checkpoints and other things here -- most of the surge forces are now operating in the -- in -- if you will, in the Baghdad belt or the other areas that surround Baghdad or reach up into Diyala and to Baqubah.

And so, again, you know, we tend to be fixated on, is this thing going to produce a result in -- you know, in the next 48 hours? And the answer is absolutely not.

The question is, you know, do we have the wherewithal to allow it to proceed long enough to determine whether it's going to succeed or not? And I think that's one of the key issues that has to be thought through.

Q I have a quick follow-up question. You say the Iraqis are very keenly aware of the Washington clock as well. Does that include the Iraqis on the other side?

GEN. WOLFF: You mean the bad guys?

Q Yes.

GEN. WOLFF: Yeah, sure. I mean, how would you not know that if you're an Iraqi bad guy, whether you're an al Qaeda guy or you're -- whether -- you know, someone in -- you know, someone from the bad side of JAM, which is causing -- you know, causing extrajudicial killings? How would you not know that if you're looking at the Western media, the Iraq media, the Arabic media? I mean, what happens in the United States in the capital -- in our capital of Washington is playing out all over media headlines.

So all you got to do is have a satellite dish now. I mean, I could see BBC at just, you know, a flick of a dial here, or take a look at CNN or take a look at any one of several Iraqi stations or Arabic stations. So to think that's -- to think that our opponents aren't looking at our -- the Western media and determining will, American will, is silly.

Q So these statements have consequences, then, on the battlefield.

GEN. WOLFF: Well, yeah, of course. All of our statements do. And so, I mean, again, you know, our politicians have a responsibility to the American people, and so do we. And we have to recognize that things play out in the media. And there are -- that's just a fact.

That's a pretty straightfoward answer.  To say the Surge "has failed" is flat wrong as a matter of military reality.  It's just getting started. 

These statements, issued as part of a political game, have an impact on the battlefield.  They encourage the enemy, and demoralize both our troops and our friends. 

Our politicians have a responsibility to the American people.  It includes thinking about how their statements play in the media, about how they are affecting the battle in which American forces are engaged.

Let me repeat that one last time:  Our politicians have a responsibility to the American people.    It's time they started living up to it.