“Woodward on the Surge” With Condoleeza Rice Remarks




The most authoritative voice to listen to on this whole matter is General Petraeus, the individual most responsible for executing the turn-about in Iraq. His April 2008 testimony to Congress, which discusses various factors that have led to progress, can be found here.

In any event, we’re (thankfully) now in a position where people are arguing over the various factors that have led to the stunning change in Iraq. What matters most–in terms of the human dimension, the national security interests of the United States, and history–is that Iraq, which was in a death spiral in late 2006, is now on the road to recovery. That progress, which General Petraeus rightly calls “fragile and reversible,” was achieved faster than almost anyone could have imagined in the dark days of January 2007. We should be grateful that a few national leaders did envision the surge’s success and worked to initiate it. And we should be most grateful to the American military, the Iraqis Security Forces, and the diplomats who put the surge into effect.

According to Woodward, when President Bush told General Petraeus that with the surge he, the President, was doubling down, Petraeus corrected him. It was all in, Petraeus said. He was right. And the bet paid off, spectacularly so.

I have made the case before that our Administration made massive errors in judgment in Iraq and the corrections that were made came very late in the day. But this also needs to be said: Without President Bush, there would have been no surge. Without the surge, Iraq would be lost. And if we had lost Iraq, the radiating effects would have been enormously damaging.

Instead, victory is now within reach. Iraq was on the brink; it is now on the mend. The war is still playing itself out, so we cannot issue a final verdict yet. But because of what it may do not only for Iraq and the region but to al Qaeda and the global jihadist movement, the war to liberate Iraq now looks to be defensible and justified and even worth doing. That is what matters above all to President Bush, and it is what will matter to history.

See also:


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Bob Woodward’s new book says that U.S. officials routinely listened to private conversations of Iraqi officials. If that is true, how can you rebuild trust with the Iraqi government?

And, furthermore, the excerpts that were published today also suggest that you don’t like to bring bad news to the President, and that you were wary of an Iraq review in 2006, because you were afraid that it would give election ammunition to Democrats. How do you respond to that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I can say that we have an open political and diplomatic relationship with the Iraqis that is cooperative. And I, myself, worked constantly with Prime Minister Maliki, and we share information, and it’s a very open and transparent relationship, as is befitting friends that have been through as much as we have been through with the Iraqis.

As to the matter of the events of the summer and fall of 2006, I’m going to be very clear. I don’t think anyone believed that things were going well in Iraq in the summer of 2006 or the fall of 2006. This was after, of course, a somewhat hopeful period, even after the bombing in Samarra there was a somewhat hopeful period when the Iraqi government was formed, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, that we might get to a better state. But by the summer and fall, it was pretty clear that that wasn’t coming into being. And the President demanded one thing, which was to know what the true situation was, and to be able to do something about it.

Now, I think I’m quoted elsewhere in the book as having told the President, Iraq is — the society is rending — I haven’t seen the book, but in the excerpts — that Iraq is rending, that what we were doing was not working. I think the answer was not self-evident, and some of us even had questions and said them to the President in very clear ways, that if we were going to commit more American forces, we had to have a different strategy, because it wasn’t clear what more American forces were going to do. That doesn’t sound to me like an unwillingness to talk to the President in a very straightforward way about the difficult situation there. In fact, that is the relationship that we have had since I’ve first known him.

Now, what is remarkable after all of that, that we are where we are. Because the surge has worked better than anybody would have dreamed, and the fact that we are sitting here today talking about an Iraq that is more stable, that is taking over security responsibility, that is meeting, increasingly the needs of its citizens, that is rebuilding its relationships with the region and, particularly, with the Arab world, you can quarrel however you’d like with the process, but you cannot quarrel with the outcome. The United States of America, through the leadership of this President, has put Iraq into a sustainable position where we can achieve the goals that we have had there.

Now, as to the matter of politics, I will tell you that I was concerned that in the hothouse environment of the fall, we needed to have a review that was not going to turn political with headlines every day about what we were thinking or what we were not thinking, we were going back to first principles. We were looking at really hard choices, as I said, choices that were not self-evident, about what to do.

But the issue was not the elections, and it certainly was not Republican prospects in the Congress, because I think there are some who would say that if we wanted to improve those prospects, we would have said: We are reviewing Iraq strategy, and Steve Hadley has noted, that the President, in order to shield the process from the electoral issues, waited until the day after the elections to announce a change in the Secretary of Defense. I think there are an awful lot of people who think that that would have helped our electoral prospects, not hurt it.

So, yes, you don’t want to have to debate difficult choices before you have made them in a political environment, therefore politicizing decisions before you’ve even taken them. But, given where we were in the fall of 2006, I don’t think it would have hurt us, electorally. It was not my calculation, it was not my concern. My concern was to have us have an open process.

Let me just repeat though, the outcome speaks for itself.

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