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Congressmen Respond to War Briefing, Debate Pullout

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, briefed lawmakers Wednesday on the troop increase in Baghdad. Reps. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., and Michael Rogers, R-Mich., discuss the briefing and debate congressional action on the war.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The partisan divide in the House of Representatives over funding the Iraq war. Joe Sestak is a first-term Democrat from Pennsylvania, a member of the Armed Services Committee. Mike Rogers is a four-term Republican from Michigan and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. Both were present at today's war briefing by General David Petraeus, head of U.S. forces in Iraq.

    Congressman Sestak, what was the most important thing you heard today from General Petraeus?

    REP. JOE SESTAK (D), Pennsylvania: The most important thing was where General Petraeus said that it will take a military — excuse me, a political reconciliation in order to have a final, long-term solution.

    I just had returned from Iraq with Senator Hagel last week, and what we saw there was some improvement in the military situation in certain portions, like Anbar province. But what we also saw, in talking to key Iraqi political leaders, where they said that key political pieces of legislation, that the Sunnis in Anbar province, for example, are waiting for, were described as appeasement to the Sunnis.

    And that's why there is no military solution to this civil war. The only possible way to win this — and we still can — is with a change in strategy, a date that's certain, where Secretary of Defense Gates and almost all of the political and U.S. military leaders in Iraq have said that this debate here at home about not being an open-ended commitment has moved the Iraqis to accepting more responsibility for their country. That's now the next necessary step to have a good strategy.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    We'll come back to some of the points you made, but, first, to Congressman Rogers. What was it that you heard from General Petraeus that you thought was the most stunning or most important thing?

    REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), Michigan: Well, he said that they had made some progress, I think, in Iraq, at least giving the government a little breathing room. And one of the other important things I thought came out of it was the fact that, in that briefing, the Department of Defense said, "Don't mess around with our money."

    Every time you do a two-month or a three-month or six-month or a delay, we have to shut off different programs. And if you want us to continue to build goodwill in Iraq as we're trying to win the military fight, you need to continue to fund the operations on the ground with a degree of certainty.

    You can't run a business without a degree of certainty, and you can't run operations on the ground with a degree of certainty. And I thought that was an interesting point for us, that, hey, listen, we're going to have to pull back on certain operations because we don't know if we're going to have money two months from now or three months from now. That is really not building good faith and allowing the civilian institutions to take hold.

    And, really, what the surge was about — and I had some different ideas on it — but what the surge was about was trying to give breathing room to the Iraqi government to get up and operational so that they could get a hold of the political climate there and we could start to scale down our military presence there.

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