Rep. Skelton on Upcoming Petraeus Testimony

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) discusses what he is looking to hear from Gen. David Petraeus when Petraeus testifies on the Iraq war Monday. Skelton fears U.S. armed forces cannot sustain the further deployment in large numbers in Iraq.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

And we're joined now by Democratic Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman Skelton, what will you be looking to hear from General Petraeus when he addresses your committee on Monday?

Representative IKE SKELTON (Democrat, Missouri; Chairman, House Armed Services Committee): Well, the three centers of gravity in this whole issue. The first, of course, is what General Petraeus will go over. And that, of course, is the military endeavor. Second, of course, is the status of the Iraqi army and the status of the Iraqi police, in particular, their national police. The third is the efforts, or I should say, lack of efforts of the Iraqi parliament in putting their government back together.

Is it a purpose of this military effort was to give time and space for them to do their work, to bring about reconciliation between the various factions and build the country? That's not happening and frankly that's a very sad situation to me.

LYDEN: Mm-hmm. In a letter to his troops that came out yesterday, the general himself said that he's disappointed about the lack of Iraqi political progress. But is there something in the way of military progress that could strengthen the administration's argument for giving the surge, giving the current troop levels more time?

Rep. SKELTON: Well, our Army in particular is just strained so much. There's no way to keep this up. It's kind of like - in football, you open the line for the quarterback to run through the center of the line to make a touchdown.

In this case, the Iraqi parliament and their leaders didn't even take the ball, much less run with it during the time that we made it possible. Frankly, I'm not sure what you can do about it. You can't make them glue Humpty Dumpy together again unless they do it themselves. It's their country.

Militarily, I think that we owe a great deal of gratitude to those in uniform, and I think General Petraeus on the fight as we have, but they're not holding up their end of the bargain. It looks like it's going south on us.

LYDEN: Does the United States have a moral obligation to stay and prevent massacres or even genocide, which would only further erode American credibility in the region?

Rep. SKELTON: Well, we can't stay there forever. I'm truly concerned about the readiness of our troops for any future potential threat or challenge. That's why it's important for us to do our very best to redeploy, to disengage.

We were very unprepared when the Korean War came along and I had a roommate in law school who was caught down in the Busan perimeter in Southeast Korea. And I don't want to ever see is in a position of unpreparedness again. And the Iraqi effort has, frankly, drained us, and making it impossible for us to have readiness for now and the future.

LYDEN: Well, Congressman, thank you very much for being with us today.

Rep. SKELTON: Well, thank you. It's also nice to talk to you.

LYDEN: Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Thank you, sir.

Rep. SKELTON: Thank you. A good day.

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