Iraq War Report Anxiously Awaited The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, will report to Congress in a few weeks on the results of the military surge in Iraq. The White House and critics of President Bush largely know the challenges the report will pose. So they're both hard at work putting their spin on it ahead of time.
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Iraq War Report Anxiously Awaited

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Iraq War Report Anxiously Awaited

Iraq War Report Anxiously Awaited

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is on assignment. I'm John Ydstie.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

In less than three weeks, the top U.S. commander in Iraq will report to Congress on the results of the military surge in Iraq, and neither side on the debate over the war is willing to sit by and wait to hear what General David Petraeus has to say.

Both the White House and the president's critics largely know the challenges the report will pose for them, so they're hard at work trying to put their spin on it ahead of the time. Here's NPR's David Greene.

DAVID GREENE: Ahead of the highly anticipated report from General Petraeus, President Bush has begun yet another effort to sell the Iraq war to the American public. His campaign features a number of speeches, coinciding with a fresh set of TV ads paid for by longtime friends and fundraisers. The speeches began yesterday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, Missouri, where Mr. Bush once again rooted the conflict in Iraq in the events of 9/11.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: An enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, declared war on the United States of America, and war is what we're engaged in.

GREENE: The ads are sponsored by a new group called Freedoms Watch. They're designed to restore faith in the war, particularly among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. This ad features a woman who has much to grieve but believes the U.S. must not pull out of Iraq now.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Ms. LAURA YOUNGBLOOD (Travis Youngblood's Wife): I lost two family members to al-Qaida: my uncle, a fireman on 9/11, and my husband, Travis, in Iraq.

GREENE: She says Congress did the right thing voting to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Ms. YOUNGBLOOD: Switching their votes now for political reasons, it will mean more attacks in America.

GREENE: Military commanders have already pointed to progress in Iraq, especially in the Sunni province of al-Anbar. But the troop surge the president ordered was supposed to give the government in Baghdad a chance to resolve the Shiite-Sunni violence. So far, that hasn't happened. That's a reality President Bush tried to address during a summit in Canada this week, saying there's been frustration with the Iraqi leadership.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki evidently felt some pressure and responded during a visit in Syria.

President NOURI AL-MALIKI (Syria): (Through Translator) Everyone knows that the Iraqi government was elected by the Iraqi people and nobody can impose timetables or deadlines on it. The only people who can do that are the Iraqis who elected the government.

GREENE: And after that, Mr. Bush promptly issued a kind of clarification.

President Bush: Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it's not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position.

GREENE: The tightrope the president must walk is vexing, but so is the tightrope for Democrats in Congress and in the presidential campaign. Two candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, have long criticized the war. But for the moment they've actually joined President Bush in pointing to some military successes. Here is Clinton at the same veterans convention in Kansas City.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Democratic Presidential Candidate): We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in al-Anbar province, it's working.

GREENE: That's a message that may not sit well with some Democratic voters. But Clinton and Obama seem to have calculated that a hate the war but love the warrior message might be important to win a general election.

Meanwhile, other candidates like Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson are still pushing just as hard for total withdrawal. This is Richardson at a debate Sunday in Iowa.

Governor BILL RICHARDSON (Democrat, New Mexico; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Here's my plan. My plan is that, to end this war, we have to get all the troops out, all of them. Our kids are dying. Our troops have become targets.

GREENE: Another candidate, Senator Joe Biden, has long advocated partitioning Iraq. And now he's released a new television ad in Iowa to say the war must end, but end that way. In it he recalls flying out of Iraq after one recent visit.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Senator JOE BIDEN (Democrat, Delaware; Presidential Candidate): As I climbed into the C-130, strapped into the middle of that cargo bay was a flag-draped coffin. It turned that cargo bay into a cathedral, and all I could think of was the parents waiting at the other end. We must end this war in a way that doesn't require us to send their grandchild back.

GREENE: Biden knows well the tension between criticizing policy and supporting the troops. His son is deploying to Iraq next year.

David Greene, NPR News, Washington.

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