"For a long time the Administration has hidden behind the name of General David Petraeus, saying the September report will be his. We all knew this would be the President's report," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a news release on Thursday.
Pelosi was reacting to press reports that the Bush administration plans to write the Petraeus report itself -- and may restrict Petraeus's testimony before Congress to a closed session.A column in Thursday's Washington Post called the Petraeus report, due out Sept. 15, "a White House con job in the making."
And the Los Angeles Times noted on Wednesday, "Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government."
Democrats, always skeptical of the administration's war claims, urged the White House to butt out.
"We must remember that the purpose of the surge was to create a secure environment in which political change could occur. Whether or not some limited military success has occurred, it is clear that the Iraqi leaders have failed to make political progress," Pelosi said.
"The question for September is: 'Why should our troops risk their lives in a civil war when the Iraqi government refuses to take the political steps necessary to end the sectarian violence?' We must have a candid assessment of the ongoing situation in Iraq and it is increasingly unclear whether the September report will provide that."A White House spokesman on Thursday insisted that both Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker would testify before Congress in open as well as closed sessions.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, on Thursday accused the Bush administration of continuing to spin the facts about Iraq.
"After years of slogans and soundbites, Americans deserve an even-handed assessment of conditions in Iraq," Emanuel said in a message on his Web site.
"Sadly, we will only receive a snapshot from the same people who told us the mission was accomplished and the insurgency was in its last throes. We've spent hundreds of billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in Iraq. An honest report from our generals and diplomats about the status of the war isn't too much to ask."
There's a lot riding on the Petraeus report for both sides.
Anti-war Democrats who have been pressing for a U.S. troop withdrawal for months are not expected to change their minds, although a positive assessment from Gen. Petraeus might undermine their position for a quick troop withdrawal.
On the other hand, a negative assessment from Gen. Petraeus might undercut the Bush administration's arguments that a continuing U.S. troop presence is critical to achieving a stable, democratic Iraq.
In July, President Bush's National Security Council said the mid-September progress report from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker would provide a "comprehensive assessment of the situation in Iraq, including an assessment of the 18 benchmarks" set by Congress.
"This assessment will provide a clearer picture of how the new [troop surge] strategy is unfolding, and what if any adjustments should be made," the interim progress report said.
President Bush has said all along that the U.S. "can and must" succeed in Iraq.
"When we start drawing down our forces in Iraq, it will be because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right, not because pollsters say it will be good politics," President Bush said in July. "The [troop surge] strategy I announced in January is designed to seize the initiative and create those conditions."