Petraeus talks of troop withdrawal

Updated: 2007-09-11 06:45

A USA Today-Gallup poll taken in the past few days found that 60 percent of those surveyed favor setting a timetable for removing troops. Only 35 percent favor keeping the troops in Iraq until the situation improves.

Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were the only witnesses at a nationally televised hearing punctuated by numerous protests by anti-war demonstrators. Cindy Sheehan, a prominent critic of the war, was among those hustled from the room by police.

Over and over, Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat presiding, ordered police to remove the demonstrators. "This is intolerable," he said at one point.

Skelton and fellow lawmakers spoke first, as is customary in Congress, and Petraeus listened to more than 45 minutes of political rhetoric. His testimony was delayed another 10 minutes by a malfunctioning microphone, but when he began to speak, the lawmakers arrayed on the dais across from him listened intently.

Crocker followed Petraeus to the microphone, and employed some of the most stark rhetoric of the hearing.

Saying al-Qaida had "overplayed its hand" in Anbar province, he said, "Anbaris began to reject its excesses, be they beheading school children or cutting off people's fingers for smoking."

Skelton, a moderate midwesterner and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, welcomed Petraeus to the hearing with wistful words of praise.

Petraeus is "almost certainly the right man for the job in Iraq, but he's the right person three years too late and 250,000 troops short," he said.

The war is in its fifth year and has claimed the lives of more than 3,700 US troops.

Petraeus' greeting elsewhere wasn't nearly as warm as Skelton's praise.

"Cooking the books for the White House," charged the newspaper advertisement by MoveOn.Org - an allegation that Republicans swiftly challenged Democrats to disavow.

Nearly two dozen senators, all Republicans except for Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, called for Democrats to denounce the advertisement.

Democrats have been critical of Petraeus, but not nearly as scathing - or as personal - as the MoveOn advertisement.

"General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" it asked, a wordplay on his name.

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