Wednesday, September 12, 2007

USA Today: Gen. Petraeus a Scholar's Intellect, Warrior's Intensity

For the past eight months, Gen. David Petraeus' job has been to create an environment where Iraq's squabbling factions could find common ground. Today he will try to do the same for Congress.

Even skeptics of President Bush's war policy acknowledge he couldn't have picked a better pitchman for the policy that sent an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq this year over the protests of many in the House of Representatives and Senate. "He's one of our best generals," House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., says of Petraeus. ...

Petraeus, 54, won confirmation as the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq this year by a unanimous Senate vote. Throughout his career, he has combined the gung-ho intensity of a commander in the storied "Screaming Eagles" 101st Army Airborne Division with the cool intellect of a Princeton Ph.D., along with a knack for developing useful connections.

In 1991, Petraeus was nearly killed in a shooting accident at Fort Campbell, a military base that straddles the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. The surgeon who took a bullet out of his lung was Bill Frist, later the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. In Iraq, where Petraeus has surrounded himself with a group of younger officers whom he dubs "the thinkers," one protégé is Col. Mike Meese, son of Edwin Meese, attorney general under President Ronald Reagan. ...

The top Republican on the House Armed Services committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., accuses Democrats of trying to "degrade" Petraeus "in order to put the right spin on his testimony."

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., who opposed the invasion of Iraq, says a recent visit with Petraeus persuaded him to give the president's policy more time to work. He criticizes members of his own party for "intellectually vacant" attacks.

"I find him as genuine as can be," Baird says of Petraeus. ...

Read the rest of the article here.

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