September 7th, 2007
05:34 PM ET
15 years ago

Durbin: Iraq report 'manipulated'

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Days before Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress on the progress of the troop "surge" in Iraq, the Senate's number two Democrat is accusing the administration of manipulating information in its highly anticipated Iraq report that will be released next week.

"By carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said at a Washington think tank.

Durbin, a war critic, said that for a long period of time he has exchanged e-mail with civilian employees who were gathering data for the report and writing draft portions of the findings.

"Some of them I correspond with almost on a daily basis. And when they sent a discouraging report about things that were happening in Baghdad, they were reminded by their superiors that's unacceptable; we need a positive report. They were sent back for editing changes. Now that's a fact," Durbin said.

Petraeus is expected to testify next week that the troop buildup has produced progress on the ground.

In recent days, congressional Democrats have engaged in a coordinated effort to minimize the impact of the testimony, which could undermine their ability to convince wavering Republicans to vote for troop withdrawals.

Also on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got personal, questioning Petraeus' credibility:

"He's made a number of statements over the years that have not proved to be factual," Reid said. "I have every belief that this good man, General Petraeus, will give us what he feels is the right thing to do in the report that is now not his report. It's President Bush's report."

"My guess is that it's an attempt to discredit the witness," a Senate Republican leadership aide responded to the Democrats' broadsides. "The problem is Petraeus' approval rating is about four times higher than the Democrat Congress."

The statistics that Durbin is questioning deal with the accounting of sectarian violence - which Petraeus is expected to report has gone down in recent months.

But in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, David Walker, the head of the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, also raised questions about how those statistics were compiled. He said he is "not comfortable" with the methodology used to count the death toll from sectarian violence.

Specifically, he said he questions the fact that if a body is found with a gunshot wound in the front of the head it is classified as an ordinary crime but if the wound is in the back of the head it is considered sectarian violence.

Walker said he would "fully expect" such a methodology would reflect a reduction in sectarian violence.

He said those statistics are kept by the Multi-National Force-Iraq, which is commanded by Petraeus. Noting that the details of methodology are classified, he urged senators to push for the information be made public.

- CNN's Dana Bash and Ted Barrett


Filed under: Dick Durbin • Iraq
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Axel, Savannah, GA

    Petraeus is no more than Bush's scapegoat. He doesn't have anyone else to blame for this war.Why do you think Bush spend only six (6) hours in iraq? to make sure "Puppet" Petraeus "Stay the course".

    September 8, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. A. Thomas, New York, NY

    There is no doubt in my mind that Gen. David Petraeus say things in the report what George Bush wants him to say. After all, George Bush appointed him to lead the Iraq war, like he appointed the surpreme court judges who share his or republican views.

    In other words, the report may not worth the paper it is printed on.

    September 8, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  3. Michael Bednarz Quilcene, WA USA

    The only report that is dishonest is the one that Durbin gave to this story. He came back from Iraq 2 weeks ago waxing poetic about the successes our troops have brought about with the Petraeus "Surge" strategy. Obviously Momma Pelosi and DaDa Murtha have gotten to him and he now is on the same B.S. spin page with : 1. Petraeus is Bush's bought and paid for General he will write what Bush wants him to. 2. Any success by our troops and Iraqi security forces will be discounted and worthless because their isn't any "Political" progress. (complete hogwash, the surge IS bringing political progress where it should be brought from the local civil and tribal leaders UP to the central government)

    3. So they will push for us to turn around when we have gone 3/4 of the way across the river and head back to the shore we started from. BRILLIANT! And they can't figure out why Congress approval polls have them 10pts lower than Bush.

    Brian Baird, as liberal a Dem as you will find anywhere went to Iraq and returned recently with the intellectual honesty to tell it like it is in a Seattle Times Op-Ed piece: It's working. We need to win and let this momentum move us forward. For this Baird will probably be "Liebermanized" from the party just like Joe.

    September 8, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  4. MG - Manchester, CT

    Hey A. Thomas from NYC – So by your own logic we shouldn't trust any report issued by any official appointed by any administration right? And please – let's not be cute here. President Clinton did not exactly appoint grossly conservative justices to the Supreme Court, so lets not treat President Bush like he's the only one ever to appoint like-minded justices. Breyer and Ginsburg ~ they certainly don't espouse Democratic views, right??

    September 8, 2007 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. Lyons Steve

    /***
    The character asassination of Gen. Petraeus by Democrats has begun. First Schumer, now Durbin. They can't accept anything that might be good news about the war.
    ***/

    There is no good news. The surge didn't work. The government in Iraq, besides being run by a theocratic constitution, can't even get along with its own countrymen. Americans are dying everyday, many more wounded. This failure is worse than Vietnam.

    Only someone with their head in the sand would continue to believe this war is going well. You heard the last blast of B.S. by Bush about the war meeting only 7 of 18 criteria for "success," and even part of those 7 were stretches of truth by Bush.
    Does someone have to whack you over the head with a swastica to see what's going on?
    Why should Petreus be any less of a liar than the rest of the fascist Bushies?

    Get real. Bush got rid of all the military generals who were against his stupid war. Just because he found a syncophant in Petreus doesn't make that guy legitimate as anything other than a Bush apologist.

    If you think the war is so grand...why don't you go enlist? Hypocrite.

    September 8, 2007 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  6. lyons steve

    /*** re: Petreus
    He may be our last hope for peace.
    ***/

    Wow. Straight out of "1984."

    "War is peace." Sure thing.

    September 8, 2007 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  7. Brad, CA

    Character asassination of Gen. Petraeus by Democrats?? He has no character, but I'm not being one-sided... the republican administration and the democratic congress have no character either.

    September 8, 2007 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  8. Elwood, Collinsville IL

    Hooray for Senator Durbin!

    Pottery Barn theory: If I break something in the barn, I'm responsbile for it.

    Sucker Barn theory: After I pay for what I broke in the Pottery Barn, a huge Wild West brawl breaks out between the owners, customers and employees, and YOU seem to think AMERICAN TROOPS should have to pay for all the broken pots!!

    HOORAY FOR SENATOR DURBIN!!! To heck with Bushkissers who hate our troops!!

    September 8, 2007 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  9. bprossersme

    Does this guy know how stupid he is?

    September 8, 2007 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  10. pete Denver Co

    Hey Durbin, wear a turban and get it over with.

    September 9, 2007 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  11. Mandinga, Pentagon City

    "Durbin, a war critic, said that for a long period of time he has exchanged e-mail with civilian employees who were gathering data for the report and writing draft portions of the findings.

    "Some of them I correspond with almost on a daily basis. And when they sent a discouraging report about things that were happening in Baghdad, they were reminded by their superiors that's unacceptable; we need a positive report. They were sent back for editing changes. Now that's a fact," Durbin said."

    this is true... I KNOW a lot of them!!!! thanks God somebody have the guts to tell it as it is...

    September 9, 2007 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  12. erika morgan black dimond wa

    Petraeus is George and Dick's pick for the job, several generals with personal integrity retired near the time he was named. Naturally we all expect his report to be a shinning support of his bosses agenda, that is the only response that would be acceptable to the Bushies.

    I think it is notable that George thought he ought to go to Bagdad to get "the story strait" even with his hand picked general, supporting the idea that he does not trust Petraeus's complacency in the delusion he wants to persist in passing on to us. Truth speaks for itself and requires no framing discussions.

    The purpose of Petraeus's surge was to divide the oil revenues equitably, gain a respected Iraqi policing body, gain an Iraqi military that could support a functional national government, get the personal militias to disband or come under the leadership of a beloved common government, and get the utilities back on line 24/7 and a good start on rebuilding including 100% gainful employment for each Iraqi.

    None of these things are being addressed as the job is impossible for Petraeus or our military. There must be a bloodbath in Iraq with the top war lord taking over finally in the end, we can hope this warlord is "nicer" then Sadam but that hope is more related to our delusion then facts on the ground.

    September 9, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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