June 16th, 2010
11:08 AM ET
11 years ago

Petraeus returns to Senate to health scare quips, serious war talk

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/16/art.petraeus.0615y.gi.jpg caption = “Gen. David Petraeus was led out of a Senate hearing room Tuesday after fainting.”]Washington (CNN) - Gen. David Petraeus was back before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday and looking well a day after a mid-hearing faint postponed his previous appearance.

Senators were quick to resume their questioning of Petraeus, the chief of U.S. Central Command, over the progress of the war in Afghanistan. But before the questioning began, Petraeus - whose command over sees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - joked with the committee about the Tuesday incident, which was heavy replayed on cable television networks and online.

"Thank you for the opportunity for a redo hearing after I demonstrated yesterday the importance of following my first platoon sergeant's order 35 years ago to always stay hydrated," he said. "I'll try to remember that in the future."

Petraeus told reporters Tuesday that he collapsed at the hearing because he was dehydrated. Witnesses at Congressional hearings often try to curtail liquids in order to endure the long sessions, and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said yesterday that the general had also skipped breakfast.

"I do thank the committee as well for the chocolate chip cookies that were in the anteroom before this session," Petraeus said Wednesday.

Petraeus was being questioned by the committee's ranking Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, when he fell ill on Tuesday. After McCain finished his questions Wednesday, Petraeus was welcomed back by Sen. Joe Lieberman, who compared Petraeus to pro soccer players who have been known to go from writhing in pain on the ground to running around fit as a fiddle in a matter of moments.

"Your recovery time was very impressive yesterday. I thought it was at World Cup levels. And the coach may want to add you to the team roster before Slovenia later in the week," the Connecticut indepdendent joked.

But light-hearted comments about Petraeus's health quickly shifted to the important matters about the war in Afghanistan, now the longest war in U.S. history. Lieberman asked why Petraeus could sound so positive about the war in comments to the committee while Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander on the ground, is sounding notes of caution.

"The conduct of a counterinsurgency operation is a roller-coaster experience. There are setbacks as well as areas of progress or successes," Petraeus replied. "But the trajectory in my view has generally been upward, despite the tough losses, despite the setbacks."

He also answered a question about the Pakistan military's committment to fighting the Taliban, who are often based in that country.

"They do realize, I believe, senator, you cannot allow poisonous snakes to build a nest in your backyard with the understanding that those snakes will only bite the neighbor's kids," Petraeus said. "Because sooner or later, they will turn around and bite your kids."

Filed under: David Petraeus
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. good health to you

    hope you are doing better

    June 16, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. brain in DC

    Thanks, Gen Petraeus. For several years now you've been carrying ever increasing loads of responsibility on behalf of the US. Hard to keep up with all the responsibilities and travel. We thank you and with you all the strength you need.

    June 16, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. Stacie

    I'm glad he's OK.

    June 16, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |