Anti-war Democrats on Thursday accused President George W. Bush of plotting to lace a potentially pivotal report on his Iraq troop surge strategy with “White House spin.”
The attack came as senior congressional aides were reported as saying the White House tried to block public testimony in Congress next month from war commander General David Petraeus and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker.
Democrats are also angry the assessment on the surge, required under US law, will be written at the White House, not personally by Crocker and Petraeus.
But the White House accused Democrats of playing political games with war strategy, and made clear the two men would testify in a public hearing.
Senate Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid accused the White House of launching an attempt to mask candid testimony on the strategy.
“If the president is going to continue to ask American soldiers to fight in this civil war … then those closest to the situation on the ground must give Congress and the American people a frank and honest account of this war free of White House spin,” he said.
Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, warned: “The American people have had four years of spin and slogans. Now, they are ready for the truth — the good, the bad and the ugly.
“An honest report from our generals and diplomats about the status of the war isnÂt too much to ask.”
But National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe denied there had been an attempt to limit testimony by Petraeus and Crocker, as reported by Thursday’s Washington Post.
“General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify to the Congress in both open as well as closed sessions,” he said in Crawford, Texas, where Bush is on vacation.
“It’s unfortunate that anyone would suggest that they would not do that; trying to start a fight where there really isn’t one, because this has always been the plan.”
The law requiring the Iraq war report by September 15 states that “the president shall submit” the assessment to Congress after consulting top military brass, the US ambassador to Baghdad and his national security team.
It does not specify that the report must be the direct work of Crocker and Petraeus.
The report on the strategy to surge up to 30,000 extra US troops into Iraq in an effort to give Iraqi politicians time to move political reconciliation is eagerly awaited in Washington.
Democrats opposed to the war, and Republicans increasingly anxious about the unpopular conflict’s influence on their reelection hopes in 2008 have mentioned it as a make-or-break moment for US policy.
Aides to Reid on Thursday distributed a list of occasions in which Bush repeatedly said that Petraeus would be responsible for September’s report, to bolster their claim the White House would try to skew its recommendations.
Petraeus reportedly said in Iraq on Wednesday that he was considering recommendations to slowly draw down US troop numbers in Iraq.