"Forced by facts on the ground to acknowledge the progress of the American and Iraqi militaries since the new surge strategy started, some of these opponents of the war are now turning their harshest criticism on our allies in Iraq instead of our enemies. This is a mistake. Whatever the shortcomings of our friends in Iraq, they are not an excuse to retreat from the real enemies who threaten our vital national interests there.
"I share the frustrations about the performance of the Iraqi government. But the fact is, as my colleagues know, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are meeting every day with Iraq's democratically-elected leaders to help them reach compromise and reconciliation on a range of complex, painful, and existential issues. Political progress in Iraq depends on this kind of steady statecraft and patient diplomacy on the ground in Baghdad, rather than scapegoating and congressionally-ordered coups.
"Ironically, it was not so long ago that many in Congress criticized the Bush administration for what they described as its heavy-handed and patronizing treatment of our most important allies in the world. Now many of those very critics make the exact same mistake in their treatment of the Iraqis, whose citizens--lest we forget--are fighting and dying every day in the struggle against al Qaeda, and in far higher numbers than any other nationality.
"Ultimately, the choice we face in Iraq is not between the current Iraqi government and a perfect Iraqi government. Rather, it is a choice between a young, imperfect, struggling democracy that we have helped midwife into existence, and the totalitarian, terrorist regime that al Qaeda hopes to impose in its place, should we retreat.
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