AC: "There appears to be a growing realization at last among Democrats that this war is not finishing."
Michael has a new VO for the section of "Inside the Surge" that detailed the deal made with insurgents (and the death of Abu Fahad) and then talks a bit about the hearings.
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GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: We very much share the frustration. Those of us who have been at this for a long time obviously want the war to end as much as anybody else, perhaps maybe more.
We're not after the Holy Grail in Iraq; we're not after Jeffersonian democracy. We're after conditions that would allow our soldiers to disengage. And that is, in fact, what we are doing.
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CAMPBELL BROWN: General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was grilled for a second day by members of Congress. And today he hinted that he would argue against any order from the next president to bring U.S. troops home quickly.
General Petraeus has faced tough questioning about the success of the so-called surge. Well, tonight a reality check on whether it's working as well as the general says.
CNN's Michael Ware is "Keeping Them Honest."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how we first introduced you to this man, Abu Fahad, his face blurred to protect his identity. Today we can show you his face, because he was murdered. His crime: siding with the U.S.
His was a true front line of the surge. It was his own neighborhood. Defending it against al Qaeda and Shia death squads, he did it all under contract with U.S. forces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody is there just watching.
WARE: When President Bush unveiled his surge strategy in January last year, ordering 30,000 extra troops to Baghdad, he vowed their mission would prevail.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.
WARE: But the surge is much more than force levels. It's a shift in strategic thinking, comprising many components.
First is to pay one American enemy to assassinate another American enemy. In other words, accept the Sunni insurgents' offer for them to target al Qaeda. It was like hiring an instant army of 70,000, all now on Washington's payroll.
Some treat al Qaeda without mercy. These men now hold the areas cleared of al Qaeda, this senior insurgent commander tells me. "It's the agreement that made the violence against the Americans go down," he says. "And if the Americans say it was because of troop numbers, that will provoke the resistance."
Even Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, an opponent of the U.S. presence, plays a part in the surge. Just last week, his Mehdi Army militia was drawn into fierce combat by an Iraqi government military offensive in the southern port of Basra. That is, until Muqtada and Iran ordered a cease-fire.
It's made a difference, as has Muqtada's nationwide cease-fire declared last year.
These paratroopers patrol an area dominated by the Mehdi Army, and their captain would have once hunted down those militia members.
CAPT. JEREMY USSERY, COMMANDER, BRAVO COMPANY: As you know, as of the last, six, eight, maybe even ten months, the coalition forces have said, "We're willing to work with anybody that is willing to pursue peace as one of their objectives."
WARE: A clear sign of the new strategy is a line of blast walls built by Americans. They encircle neighborhoods and separate Sunni communities from Shia, cementing the militia's' sectarian cleansing and turning Baghdad into a segregated city.
Even changing how Iraqis get married. For this groom, a Sunni marrying a Shia, collecting his bride from her neighborhood, controlled by the Mehdi Army, could be a death sentence.
"I was forced to decorate two cars for the wedding," he says. "One for driving in my neighborhood. And another for traveling through hers."
But the surge remains an undeniable success. Though spiking in recent weeks, attacks nationwide are down 60 percent over last year, with violence at low levels not seen since 2005, according to the U.S. military.
In fact, sectarian killings in Baghdad have plunged by as much as 95 percent. These successes would evaporate without U.S. troops. But they depend on that home-grown help: U.S.-backed militia leaders, like the man we met, Abu Fahad.
"We had to start this, but we are putting death in front of our eyes. We're being put under a lot of pressure to stop. But we won't."
Soon after, someone did stop him. And with America cutting deals with its enemies, thousands more Iraqis like him are the key to the surge.
BROWN: Michael is joining us now from Washington.
And Michael, you pretty much dismissed yesterday's testimony from General Petraeus as political theater. You were at the hearings today. Do you still feel the same way?
WARE: Well, it's not so much political theater on the general's part. It's more that -- the whole stage-managing of the event itself. That's what truly struck me. Perhaps it's because I'm so fresh from the war zone, and I'm imminently returning here.
I mean some of us, like the general, live this conflict, day in, day out. And what has really appalled me is -- despite being a political cynic by nature -- is the fact that these hearings were more about three presidential candidates and national politicians trying to represent their own interests and politics, rather than sparking a true discussion or a true debate about the war, its cost, and its consequences.
Nonetheless, there was some refreshing things that came out of it. One of them is that there appears to be a growing realization at last among Democrats that this war is not finishing. That you just can't yank your troops out, no matter how badly you want to. Because the price that you will pay will be so significant.
So, we even heard a slight change in tone from Senator Obama. Even talking to Senator Kerry, he gave a much more nuanced assessment or appraisal of what withdrawal would mean. That's been refreshing.
The other thing is that the issue of Iran, the true heart now of this conflict begin to bubble more so to the surface during the hearings.
So General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker represented the situation as best they could. There are certainly things about their assessment I wouldn't agree with. For example, their reliance and their highlighting of this Iraqi government as their ally. I mean, please. I think that's quite a stretch.
But nonetheless, in terms of the nature of the conflict, how grinding it is and how America has got to stay this course in the sense that you can't put this to timetables, that was right on the money -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Michael Ware for us from Washington tonight. Michael, thanks.
And we should mention you're sitting down, too, with General Petraeus tomorrow. We look forward to seeing that interview tomorrow night.