Editor’s Note: As part of the strategy of "playing for" time on the Iraq War, George W. Bush has demanded that Official Washington wait until his hand-picked field general, David Petraeus, gets to speak at hearings set for next week.

In this guest essay, former Democratic congressional staffer Brent Budowsky urges members of Congress to go beyond predictable questions about Bush's troop "surge":

When Army Gen. David Petraeus testifies next week, here are the hard questions that the nation deserves to have asked and answered, clearly and unequivocally:

Do you agree that the government of Iraq is indebted to, and dependent on, Shiite factions that control death squads and militia that favor Shiite military victory in sectarian wars that have raged for hundreds of years?

Do you agree that many of the same forces and factions that we support through the Iraqi government are recipients of support from the government of Iran?

Are we not today providing money, weapons and bribes directly or indirectly to both sides in the Shiite-Sunni sectarian war?

In your estimation, general, on a scale of 1 to 10, what is the probability that the current Iraqi government will legitimately seek and achieve reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis?

If there is no reconciliation, do you agree that the ultimate result of American support of former Sunni insurgents who were recently killing Americans, and of the Iraqi government with deep ties to Iran and Shiite militia and death squads, will be increased carnage, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing made even more catastrophic because we are providing weapons and money to both sides today?

General, how do you evaluate the long-term damage to the United States Army and how do you compare the effectiveness of our military force structures, and capability for deterrence, in 2007 compared to 2003?

Do you agree with the Marine Corps pathologist that many of those killed and wounded in Iraq were preventable casualties resulting from lack of armor, protection and support from Washington, and that tax cuts during wartime, with such needs continuing to be unmet, are morally unacceptable?

Do you agree, general, that from 2003 until 2007 major damage has been done to our mission in Afghanistan by diversion of our military to Iraq, and that such damage poses a significant and increasing threat to our security by endangering our mission in Afghanistan and our campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and along the Afghani-Pakistani border?

Do you agree with many experts that the long-term costs of supporting troops and veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and previous wars for the duration of their lives is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars for needs that are unmet, unplanned, unbudgeted and neglected?

How concerned are you about the decline in recruiting standards that have led to increasing enlistments of those who are obese, have criminal records, fall short of educational standards, or are enticed into service to meet personal financial crises more than to express traditional values of duty, honor and country?

General, don’t you agree that the major retention failure in which large numbers of West Point graduates leave the service does major damage to our future command structure, and loses many of the future Pattons, MacArthurs and Eisenhowers?

Do you support the Geneva Convention in full, oppose what Gen. Antonio Taguba suggests is a cover-up of the Abu Ghraib crimes, and understand the damage that Guantanamo, the challenge to the traditional code of military justice, and the entire torture debate do to undermine our position in the battle of ideas and increase the number of recruited terrorists, even as we lower the standards for recruited soldiers?

Do you regret the op-ed you wrote for The Washington Post in September 2004, shortly before the presidential election, in which you made dramatically over-optimistic forecasts for the Iraqi army, police and government leadership three full years ago?

What lessons have you learned and what changes have you made from your previous tour of duty in Iraq, when far too few in the Iraqi military were trained under your command, when far too many weapons were stolen or lost under your command, and when your September 2004 forecasts were so mistaken compared to the realities of the Iraqi military and police at the time you made them?

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net. [This article first appeared in The Hill.]

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