CNN's Henry cited Bush's "tout[ing]" of Iraq troop withdrawals -- but Henry had reported troops "would have to come home ... anyway"

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

Reporting on a speech by President Bush, CNN's Ed Henry asserted: "The president touted the fact that more than 20,000 U.S. troops will be coming home from Iraq by July." However, Henry made no mention of his reporting for CNN in September 2007, when he noted Bush's attempt to "get some political credit for bringing these troops home" and said: "[I]t's important to stress, as you know, that military officials have already suggested that they're stretched and these surge troops would have to come home by next spring -- next summer anyway."

On the January 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, reporting on President Bush's speech during a visit to Las Vegas, CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry asserted: "The president touted the fact that more than 20,000 U.S. troops will be coming home from Iraq by July. But Mr. Bush once again hedged on whether there will be more troop cuts later this year." However, Henry ignored his own prior reporting from the September 11, 2007, edition of The Situation Room; then, he noted Bush's attempt to "get some political credit for bringing these troops [30,000 of the so-called surge troops] home" and said: "[I]t's important to stress, as you know, that military officials have already suggested that they're stretched and these surge troops would have to come home by next spring -- next summer anyway."

Indeed, during his September 11, 2007, testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gen. David Petraeus stated that the "active brigade combat teams were going to come out of" Iraq anyway. The same day, during his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Petraeus said that "the strain on the force ... was very much one that informed the recommendations" to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Petraeus' testimony echoed statements he and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have made in the past about the need to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq regardless of the situation there.

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the January 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Let's turn now to word that a high-level terrorist is dead. He's described as a senior Al Qaeda operative who's had direct contact with Osama bin Laden. He's identified as Abu Laith al-Libi. This comes as President Bush just today talked about keeping terrorists on the run. Let's go straight to CNN's White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's in Los Angeles.

HENRY: Wolf, at a speech here in Las Vegas, President Bush charged that Democrats are jeopardizing U.S. security by not codifying a law that allows electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists. After the speech, the president signed a 15-day extension of the law, but is demanding a long-term fix.

Now, Democrats have asserted they will not be rushed into this because they say the law as currently written is too broad, that the warrantless wiretaps allow the government to eavesdrop on innocent Americans. The president dismissed those concerns, saying this is a vital tool in the war on terror. And while he did not mention that a top Al Qaeda leader has been killed, he did say America is on offense from Afghanistan to Iraq, and in blunt terms he said the surge is working.

BUSH [video clip]: Al Qaeda knows the surge is working. They thought they could live safely in Anbar Province. This was the place from which they were going to launch attacks throughout Iraq and throughout the Middle East. This is the place where they proudly proclaimed, you know, this is our safe haven. They no longer have a safe haven in Anbar Province. They're on the run. We're going to keep them on the run. And it's in our interest for our own security to keep them on the run.

HENRY: The president touted the fact that more than 20,000 U.S. troops will be coming home from Iraq by July. But Mr. Bush once again hedged on whether there will be more troop cuts later this year. The president saying the U.S. has come too far in Iraq to ruin success by pulling more troops too quickly. That sets up another major clash with Democrats over troop cuts in the summer and fall, just as the presidential campaign will be really heating up. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Ed Henry with that report.

From the September 11, 2007, edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting. Now to President Bush and his plans to reduce U.S. troop levels in Iraq to where they were before the start of the so-called surge -- that would be in January and February of this year. Our White House correspondent Ed Henry is standing by. Ed, tell us more, what we can expect to hear from the president in his prime-time address Thursday night.

HENRY: Well, Wolf, senior officials say the president is expected to embrace a pulling out by next summer up to 30,000 of the so-called surge troops. The point here, the president likely to bill this as a success, get some political credit for bringing these troops home. But it's important to stress, as you know, that military officials have already suggested that they're stretched and these surge troops would have to come home by next spring -- next summer anyway.

Also important to note, that this only would bring the U.S. footprint down to where it was about last December, about 130,000 U.S. troops still on the ground in Iraq. You have Democrats like John Kerry already declaring this is too little too late -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well it suggests that from the president's perspective, Ed, this war is going to continue at least through the end of his administration in January 2009.

HENRY: That's right, Wolf. I mean there had been so much hype coming into September that this would be a turning point in the war debate. Instead, what it's looking like is that this will give the president a little more political breathing space, maybe another six months or so, to stall the Congress a bit. They don't have the votes to change his strategy. As you know, in this new book, his conversations with author Robert Draper, the president made clear his goal over the next 18 months or so is to try to stabilize the situation on the ground in Iraq enough so that his successor will be willing to accept a large troop presence in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry reporting at the White House. Thanks Ed.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Ed Henry
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.