ONE of the many disgraceful things about Washington is that it really doesn't matter what Gen. David Petraeus says in his testimony this week.
Minds are already made up. Senators and activists will listen only for a "Gotcha!" opportunity. Staffers have already formulated the sound bites and written the statements denouncing any progress in Iraq as meaningless.
Politically terrified by positive developments in Iraq, Democrats are trying to explain them away preemptively. Premature Iraqulator Sen. Charles Schumer even resorted to outright lies last week.
We've reached a grotesque low point when scoring political points means more to our legislators than winning a war.
None of us knows precisely what Gen. Petraeus will say, but his testimony will be honest and forthright. He's a model soldier who takes his oath as an officer and his responsibilities as a citizen with the utmost seriousness.
His reward for leading our troops from one success to another in a conflict that verged on failure only last autumn? Calumny. Accusations that he's a stooge of the administration.
And then there are the bizarre warnings from stay-at-homes that the general doesn't have the necessary perspective on events. (Remember last winter, when those same fickle creatures praised the general lavishly, assuming he'd just preside over a retreat?)
This character assassination is despicable. I can assure every reader of this column that Gen. Petraeus is no man's stooge or sycophant. He'll tell the truth as he sees it.
And no one on Capitol Hill will change his or her mind because of what the general has to say.
Senators, have you no shame?
Schumer's Big Lie statement was a foretaste of what you're going to hear this week: The senator's outburst was small-arms fire, but the big guns are about to open up.
Consider just one of Schumer's whoppers: his statement to the effect that any success in Anbar Province had nothing to do with the troop surge - which, according to the senator, was only about Baghdad.
The surge was never only about Baghdad. Yes, it focused heavily on Iraq's capital, because terrorists and militias had made it a key battleground (where they could play to the hug-the-Green-Zone media). But Anbar was always included in the strategy.
The senator gave all the credit for the progress in Anbar (gritting his teeth to admit there's been a turnaround) to former insurgent Sunnis fed up with al Qaeda.
You bet they were fed up. But such complex situations don't have single-talking-point explanations. Throughout Iraq - not least, in Anbar - the surge was as important psychologically as it was in terms of numbers. It sounded the bugle call to charge, rather than retreat - telling all Iraqis that, far from being driven out, we meant to finish the job.
Our renewed commitment gave Sunni Arabs the confidence to turn to us as allies - we weren't going to run away. Credit also goes to those Army and Marine officers who recognized that the swelling hatred of al Qaeda opened up new opportunities.
But make no mistake: Had we not demonstrated military strength and perseverance in Anbar Province year after year, today's anti-terror alliance would never have happened.
The surge didn't cause the turnaround. But it enabled it.
Of course, pols like Sen. Schumer don't want to understand what's happening. They just want to convince you that Iraq's hopeless. They'd rather hand al Qaeda a victory than risk Republican gains.
And these legislators criticize Iraq's parliamentarians.
As for al Qaeda, word of a new tape from Osama bin Laden sent the media into fits. One radio voice declared that it meant al Qaeda's stronger than ever.
Really? All this bozo can do is send a video postcard from his six-year involuntary camping trip, and we're supposed to shake, rattle and roll over? We should be laughing.
Ditto for the inability of al Qaeda in Iraq to stage a major wave of terror attacks to "discredit" Gen. Petraeus before his testimony. Oh, we'll see a few bloody incidents - slaughtered civilians - to coincide with the general's visit to the Hill. But the terrorists are on the strategic defensive.
And if we pass tomorrow's sixth anniversary of 9/11 without a significant terror attack, will we still be told that al Qaeda's "biding its time"?
So what will Gen. Petraeus say as he sits down to face the pomposity of our inbred governing class - whose members hate the fact that we're making progress in Iraq?
The general will outline the progress we've made, but he'll also be honest about Iraq's many remaining challenges. He won't sugarcoat anything, and he won't predict certain victory.
But he just may tell those senators something they really don't want to hear: that we may be able to implement significant troop withdrawals in 2008.
In response, the Dems will concentrate on unreached - but increasingly irrelevant - benchmarks they themselves concocted. They'll shut their ears against all positive news. And they'll twist what they can't deny.
Gen. Petraeus deserves better. Our troops deserve better. And you, my fellow citizens, deserve better.