Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Rice Hearings

The New York Times editorial this morning, A Diplomatic Hearing, called the Rice hearings 'political theater'. "Ms. Rice acted as if things were going according to plan in Iraq and everywhere else, and the senators acted as if she were not part of the serial disasters of the administration's foreign policy".

Senator Barbara Boxer stood out in her forthright and bold questioning. Instead of going with the Other-than-that,-Mrs. Lincoln,-how-was-your-evening? tone of the proceedings, she refused to flinch from calling Condolezza Rice, and through her the administration, a liar (not the exact term she used, but the facts Boxer laid out made this clear). Here's Boxer's opening statement:

"It is my hope that today, we will have a candid discussion, Dr. Rice, because I believe it is crucial that a Secretary of State speak openly and honestly with the American people and with Congress. Frankly, this issue of candor is where my concern lies.

"Since 9/11, we have been engaged in a just fight against terrorism. I voted to use force against Osama bin Laden and the terrorists in Afghanistan, and I assumed that we would focus on that challenge, not stopping until we got bin Laden, dead or alive, and broke the back of al Qaeda.

"However, instead, with you in a lead role Dr. Rice, we went into Iraq. I want to read you one paragraph that best expresses my views, and the views of millions of Californians, on the impact of the Iraqi war on the war against terrorism. It was written by one of the world’s experts on terrorism and foreign policy, Peter Bergen, five months ago.

"He wrote:

"What we have done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams: We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure that bin Laden has long predicted was the United States' long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden has long despised, ignited Sunni and Shia fundamentalist fervor in Iraq, and have now provoked a “defensive” jihad that has galvanized jihad-minded Muslims around the world. It's hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terrorism.

"This conclusion was reiterated last Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA Director’s think tank, which released a report saying that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of “professionalized” terrorists. NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said that Iraq is “a magnet for international terrorist activity.”These quotations are significant to this hearing, Dr. Rice, because as a major proponent and spokesperson for the war in Iraq, and as someone who was asked by the President to make the case for this war to the American people, and as the person in charge of the reconstruction effort– you have many questions to answer to the American people.

"This war was sold to the American people– as Chief of Staff to President Bush, Andy Card said– like a “new product.” You rolled out the idea and then you had to convince the people, and as you made your case, I personally believe that your loyalty to the mission you were given overwhelmed your respect for the truth.

"That was a great disservice to the American people. But worse than that, our young men and women are dying. So far, 1,366 American troops have been killed in Iraq. More than 25 percent of those troops were from California. More than 10,372 have been wounded.

"I don’t want their families to think for a minute that their lives and bodies were given in vain. Because when your commander in chief asks you to sacrifice yourself for your country, it is noble to answer the call. I am giving their families all the support that they want and need, but I will also not shrink from questioning a war that was not built on the truth.

"Perhaps the most well known statement you have made was the one about Saddam Hussein launching a nuclear weapon on America, with the image of a “mushroom cloud.” That image had to frighten every American into believing that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of annihilating them if he was not stopped."

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