Hillary Clinton has decided that, in order to look presidential, she needs to pick a fight. Her spat with Senator Barack Obama over meeting with foreign leaders is the latest example. Before that, she falsely claimed that the Pentagon had accused her of being unpatriotic. This phony controversy, fanned and inflamed by the media, says more about Hillary than it does about the Pentagon. Would she, as president, deliberately pursue policies that embolden the enemies of America? Is she too reckless and irresponsible in foreign affairs to be Commander-in-Chief?
During the CNN/YouTube debate, Mrs. Clinton claimed that “?I asked the Pentagon a simple question: have you prepared for withdrawing our troops? In response, I got a letter accusing me of being unpatriotic?that I shouldn’t be asking questions.”
This is an exaggeration that tells us a lot about Hillary’s approach. She wants the public to believe that she is being picked on. Can’t she take the heat?
In fact, Under Secretary of Defense Eric S. Edelman had told Senator Clinton in a letter that the Pentagon is always “evaluating and planning for possible contingencies” but that “long-standing departmental policy” is that “operational plans, including contingency plans are not released outside of the Department.”
He also told her that “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United states will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. Such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks in order to achieve compromises on national reconciliation, amending the Iraqi Constitution, and other contentious issues.”
Today Secretary of Defense Robert Gates released a letter he wrote to Sen. Clinton in an attempt to ratchet down the controversy, stating that Congressional oversight is both “appropriate and essential,” and does not “embolden our enemies.” At the same time, he did not repudiate Edelman and insisted that Edelman had not impugned her motives or her patriotism.
Many questions about the war should be asked. For example, why isn’t the Bush Administration holding Iran accountable for killing our troops in Iraq? Why is the Bush Administration not confronting China about sending weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan through Iran?
But these questions are based on the premise that the U.S. should win the war. The Hillary approach is to assume that we will lose it and that we should get out in a public way that signals to the rest of the world our demise as a superpower.
Hillary’s May 22 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates had asked that he provide Congress with briefings “on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.” On the other hand, she said, if no such plans exist, “please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.” And rather than merely having asked, as she said on CNN, “a simple question” about withdrawing our troops, she declared that “it is imperative that the Department of Defense prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.”
Two days later, she was one of just 14 Senators who voted against a bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the bill didn’t include a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.
The Edelman July 16th response letter became a hot topic in the news and the blogosphere. For her part, Hillary sent a follow-up letter, complaining to Secretary Gates about Edelman and wondering whether Gates shared his view.
Associated Press called the Edelman letter “a stinging rebuke” from the Department of Defense. The article said that DOD told her “that her questions about how the United States eventually plans to withdraw from Iraq boosts enemy propaganda.”
But this was misleading. The Pentagon’s point was that public discussions about operational details of withdrawal are destabilizing and demoralizing to our allies.
Taking the Hillary line, Fred Kaplan of Slate.com said that Edelman “all but accused of her (sic) treason for asking to be let in,” and suggested it was “an insult” to all Senators. On the low-rated CBS Evening News, Katie Couric erroneously reported that “the Pentagon is lashing out tonight at Hillary Clinton.”
But if you read the actual letter, instead of the one paragraph that keeps getting quoted, it is not a stinging rebuke at all, but rather a statement of the administration’s policy and judgment. Kaplan’s piece in Slate actually linked back to a 2006 article of his own for the Atlantic magazine which documented that in fact contingency plans for withdrawal from Iraq already existed at that time.
Contingency plans are just that. There are lots of contingency plans that are made, but not acted upon unless certain developments occur.
The unstable Keith Olbermann of MSNBC ranted on in defense of Sen. Clinton, with full quivering lip and trembling outrage. “A spokesman for the senator says Mr. Edelman’s remarks are ‘at once both outrageous and dangerous,'” said Olbermann. “Those terms are entirely appropriate and may, in fact, understate the risk the Edelman letter poses to our way of life and all that our fighting men and women are risking, have risked, and have lost, in Iraq.”
A threat to our way of life? Olbermann is obviously over the edge, an embarrassment to MSNBC and parent company GE.
Strangely, however, with his nightly dispensing of red meat to the Bush haters and the far left, and his unwillingness to bring on guests with opposing points of view, his show has become MSNBC’s highest rated prime time show, even though he gets only about a fourth of the viewers on average of his archenemy Bill O’Reilly. This is the market Hillary played to with her phony charge that the Pentagon was accusing her of being unpatriotic.
Joining the Hillary bandwagon, commentator Juan Williams responded that he felt the letter was “intended to chill the political discussion and debate over the war, and that’s anti-democratic.” He called it scare tactics.
One who cut through the fog was Lt Col Bill Cowan, a Fox News consultant and former senate staffer, as well as a true military hero. He was on the O’Reilly Factor on July 20, and said, “The letter she [Hillary] got from Secretary Edelman was about as vanilla a letter as can be written in this town. There was nothing whatsoever directed at her personally. It was a typical, almost standard, form letter?Nothing at all in there to imply that he was impugning her motives, her intentions, or anything.”
Cowan said that Clinton had made an error. He said that “?she’s entitled to ask these kinds of questions. But to publicly ask these questions and to expect a public disclosure of the plan is unacceptable.”
The controversy casts doubt on Hillary’s qualifications to be president. She knows that operational details of military activities are not shared with Congress. But she asked for them anyway, in an attempt to act tough with the Pentagon brass. When they replied with the facts, she whined and cried foul.
Demands from Hillary and other Senate liberals for military details like this undermine the effort to win the support of the Iraqis. The local people have to make calculations. Do they want to support us, at the risk of retaliation from those who want us to fail? Or do they want to join their enemies, or stay on the fence? The key for the U.S. and its allies is winning the Iraqis’ confidence.
If Hillary were serious about this, and not trying to grandstand, she would approach the Pentagon privately and through the appropriate channels. But the asking of such questions publicly by a prominent senator who is running for president, and who might win, is a signal to the world of pending defeat. It says to Iraqis that if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, the U.S. is out of Iraq, no matter what the consequences.
The indignation from Clinton and her backers to the Edelman letter is insincere and her request was irresponsible. It is apparently okay for them to attack the patriotism and judgment of President Bush and his administration. But when an official of the Pentagon makes a simple observation that disclosing national security information helps the enemy, this is considered offensive and improper and an unfair attack on Mrs. Clinton.
This controversy comes at a time when Hillary has calculated that she needs to make her move to the left, pandering to the MoveOn and DailyKos far-left wing of the Democratic Party. In doing so, as a New York Newsday article points out, she is fudging the truth about when she made the shift from supporting the war to opposing it.
It appears that Senator Clinton wants the U.S. to lose, while the Bush Administration continues to hold out the hope of winning in some fashion. Columnist Charles Krauthammer proposes The 20 Percent Solution, a plan to work with and arm the Sunnis so they can fight and defeat al Qaeda and the foreign Jihadists, and then be in a position to co-exist with the Shi’ite majority. Even the New York Times has acknowledged “astonishing success” in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province.
Journalist and historian Victor Davis Hanson explained the implications of a precipitous withdrawal. “It is not easy securing Iraq, but if we decide to quit and ‘redeploy,’ Americans should at least accept that the effort to stabilize Iraq was a crushing military defeat, that our generation established a precedent of withdrawing an entire army group from combat operations on the battlefield, and that the consequences will be better known even to our enemies than they are to us.”
For his part, President Bush on July 24 in Charleston, South Carolina, called for “complete victory” in Iraq. But AIM Editor Cliff Kincaid points to evidence of a no-win strategy in which Iraq is turned over to the U.N. And the aforementioned Lt Col Bill Cowan points out that a loss in Iraq would be a victory not only for al Qaeda, but even worse, it would mean “an Iranian victory in Iraq.”
Meanwhile, a CBS-New York Times poll found that 62% agree that it was right to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Slightly over half of those think we should have left shortly after completing that mission. But over half now want to give the surge a chance to succeed before deciding what step to take next.
The mischaracterization of this Edelman-Clinton exchange has been stunning in the pattern of consistency in which it has been reported. It is an example of the support Clinton has in the media, and the willingness to distort a story to make the Bush administration look bad and for Clinton to be both a victim and a foe of the administration on the war. While President Bush prematurely declared “Mission Accomplished” in May of 2003, after toppling Saddam and scattering his uniformed forces, Hillary Clinton is premature in her assertion that the war cannot be won and that all that’s left to decide is how we pull out.