For What?

As my favorite professional journalist turned DFH blogger noted, today’s hearings are descending into restatements of questions already asked yesterday. One notable exception, though, was Robert Wexler. I’m not usually a fan of Wexler’s emotional displays. But Wexler boiled down the question everyone is and has been asking.

General Petraeus, last week in anticipation of this hearing, I sent an urgent email asking my constituents and other Americans if they were serving on this committee, what is the one question they would pose to you. There was an extraordinary response, with more than 5000 questions submitted. These emails and phone calls expressed deeply held frustrations about the War in Iraq and reflect the feelings of millions of Americans who feel that their opinions and concerns are cast aside by the Bush Administration. I want to thank everyone who responded and submitted a question for today’s hearing. While many of the respondents rightfully highlighted the bravery of our troops, a majority of the emails expressed a strong desire to see a withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq and an end to this five-year war that has cost our nation so dearly.

Most of the questions boiled down to this: General, we often see President Bush and Senator McCain say we must win in Iraq. What is the definition of winning? What would a military victory look like that was sufficient enough to allow us to begin leaving?

Then, in a horrific turn of events, two of my constituents, Esther and Len Wolfer of Boca Raton, Florida, learned that this past Sunday their son had been killed for this war. Major Stuart Wolfer was a 36-year old Reservist on his second tour. He was married with three young children, ages 5, 3, and 20 months. His family was relieved that he was in the Green Zone, for they hoped he would be safe there. He was not. I spoke to Mr. Wolfer yesterday–last night–who asked me to ask you simply, "For what? For what had he lost his son?"

So allow me to combine if you will the questions of the people that responded to me and Mr. Wolfer. What has all this been for. And please, respectfully, don’t tell us as you told Senator Warner yesterday, "to remove a brutal dictator." That’s not good enough. There are many dictators in the world. Read more

Condi Ignores Doubts on the 16 Words

Given that Henry Waxman has been threatening to subpoena Condi to answer precisely the same question that Robert Wexler asked today yesterday, I would guess that Condi has practiced her answer. And, unfortunately, the ability to filibuster is one of Condi’s greatest skills–Condi frankly got the best of Wexler here (and sadly, Wexler didn’t ask her the doozy question–why she approved the 16 words in the SOTU after Tenet had warned her strongly against the Niger claim in October 2002).

If you look at this whole exchange, Condi gets away with defending her integrity in several ways:

  • By eliding the difference between consensus judgments and challenges to it (in other words, Condi successfully ducked Wexler’s question about burying those challenges)
  • By shifting from the decisions she made about intelligence to the decisions others did
  • By ignoring the whole question of leaks to the press (Scooter Libby testified that Condi was the chief leaker in the A1 Cut-Out strategy, for example, which suggests Condi repeatedly leaked insta-declassified information to people like Judy Miller so it would become the dominant story)

But I’m particularly interested in Condi’s successful efforts to still–almost five years after the Valerie Wilson leak–pawn the blame off on the CIA:

RICE: Congressman, I am sorry, I sat through the briefings for the Congress and for the Senate, done by the intelligence community. We were there to provide policy advice, but either George Tenet or John McLaughlin or others gave those briefings.

And, Congressman, the American people were told what their intelligence community as a whole believed to be the assessment concerning Iraq’s programs.

Condi suggests that if Congress and the American people got bad information, it’s George Tenet’s and John McLaughlin’s fault.

Which is why–in addition to asking Condi why she approved the 16 words in the SOTU–Wexler didn’t bring up this briefing:

On October 2, 2002, the Deputy DCI testified before the SSCI. Senator Jon Kyl asked the Deputy DCI whether he had read the British white paper and whether he disagreed with anything in the report. The Deputy DCI testified that "the one thing where I think they stretched a little bit beyond where we would stretch is on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We’ve looked at those reports and we don’t think they are very credible. Read more