Friday, January 12, 2007

Feingold Shows Rice What Oversight Looks Like

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war and quickly realized that getting a real Congress sworn in means she may have to actually get used to Congressional oversight -- and the questions that will come now that voters have disposed of the do-nothing Republican Congress.

As expected, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) was in Rice's face rapidly, starting with his opening statement -- here's an excerpt:
Madam Secretary, this hearing is taking place in the context of what has become a true nightmare for the United States, and quite possibly the greatest foreign policy mistake in the history of our nation. We currently have 140,000 of our bravest men and women in uniform in Iraq, stuck in what has become a civil war.

Almost four years after this war began, Iraqis are no closer to a political agreement or to resolve the underlying political, ethnic, religious and economic problems that are ripping the country apart.

But the president wants to send more U.S. troops to Iraq.

His strategy runs counter to the needs of our strained military, counter to the testimony of our military's most senior officers, counter to the need to address the troubling developments in places like Afghanistan and Somalia, and counter to the fact that after four years of failed strategies for victory, the American people have sent a resounding message. And that message is it is time to redeploy our brave troops out of Iraq now.
Feingold then sends a clear message that, to him, Congress needs to not only use "the power of the purse" to derail the troop escalation of the Bush-McCain Doctrine but to also get our military men and women out of Iraq entirely. He also throws in a shot about the lies that took us to war in Iraq and that have kept us there.
And now Congress must use its main power: the power of the purse to put an end to our involvement in this disastrous war. And I'm not talking here only about the surge or escalation. It is time to use the power of the purse to bring our troops out of Iraq.

Our troops in Iraq have performed heroically, but we cannot continue to send our nation's best into a war that was started and is still maintained on false pretenses. We need a new national security strategy that starts with a redeployment from Iraq so we can repair and strengthen our military and focus on the global threats to our national security.
Here's audio of Feingold's opening statement.

Then the question-answer started and Feingold used his time to make Rice explain how the Bush administration's war in Iraq has made America safer in general. This, of course, put Rice in the position of doing so much dancing, Feingold should have fired up an MP3 of "Disco Inferno" to go with her response.
Feingold: Is the United States more secure now as a result of our military incursion into Iraq than we were before we entered Iraq?

Rice: Senator, I think that we are more secure. We are more secure, but we're not secure.

Feingold: Are we more secure, vis-à-vis Al Qaeda?

Rice: We have done a lot to break up Al Qaeda, the forces that came against us on September the 11th. I think...

Feingold: But are we more secure, vis-à-vis Al Qaeda, than we were before we went into Iraq?

Rice: Well, Senator, I do think that we are more secure, vis-à-vis Al Qaeda, for a lot of reasons -- not just our policies in the Middle East, the policies we've undertaken here at home...

Feingold: I asked you whether, as a result of our Iraqi intervention, are we more secure, vis-à-vis Al Qaeda?

Rice: Senator, the notion about Iraq has always been that to deal with the short-term problem of Al Qaeda as it exists now, is not going to create long-term security. You can only do that by changing the nature of the Middle East that produced Al Qaeda. I don't want us to confuse what we are doing in Iraq with the short-term problem. The longer-term issue is how the Middle East itself evolves, and that's why Iraq is so important and it's why it's important that we succeed.

Feingold: I understand the argument. I completely reject it, but I understand it. What about Afghanistan? Are we better off in Afghanistan than we were before the invasion of Iraq?

Rice: I think there's no doubt that we are better off in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has made a lot of progress since 2006 -- since 2001...

Feingold: That's not what I asked. I asked if we're better off since the intervention in Iraq?

Rice: Senator, not everything is related to what we have done in Iraq.

Feingold: Simple question: Did it help or did it hurt our situation in Afghanistan?

Rice: Senator, I think that we have been managing what is going on in Afghanistan, as we've been managing what goes on in Iraq. I don't actually see the connection you're trying to draw. I don't understand.

Feingold: Well, are we better off vis-à-vis Iran and North Korea than we were prior to the intervention in Iraq? Is our security situation vis-à-vis Iran and North Korea better than it was before the intervention in Iraq?

Rice: Well, I don't really think, Senator, that the North Korean test, nuclear test, has anything to do with Iraq.

Feingold: I think the diversion of attention from the most important problems in the world has everything to do with this terrible mistake.

Let's try something that I think is more direct. What about our military, the strain on our military? Is our military better off than it was before the Iraq intervention?

Rice: Senator, we're at war, and when we're at war there's going to be strain on the military. I think that's what General Pace would tell you.

But, again, I just -- I can't agree with you that there's been a diversion of our attention from all other policy problems. If you look at the progress that we've actually made on North Korea, with North Korea under a Chapter 7 resolution and with six-party talks about to begin again; if you look at the progress that we're making on stopping an Iranian nuclear weapon that, by the way, has been in train for quite some time; if you look at the progress that we've made -- and I have to say, you know, this Middle East that somehow was so stable before we invaded Iraq is a Middle East that I didn't recognize in 2000 or 2001 either.

That was a Middle East where Saddam Hussein was still in power, still with the potential to invade his neighbors as he had done before, where Syria was deep into Lebanon, where the Palestinian territories were governed by a man who was stealing the Palestinians blind but couldn't take a peace deal.

I don't see that Middle East as having been very stable. So...

Feingold: My time is up, but I see this problem of our security as an international problem. And I believe the diversion of attention in Iraq has been absolutely catastrophic with regard to our national security.
Each Senator got only seven minutes with Rice -- this time around -- and I bet Rice glanced at her watch more than a few times while speaking to Feingold.