Just Another Guy with Opinions

Hillary Gets Tough

Posted by shadmia on July 21, 2007


Sen. Hillary Clinton shows that she will not be easily dealt with or ignored. In a letter dated May 22, 2007 and addressed to the Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates, Sen. Clinton asked if there were contingency plans for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and if so, could he share with the appropriate congressional committees what those plans were.

She received a reply, not from the Secretary of Defense, but from the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Eric Edelman, which she claims not only did not respond to her inquiries but his comments were “outrageous and dangerous” in insinuating that congressional oversight emboldens the enemy.

In a second letter, again addressed to the Secretary of Defense, she renewed her request for a response to her original letter and demanded to know if the views expressed by the Under Secretary of Defense in his letter were the same views held by the Secretary of Defense. Below are excerpts from the three letters involved. For the entire contents of all three letters click here

Sen. Clinton’s first letter addressed to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense:

Given the express will of the Congress to implement a phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq and the importance of proper contingency planning to achieve that goal, I write to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress – including the Senate Armed Services Committee – with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning………………..

The response written by Eric Edelman, Under Secretary of Defense:

“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…………..
I assure you, however, that as with other plans, we are always evaluating and planning for possible contingencies. As you know, it is long-standing departmental policy that operational plans, including contingency plans, are not released outside of the department.”

Sen. Clinton’s response to Edelman letter, again addressed to Robert Gates:

I am in receipt of a letter from Eric Edelman, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, who wrote that he was responding on your behalf. Under Secretary Edelman’s response did not address the issues raised in my letter and instead made spurious arguments to avoid addressing contingency planning for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
Rather than offer to brief the congressional oversight committees on this critical issue, Under Secretary Edelman – writing on your behalf – instead claims that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. Under Secretary Edelman has his priorities backwards. Open and honest debate and congressional oversight strengthens our nation and supports our military. His suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and dangerous…………
Redeploying out of Iraq will be difficult and requires careful planning. I continue to call on the Bush Administration to immediately provide a redeployment strategy that will keep our brave men and women safe as they leave Iraq – instead of adhering to a political strategy to attack those who rightfully question their competence and preparedness after years of mistakes and misjudgments……………….
I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of US forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning…….Finally, I request that you describe whether Under Secretary Elelman’s letter accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense.

In this commentary, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC provides his perspective on the entire episode:


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