Monday, January 15, 2007

Secretary Rice's Senate Testimony

I've reviewed only a few excerpts of the testimony given by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, but there is one quote from her that continues to rankle me.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D–CA) asked a question about how many additional U.S. casualties we anticipate as a result of the "surge" or "augmentation" or whatever you want to call the escalation of U.S. troop levels in Iraq. The Secretary's response: "Senator, I think it would be highly unlikely for the military to tell the President we expect X number of casualties because of this augmentation of the forces."

First, let's consider the possibility that Condi is speaking honestly on this question and knows what she's talking about. The military planners who presented this plan to President Bush for his approval gave him no estimate whatsoever of how it would affect the rate of American casualties (not to mention Iraqi civilian casualties). In other words, they were derelict in their duties and should be court-martialed. In preparing any battle plan, the casualty projections should be an integral part of the decision-making process. The generals and admirals have an obligation to consider casualties, because they have an obligation to the front-line soldiers to hold their risk to the minimum possible without endangering the success of the mission. To choose a plan, the planners must consider the likelihood of achieving the objective and the risks involved.

I find it difficult to believe that the military leaders would withhold such vital information from the Decider-in-Chief — unless, of course, he directly ordered them to withhold it. That leaves three more possibilities for Secretary Rice's bizarre statement. The first is that she simply misspoke; it seems unlikely, viewing the video of her testimony, because she seemed entirely aware of what she was saying. The second possibility is that Condi was intentionally lying to Congress, covering up an inconvenient bit of evidence that might sway opinion against the President's plan. Of course, lying to Congress, even if not in sworn testimony, is a serious matter. The third possibility is that the Secretary of State simply knows even less about military planning than some random blogger sitting on a futon watching the TV news.

So, Secretary Rice, which is it? Are the generals incompetent, or did you space out, or were you lying, or are you utterly unqualified for your job?

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