Sunday, March 26, 2006

Condi on Meet the Press

The first guest on this morning's Meet the Press was U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She spoke at great length, but without substance, regarding the report that the Russians passed intelligence, including details of U.S. troop movements, to Saddam Hussein in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion. She spoke at equal length, but also with equal lack of substance, regarding the efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or even the technology to move closer to the capability to build nuclear weapons.

Tim Russert: Do you believe if the President chose to embark on military action with Iran, he would go to Congress for authorization first?

Condoleezza Rice: I'm not going to speculate on that. The President is clear that he keeps all of his options on the table, but, Tim, I think speculating about how we might set up military action isn't helpful at a time when we really are concentrating on the diplomacy.

Russert: But you wouldn't go to Congress?

Condi: Well, of course, the administration went to Congress the last time, and I would just ask people to look at the history of how this President has acted. He has taken Congress as a full partner in these matters, but I'm not going to get into a discussion of what the President may or may not do Constitutionally.
The notion that the President somehow took Congress "as a full partner" would be hilarious if the subject weren't such a threat to our democracy. David Broder had a story in the Washington Post on 2006-03-10, quoted during the roundtable segment later on today's Meet the Press, in which he quoted Representative Tom Davis (R–VA), who went on record saying, "This is probably the worst administration ever in getting Congress's opinion on anything."

If even the members of Bush's own party don't believe that he takes them as "a full partner," then why on earth should anyone else believe it? Of course, I would also argue that this is the worst Congress ever at insisting that the President consult with them. President Bush hasn't vetoed a single bill out of Congress, but the Republican Congress has also cheerfully gone along with almost everything Bush has ever asked for.

As to what the President may not do Constitutionally, the President may not commence military hostilities against Iran without the consent of Congress. His "commander in chief" powers do not include declaring war.

Tim Russert also took Condi to task for the ridiculous claims the administration pushed in the run-up to the war.
Russert: Let me turn back to Iraq, the war now in its fourth year, and these are the grim statistics: 2,316 U.S. troops killed, 17,271 U.S. troops wounded/injured, (estimated) 30,000 Iraqis killed, 130,000 U.S. troops on the ground. When you were planning the war, some 3½ years ago, did you have any idea that three years into the war, those are the numbers you would be confronting?

Condi: Well, I certainly thought it would be difficult. I don't think anyone knew precisely what we would be facing in terms of numbers, and, look, every one of those deaths is mourned by people in the administration, because these are families that have lost husbands and wives, daughters and sons, but we also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. We're in Iraq because the United States of America faces a different kind of enemy in a different kind of war, and we have to have a different kind of Middle East if we're ever going to resolve the problems of an ideology of hatred that was so great that people flew airplanes into buildings. Iraq — Saddam Hussein's Iraq — was a threat...

Russert: Saddam was not related to flying airplanes into buildings.

Condi: No, and we have never said [pause]. Saddam was not related to the events of September 11th, but if you really believe that the only thing that happened on September 11th was people flew airplanes into buildings, I think you have a very narrow view of what we faced on September 11th. We faced the outcome of an ideology of hatred throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with. Saddam Hussein was a part of that "old" Middle East. The new Iraq will be a part of the "new" Middle East, and we will all be safer.

Russert: But, Madam Secretary, weapons of mass destruction was the primary rationale given to go into Iraq. Lisa Myers of NBC News broke a story last week that "the Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, was a paid spy for French intelligence, which later turned him over to the CIA to supply information about Iraq and its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs more than six months before the war began in March 2003, according to former senior intelligence officials. ... The sources said, he provided information that the Iraqi dictator had ambitions for a nuclear program but that it was not active, and that no biological weapons were being produced or stockpiled, although research was underway." [Russert quoting Lisa Myers] That's a far cry from what the American people were told.

Condi: Of course, Tim, this was a single source among multiple sources. And the problem was that Saddam Hussein was unwilling, after multiple resolutions in the Security Council, to account for his weapons programs. We all remember that the accounting of the UN weapons inspection mission could not account for large stockpiles. We all thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He certainly had a very healthy appetite for them, and he had used them before, both on his own people and against his neighbors. He was a threat. This was someone shooting at our aircraft as they flew the No-Fly Zones, he had invaded his neighbors. But the point is that now that he is gone, Iraq has an opportunity to be a different Iraq in a different kind of Middle East. I know it's hard, and I know that the numbers you put up are difficult to see, and I know that the violence is difficult to see, but I would ask people to look at the perspective here of what is really going on in Iraq. Under the spectre of this violence, you have Iraqis, Sunni, Shi'a, Kurds, and others, determined to form a government of national unity.
"We all thought Saddam had WMD's." In other words, "we all chose to ignore the evidence that he didn't, because we wanted to believe that Saddam had WMD's." Seriously, you took the word of "Curveball" over the word of Saddam's foreign minister. Saddam was not a threat to anyone except his own people, who did not ask the United States to "liberate" their country. As for invading his neighbors, Saddam hadn't so much as looked askance at any of his neighbors since the first Gulf War, because he was inside a box, metaphorically speaking. In 2003, Saddam was incapable of invading his neighbors.

Russert presses on with a question that goes right to the heart of the problem with the Bush administration: they do not have a single clue among them, on almost any issue, most especially Iraq. This administration is the most stunningly incompetent, ill-informed, arrogant group of ideologues under which the United States has ever suffered.
Russert: But people are being asked to take your judgment on this as we sit here this morning, and refer to previous judgments the administration has made: Weapons of Mass Destruction — there were none; we would be greeted as liberators — this is 3 years later; that it would not take hundreds of thousands of American troops to occupy Iraq — Tommy Franks, according to his book Cobra II, said we'd be down to 30,000 troops in November 2003; the cost of the war — the budget director of the White House said it would be $50 billion, it's now over $350 billion. Each judgment has proven to be wrong.

Condi: The judgment that has not proven to be wrong, Tim, is that the region is changing in fundamental ways, and the region is better without Saddam Hussein. Yes, it is true that everyone thought he had WMD's, he did not. It is, by the way, the case that the Iraqis are delighted to be rid of him. And some Iraqis — most Iraqis, in fact — are willing and want to keep Coalition forces there until they can take care of this themselves. But we do have to keep things in historical perspective. These people are doing something that is quite unknown in the Middle East, and one has to ask, What was the alternative? Was the alternative to leave Saddam Hussein in power, continuing to threaten his neighbors, continuing with his windfall profits from the Oil for Food scandal, continuing to repress his people and build mass graves, continuing to use those Oil for Food profits to again build the infrastructure for his WMD's.

Russert: But many will say he was contained by the No-Fly Zone. He was in a box.

Condi: I don't think that there is anyone — I do not believe that he was in a box. The Oil for Food program alone shows that the billions of dollars he was collecting, he was not just going to build palaces. This is someone who had an insatiable appetite to dominate his region. Now, without Saddam Hussein, you can look across the region and see that a lot is changing, thanks to the President's democracy promotion, and the hard work of people in those countries. You have Syrian forces out of Lebanon, you have Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. The people of the Middle East are taking on authoritarian governments across the Middle East. Kuwait has given women the right to vote. I would be the first to say that these big historical changes are turbulent, and they're difficult, but the notion that somehow there was a placid Middle East, that if we had just left it alone, if we had just not invaded Iraq, if we had just not overthrown dictators, if we had just not challenged Syrian power in Lebanon, everything would be just fine, is simply not true. It was that Middle East — the malignancy of the Middle East that we "disturbed" — that led directly to the September 11th events.

Russert: The President said this week that whether there will be troops in Iraq for the unforeseeable future will be determined by the next President, meaning that we will have troops in Iraq at least through January '09.

Condi: The President was asked this question in a particular way, and he answered that some American troops may very well be there for the next President. But I would just point to what the President has said continually, that American forces are going to come down commensurate with the need as Iraqi forcces stand up, and they are indeed standing up. ... I think it's entirely probable that we will see a significant drawdown of American forces over the next year — that's what General Casey believes. ...

Russert: Is the insurgency "in its last throes"?

Condi: Well, the insurgency politically is certainly in danger, because the Sunnis, who stood outside of the political process —

Russert: But in terms of violence, is it "in its last throes"?

Condi: Well, the insurgency is still able to pull off violence and kill innocent children or kill an innocent school teacher, yes, they're able to do that, and they might be able to do that for some time, but what they've not been able to do is to disrupt the political process. What they've not been able to do is set Iraqis one against another in the political process. They've not been able to stop three elections. They're not able to stop the formation of the government. A few violent people can always grab headlines and can always kill innocent people.

Russert: It's more than "a few."

Condi: Well, it's a few in terms of the population of Iraqis.

Russert: But it could not exist without being enabled by the population.

Condi: Well, the population is less and less enabling. Every day, there are reports that Zarqawi and al Qaeda meet stiff resistance, indeed violent resistance, from Iraqi tribes. Sunnis are now a part of the political process, and I know that many people wonder when will the government formation finish. It seems to be dragging on after the elections. But I would just note, I read the other day, someone said, "They're dividing up the spoils of the offices." That's not what they're doing in this process. They are writing a government program on which the national unity will govern. They are writing the rules by which they will govern, and they're deciding who will take key positions. So, this is an extraordinary matter, an extraordinary scene, with Iraqis, Sunni and Shi'a and Kurds all working together toward a unity government.
Dick Cheney told us on Larry King Live that the insurgency was "in its last throes" on 2005-05-30. He has repeatedly defended that assessment, all forms of reality notwithstanding. He has defended it on Face the Nation and Nightline, but the objective fact is that the insurgency was not in its last throes then, and it is not in its last throes now. Contrary to Cheney's assertion that the war will be over by the end of Bush's second term, it is unlikely that the insurgency will even be in its last throes by then. As Rummy said, insurgencies tend to go on for years.

It's a good thing that Condi Rice insists she has no interest in running for President, because she is absolutely unsuited for the job. Then again, she's absolutely unsuited to be Secretary of State or National Security Advisor, but that hasn't stopped her yet. She is just another in the seemingly endless procession of incompetent buffoons with whom George W. Bush surrounds himself. Bush is afraid to have anyone competent or capable around him, because he is afraid — and justifiably so — that he will suffer by comparison. Besides, facts and truth just get in the way of what Dubya knows in his heart.

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