Hillary at Petraeus Hearing & Obama
by DPW, Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 11:40:30 AM EDT
I just wrote a diary that for some reason didn't post. So, this is a very abbreviated version of that. Basically, an earlier diary today criticized Obama for not asking more questions with his alloted time at the Petraeus hearings--instead spending most of his time offering general commentary and criticism about the war. I'm writing to highlight the fact that Clinton used her time almost identically (since the majority of Obama's critics in the prior thread were Clinton supporters; I'm not criticizing her, as I think her use of her time was appropriate).
She had 12 minutes, 6-7 of which was used to offer general commentary and criticism--invoking 9/11 and Osama bin Laden--the rest of which was used to ask 2 questions.
Notably, the first question addressed the same general issue as Obama's one question and, as with Obama, the question had already been essentially answered. The second question was hardly provocative or specific enough to produce useful information.
Obama had 10 minutes, the first 6 of which were used to offer general commentary and criticism, while the remainder was used for a question and some pointed criticisms of the witnesses' prior testimony.
Transcript and video of Clinton's time at the hearing is below the fold. Sorry for the lame diary. The one that was lost included some analysis and questions. But, I don't have time to retype it all.
Here's the video: http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statement s/details.cfm?id=282410&&
Here's the transcript:
Senator Clinton Questions General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Iraq at Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing
Senator Clinton: I want to thank both of you, General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, for your long and distinguished service to our nation. Nobody believes that your jobs or the jobs of the thousands of American forces and civilian personnel in Iraq are anything but incredibly difficult.
But today you are testifying about the current status of our policy in Iraq and the prospects of that policy. It is a policy that you have been ordered to implement by the president. And you have been made the de facto spokesmen for what many of us believe to be a failed policy.
Despite what I view as your rather extraordinary efforts in your testimony both yesterday and today, I think that the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.
In any of the metrics that have been referenced in your many hours of testimony, any fair reading of the advantages and disadvantages accruing post-surge, in my view, end up on the downside.
I started my morning today at ground zero, where once again the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attack on our country were read solemnly in the rain.
We have seen Osama bin Laden reappear on our television sets, essentially taunting us. We have the most recent reports out of Germany of terrorists plotting against American assets who have been trained in Pakistan. And we get very little comfort from the fact that the mastermind of that mass murder is at large, neither captured nor killed, and that the Taliban and Al Qaida are resurging in Afghanistan and their network is certainly, if not tightly organized, a loose confederacy that has grave consequences for us.
With respect to Anbar province, a lot has been made of the coalition's work with the sheiks, but that was going on before the surge.
General, in your testimony during your confirmation hearings you referenced the fact that the sheiks were coming over, that there was already a decision by a lot of the tribal leaders that they would no longer tolerate the extraordinary brutality of the Al Qaida elements in Al Anbar province.
With respect to violence within Iraq, although the charts tell part of the story, I don't think they tell the whole story. If you look at all of the evidence that's been presented, overall civilian deaths have risen. The number of car bombings is higher. May was the deadliest month in 2007 with 1,901 civilian deaths.
American military casualties are greater every month in 2007 than in the same month in 2006, leaving us with a total thus far, through August, of 739 Americans killed.
The Iraqi reconciliation process is now described as relying upon bottoms-up efforts, which are anecdotal, which have very little hard evidence to support what needs to be accomplished.
Senator Warner's very specific questions about what is happening from top down certainly lead to the conclusion that not very much is occurring that can give us comfort that the Iraqi leadership is yet ready to put aside their sectarian, commercial and personal interests for some kind of greater Iraqi political reconciliation.
Iraqi public opinion, according to an ABC, BBC, NHK poll released September 10th shows that since the escalation began, Iraqi opinion has starkly turned against the U.S. occupation, as most Iraqis see deepening dissatisfaction with conditions in Iraq, lower ratings for the national government, growing rejection of the U.S. role there.
For example, 65 percent to 70 percent of Iraqis say the escalation has worsened rather than improved security; 39 percent say that their lives are going well, down from 71 percent in November 2005; and 47 percent now favor immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, a 12 point rise since March.
Overwhelming majorities give negative ratings to electricity, jobs and access to health care.
So I give you tremendous credit for presenting as positive a view of a rather grim reality. And I believe that you, and certainly the very capable people working with both of you, were dealt a very hard hand.
And it's a hand that is unlikely to improve, in my view.
General, I want to ask you what -- about what appeared to be a contradiction in your testimony. Earlier today, you were asked by Senator Biden if, in fact, the circumstances on the ground are exactly what they are today in March of next year, will you recommend the continuation of somewhere between 130,000 and 160,000 American troops being shot at, killed, and maimed every day.
Your answer, "I would be very hard-pressed to recommend that at that point in time."
In response to Senator Collins, who asked, I thought, a very important question about what if in a year from now, there has been very little progress, your answer was, "Well, we would have to consider what to do at that time."
General, don't you think the American people deserve a very specific answer about what is expected from our country in the face of the failure of the Iraqi government to pursue its own required political agenda that they have essentially been unwilling or incapable of doing so?
General Petraeus: Senator, I don't see quite as big a difference in the answer.
But, I mean, I will stand by the answer that I gave earlier, which is that I would be very hard-pressed, at that time, to recommend a continuation.
As you know, this policy is a national policy that results from policies put forward at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, with the advice and consent and resources provided at the other. And I would, obviously, provide recommendations to that.
And again, I would just say, I would be very hard-pressed at that time. It's an awfully big hypothetical. And it is not something that I would want to try to determine right here, right now, about a point a year from now, without some sense of all the other variables that, I think, understandably, would go into a huge recommendation like that.
Senator Clinton: Ambassador, it's not only the Iraqi government that, in my view, has failed to pursue a coherent strategy. I think our own has as well.
You've been tasked, as I understand it, with carrying the only contact with the Iranians and others in the region. And many of us have long advocated that our government needed to be much more engaged in a robust diplomatic effort.
Do you believe that, if the full force and effect of the American government were brought to bear on the region and, more broadly, on countries that have a stake in the future of Iraq, even beyond the region, that there were some process established that could begin to try to sort out what was or wasn't possible, that that would be an additional benefit to your efforts, going forward in Iraq?
Ambassador Crocker: Senator, engaging the region and the international community more broadly in support of Iraq is important. And that is ongoing and it's accelerating.
This fall, we'll have at least two ministerial-level meetings on Iraq, the one that I mentioned involving the neighbors, plus the P-5 and the G-8 in Istanbul.
And then, in a little less than two weeks in New York, the secretary general of the U.N. and Prime Minister Maliki will jointly chair an international ministerial-level meeting to review progress on the International Compact with Iraq and also to focus on how the new United Nations mandate for Iraq -- the expanded mandate for Iraq can most effectively be implemented.
So I think we're seeing an increase in regional and international diplomacy in support of Iraq. We're also starting to see, I think, some change in attitudes. I talked a little bit earlier about some positive developments among some of Iraq's Arab neighbors. I think we're also seeing a new look at Iraq on the part of, at least, some of the European states.
During a 10-day period, for example, at the end of August, we had the visits of Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France, and then right after that, Carl Bildt, the foreign minister of Sweden -- the first time, really, since 2003, we have seen major European states kind of send their foreign ministers into Iraq to kind of assess where Iraq is and how they can perhaps more effectively engage for the future.
So I think we're seeing that kind of diplomatic initiative now gain some further momentum.
Senator Clinton: Thank you.
Chairman Levin: Thank you, Senator Clinton.
Is this really any different than Obama's use of his time? If I'm missing something, please let me know.
Also, here is the video of Clinton addressing Petraeus during his confirmation hearing.
Not one question asked, though she spoke generally about the war for 7 minutes. Again, this isn't a criticism of Clinton. It's a defense of Obama.