Wednesday, January 26, 2005

This Year The Battle Begins

Senator Barbara Boxer, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

One Hero Among Many

I find it fascinating to see how one side can so suddenly find its voice in the wake of defeat, when the side that claims victory sounds so hollow. Today champions arose, and the perfidy of the other side was laid bare.

They were stellar, like the 300 Spartans that stood against the myriads of Persians and their minions at Thermopylae! When the Republicans sought to make Condi's confirmation look like some bipartisan window-dressing, these 12 heroes cut them off at the pass, and held the chokepoint. The vote was almost completely down party lines.

She couldn't answer their questions. Our New Secretary Of State withered under their questions. At the hearings she hid behind legalisms and obfuscations, and feigned affront to her character. At best, she sidestepped the issues. At worst, she threw up smoke screens. Like some third rate magician she asked us not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Boxer, Kerry, even Biden pummeled her with cold logic and the love of mankind, all to get a simple statement of values. At every turn they laid bare the moral bankruptcy of this administration:

"BOXER: Mr. Chairman, I'm going to take 30 seconds, with your permission. First of all, Charles Duelfer said, and I quote -- here it is. I ask unanimous consent to place in the record Charlie Duelfer's report.

LUGAR: It will be placed in the record.

BOXER: Which he says, Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to '91, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years. Here's the point: You and I could sit here and go back and forth and present our arguments, and maybe somebody watching the debate would pick one or the other depending on their own views. But I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in the facts. So when I ask you these questions, I'm going to show you your words not my words. And, if I might say, again you said you're aware of the stakes in Iraq. We sent our beautiful people -- and thank you, thank you so much for your comments about them -- to defend freedom. You sent them in there because of weapons of mass destruction. Later, the mission changed when there were none. I have your quotes on it. I have the president's quotes on it. And everybody admits it but you that that was the reason for the war. And then once we're in there, now it moved to a different mission. Which is great, we all want to give democracy and freedom everywhere we can possibly do it, but let's not rewrite history. It's too soon to do that.

RICE: Senator Boxer, I would refer you to the president's speech before the American Enterprise Institute in February prior to the war, in which he talked about the fact that, yes, there was the threat of weapons of mass destruction but he also talked to the strategic threat that Saddam Hussein was to the region. Saddam Hussein was a threat, yes, because he was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. And, yes, we thought that he was -- that he had stockpiles, which he did not have. We had problems with the intelligence. We are all, as a collective polity of the United States, trying to deal with ways to get better intelligence. But it wasn't just weapons of mass destruction. He was also a place -- his territory was a place where terrorists were welcomed, where he paid suicide bombers to bomb Israel, where he had used Scuds against Israel in the past, and so we knew what his intentions were in the region, where he had attacked his neighbors before and, in fact, tried to annex Kuwait, where we'd gone to war against him twice in the past. It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.

BOXER: Well, you should you read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that particular vote. But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. You go on television, nine months later, and said, Nobody ever said it was going to be.

RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty, that no one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.

BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you will rethink it.
RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will reframe from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself."

And on and on Condi would go:

"SENATOR CHRISTOPHER DODD, Democrat of Connecticut: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And let me join you in commending our colleagues on the committee yesterday and our nominee as well. It was a long day. If nothing else, I was very impressed with your tenaciousness, to sit at that table and have 18of us up here raising questions that cover the entire globe and matters of deep concern to all of us. And we appreciate your willingness to go through that. It was a long day but, I think, a worthwhile one, Mr. Chairman, as you point out. Last year I introduced an amendment to the Defense authorization bill, part of which would have prevented the Department of Defense from transferring prisoners to third countries without keeping a record of the transfer and the reasons for it. I wonder if you might comment on this, if you're familiar enough with the practice, and whether or not we might be willing at least to - one, at least to preventing these renditions from occurring or, if not, at least keeping some record, so we have some way of determining how these people are being treated.

MS. RICE: Thank you -

SENATOR DODD: Are you familiar with the subject matter?

MS. RICE: Thank you, Senator. May I just take one moment before answering the question just to also thank the members of the committee for yesterday? I think it was an extensive - some would say even exhaustive -look at the questions that we face in American foreign policy, but I think it was an important day.

I appreciate very much the spirit in which the questions were asked, and I look forward - and I really meant what I said and want to underscore: I look forward to working with each and every member of the committee in a bipartisan fashion so that we can fashion an American foreign policy for the 21st century that takes advantage of the substantial opportunities before us, recognizing that these are also difficult times for the country. And I want to thank you especially, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership of yesterday and to tell you that I look forward to many other sessions of that kind.


MS. RICE: Senator, now let me turn to Senator Dodd's question.

The United States is not permitted to transfer anyone if we think that they're going to be tortured. And in fact, we make efforts to ascertain from any party that this will not happen. And you can be certain that we will continue to do so.

I want to be careful on commenting on intelligence matters, particularly in open session. But to say that wed - anything that is done is done within the limits of the law. It is done with recognition that the United States is special and has special responsibilities and that we will continue to do that. As to keeping a record, I would have to demur for now. I don't have enough information -"

And so we move to the floor debate. George W. Bush wanted a two-fer, inauguration and a Secratary of State in the same week. But the Democrats held out for a debate, and a debate they got.

Senator Boxer lead the charge. She made damn sure that the debate was on moral grounds. Were the people of the be manipulated and lied to? Was the administration going to grandfather the use of torture as a basis for interrogating prisoners? Or would the State Department deal squarely with the American people, and the Geneva Conventions, not to mention the Universal Military Code to be upheld and respected? Clearly the answer to either of these questions was no.
And so Senator Boxer stated emphatically er opposition;

"The reason I am going to be voting no is clear to anyone who has followed this debate. I asked Condoleezza Rice a series of questions in five different areas. I gave her every opportunity to correct the record. I asked her about her statements that the aluminum tubes Saddam was buying could only be used for nuclear weapons, and she talked about the mushroom cloud and frightened the American people at a time when we know she had the infor-mation that there was a very strong dispute going on in the intelligence community and that, in fact, she had known in 2001 about this issue. She re-fused to budge. I asked her about her continual statements that al-Qaida and Saddam were close. It was not true. At the time she made those comments, the State Department itself put out a very im-portant map—this was 1 month after 9/ 11—saying that in fact there was no al- Qaida whatsoever in Iraq. They were nowhere in Iraq. She refused to budge. I ask unanimous consent that I may have an additional 4 minutes. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Mrs. BOXER. I thank the Chair. I asked Dr. Rice about my concerns in five areas. I don’t fault the Presi-dent for picking someone who believes in this war, who helped him in her posi-tion. That is not the issue. The issue has to do with the lack of candor that continues to come from Dr. Rice. As recently as a few months ago she wrote a letter which resulted in a very important amendment in the Intel-ligence bill being stripped from that bill. This was a bill by Senators MCCAINand LIEBERMAN, and this provi-sion was written in part by Senator DURBIN. It was an antitorture provi-sion. She opposed it. She wrote that she opposed it. When I asked her about it, she denied that she opposed it, when she had opposed it in writing."

And she showed them the moral that Condi missed:

"Dr. King said—and I often repeat it— our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. This debate mattered. Responsibility matters. Accountability matters. It matters when you give someone a chance to correct the record that is replete with half-truths and misstatements, and they don’t take that opportunity." Rice Confirmation Committee Hearings Part 1 Rice Confirmation Committee Hearings Part 2 Rice Confirmation Committee Hearings Part 3

Congressional Record January 25 2005 Part 1

Congressional Record January 25 2005 Part 2

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