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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Pugilist 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already approved Condoleezza Rice by a 16-2 vote, but there are conflicting reports as to whether Senate Democrats will try to delay her confirmation until after the inauguration. When we left off yesterday, the nominee had testily asked Sen. Barbara Boxer not to "impugn [her] integrity" by resort to the unforgivable smear tactic of direct quotation; now Zemblan patriot J.M. informs us that the L.A. Times has already published the transcript of this morning's return bout, and we are pleased to report that the distinguished Senator from California (there is only one who fits that description) is still refusing to pull her punches. Let's go to the tape:
SEN. BOXER: Now on September 25th, '02, you said, in an interview with Margaret Warner on PBS, "We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al Qaeda, going back for actually quite a long time." And you went on to say, "And there are some al Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad." Now that statement and others by administration officials assert there was a long-standing operational alliance between Iraq and al Qaeda, but we know the truth is otherwise. We know it. And I'll show you again the State Department document signed off by President Bush in October 2001, one month after 9/11, showing absolutely no operational cells in Saddam Hussein-controlled Iraq . . . .

So you received a memo in September '01 clearly stating there was no link. The president himself was part of a State Department publication which said there were no al Qaeda in Iraq prior to 9/11. There's documented history of bin Laden's loathing of Saddam. And in spite of this, you went on TV and told the American people there was a clear connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. Even the State Department was very clear that there was no such contacts . . . .

On September 8th, '02, you were on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" and you made this statement: "We do know there have been shipments going into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that are really only suited to" -- "high-quality aluminum tubes that are only" -- I'm reiterating what you said -- "really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs." That unequivocal statement was wrong.

You never mentioned to the American people that there was a major dispute about the tubes, even though our nation's leading nuclear experts in Department of Energy in 2001 said the tubes were for small artillery rockets, not for nuclear weapons. It is reported that one Energy Department analyst summed up this issue for the Senate Intelligence Committee saying, quote, "The tubes were so poorly suited for centrifuges that if Iraq truly wanted to use them this way, we should just give them the tubes," unquote . . . .

When you were making the case for the war in Iraq, one of the things you said that, frankly, stunned me, was that a reason to go was the Iranians were gassed by the Iraqis. Now, this is truly a horrific fact, that is right. But, Dr. Rice, we all know the Iran-Iraq War took place between 1980 and 1988, and the United States knew, they knew that Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against the Iranians. And it was appalling.

Despite this fact, despite this fact, I'm sure you're aware who traveled to Iraq to meet with Saddam Hussein one month after we became aware of this. It was Donald Rumsfeld. And Donald Rumsfeld tried to increase diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein. Iraq was a charter member of the terrorism list in 1979, put on there by Jimmy Carter. Do you know -- and I'm sure you knew at the time you said this -- that it was the United States who removed Iraq from our list of state sponsors of terrorism, and they didn't get put back on till 1990.

So let's review. While Saddam was gassing the Iranians -- a despicable act -- Donald Rumsfeld and the Reagan administration reestablished U.S. relations with Iraq and refused to put Iran (sic/Iraq) back on the terrorism list. So in '03, when you told the American people that Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iran was a justification for war -- one of them that you gave -- why didn't you tell them the full story? Why didn't you mention that it was Rumsfeld who favored the normalization of relations with Iraq during a time when Saddam was using chemical weapons against Iran? . . . .

So I guess what I'm saying, Mr. Chairman: These are my areas of deep concern. I've gone back through the record exhaustively, because I knew, Dr. Rice -- and you saw it yesterday; you know, we can get into a give and take and she's a very good debater and I'm a pretty good debater, and that's interesting. But I think we need to see what the facts are and why I'm disturbed about this particular nomination.

It isn't based on qualifications or intelligence or all the rest, because that's obvious. Wonderful -- breaking the glass ceiling and all those beautiful things, which I'm proud of. It's not about that. It's about candor. It's about telling the full story. It's about seemingly not being willing to go with us, on both sides of the aisle, because it was the same answer to Senator Chafee when he pressed you. It seems to me a rigidness here, a lack of flexibility, which is so troubling to me, and most of all, going back into recent history, an unwillingness to give the American people the full story, because the mission, the zeal of selling the war, was so important to Dr. Rice. That was her job.

And yet I feel -- and again, I know not everyone agrees with me at all -- in the country, but many do -- that this war and all of these horrific deaths and the wounded and all of that is a direct result of not leveling with the American people. Thank you.

MS. RICE: . . . In general, Senator, let me just say again, we did go to the American people with a case for war.

It was case that, yes, said that the threat that this horrible dictator sitting in the Middle East, in the world's most dangerous region, with whom we had gone to war twice before, who had used weapons of mass destruction, who was shooting at our aircraft, that it was not acceptable to have him with weapons of mass destruction. And we believed, like most of the intelligence agencies in the world, like the United Nations -- and much of the information was from the United Nations -- that he had weapons of mass destruction. He refused to account for them. Even with coalition forces sitting on his doorstep, he refused to account for them. We weren't prepared to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt, given his history and given the shadow of the future.

We also had a situation, now rectified, of a Middle East out of which the -- out of which the terror threat, the jihadist threat comes, with a factor in Saddam Hussein who was going to make it impossible to change the nature of the Middle East. I don't think anybody can see a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein in the middle of it.
Could we replay that last bit?

"We also had a situation, now rectified, of a Middle East out of which the -- out of which the terror threat, the jihadist threat comes . . . ."

Forget the cabinet nomination. That quote would make your jaw drop if you heard it at a competency hearing.

UPDATE: Our distinguished colleague Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla links to C-SPAN video footage of Joe Biden (who gets up on his hind legs once every couple of years) telling Ms. Rice that she should quit whining about her integrity and answer the damned questions.

UPDATE II: We neglected to mention above that the two Senators who voted against Rice's confirmation were Boxer and John Kerry. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Joseph "Four-legs-good" Biden resumed his usual canine stance shortly before the roll call; there are Boxers, and then there are Boxers.

UPDATE III: Our esteemed colleague Mad Kane has started a brand-new blog entitled President Boxer, and is looking for experienced bloggers who would like to help nudge that fanciful prospect a bit closer to reality. E-mail her at madkane@madkane.com (subject line: "Boxer Has Balls") or leave a comment here.

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