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Posted by on Jul 20, 2007 in Politics, War | 17 comments

Pentagon Official Accuses Hillary Clinton Of Boosting Enemy Propaganda (UPDATED)

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Mark July 19, 2007 down as the day when a Pentagon official crossed a line and veered not just into partisanship but a return to the mid-20th century form of political demonization and categorization known as “McCarthyism.”

It was the day the news emerged that a Pentagon bigwig talked about a member of the opposition party — who also happens to be a United States Senator — in a partisan manner that wasn’t even done by Pentagon officials at the height of the Vietnam war. The official sounded more like a refugee from Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity’s show than the kind of stand-back and analyze and respond official who is usually entrusted to be one of the Pentagon’s official faces. This was far different than the combative former Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld:

The Pentagon told Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton that her questions about how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq boosts enemy propaganda.

So we have now apparently moved to a point where a United States Senator who asks questions is in effect accused of enabling the enemy (the words “aid and comfort” were NOT actually used).

Question: Since when in American history have Senators and Congressmen been told that their job descriptions don’t allow and require the most vigorous kind of questioning — the kind of questioning and testing that often results in either better policies or better explanations from government officials to justify their policies? MORE:

In a stinging rebuke to a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman responded to questions Clinton raised in May in which she urged the Pentagon to start planning now for the withdrawal of American forces.

A copy of Edelman’s response, dated July 16, was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia,” Edelman wrote.

He added that “such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.”

One question, of course, becomes: how did the AP get the document? Did they get it from a third party? Or from a member of Ms. Clinton’s camp?

It actually matters little, since Edelman’s comments by implication also accuse THE BULK OF AMERICANS of helping the enemy since polls show support for the war is south and headed into South Pole polar bear territory.

Ms. Clinton’s camp was not amused.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines called Edelman’s answer “at once outrageous and dangerous,” and said the senator would respond to his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

And how WILL Gates respond? Gates is closer to the Bush 41 crowd, which had more respect for coalition building, Congress — and the way the constitution was originally set up. Will Gates ignore her response? Try to defuse the issue? Or do what would be wisest: transfer Edelman from his job or fire him?

Writes Andrew Sullivan:

If the Bushies wanted to shore up her anti-war credentials with the base, they’ve given her a golden opportunity to grandstand. It was, in my view, a grotesque over-reach from a Cheney protege at the Pentagon….Memo to the Pentagon: senators are not the enemy, and asking for accountability is not treason.

Prediction: if this is a new way to try to shut off Senate debate, it’s going to boomerang. The Bush administration is already beset in many ways, defying Congress by the day and now saying it has the right to have the Justice Department ignore Congressional requests for prosecution of administration officials for contempt of Congress. There are now some Republicans clamoring for either a change in policy or an acceleration of America’s eventual exit. And their numbers will grow.

So who will that leave as the country’s only “true” patriots who don’t want to help the enemy? Administration members and talk show hosts?

BOTTOM LINE: This is one more strand in what is turning out to be one of the most troubling, troubled and UNconservative administrations in all of American history.

UPDATE: The New York Daily News has some interesting background about the official who contends members of Congress should shut up or they’re helping the enemy:

Although Edelman questioned Clinton’s patriotism, political observers called the attack by Cheney’s former deputy national security adviser “a gift.” The barb from Edelman – who once worked for convicted liar Lewis (Scooter) Libby – could reassure some anti-war Democrats still irked by Clinton’s early support for the Iraq War.

“This helps her. She will be seen as the lightning rod that the right attacks because she asks the tough questions. It’s a badge of honor,” said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio.

The caustic letter was part of a major White House political pushback to buy more time for the Baghdad troop surge. To that end, the Pentagon hosted classified briefings yesterday for more than 100 senators and representatives.

Presumably members of Congress will now push back and DEMAND the report in September as promised — but the military is now saying they need MORE TIME than September to offer a judgment.

For a DIFFERENT view on this controversy read James Joyner.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • AustinRoth

    OK, let me see if I get this. A Pentagon official says that calling for withdraw of our troops boosts enemy propaganda.

    A simple, factual statement that no matter what two organizations were in conflict, would be a true statement. Saying that ‘our’ side should leave the fight IS a boost to the other side’s propaganda, whether you agree with the leaving or not. How can it be seen otherwise?

    And, now apparently making factual statements about comments made by a Senator and Presidential candidate is the return of McCarthyism? What, dredging up Vietnam has lost it’s luster?

    Question: Since when in American history have Senators and Congressmen been told that their job descriptions don’t allow and require the most vigorous kind of questioning
    Well, I guess I missed that in the letter. I only saw the reference to ‘Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies.”

    Again, a pretty factual statement, but not one that implies what she can or cannot do. Rather, it does imply that there are consequences to such statements, but I guess that is enough to call upon the ghost of Joe McCarthy, if your point of view is that opponents of the Iraq conflict are above reproach.

    If an official had critisized a White House official, they would be hailed as brave for speaking their conscience. I guess only the anti-war crowd are given that right as well.

    This is just more mealy-mouthed double standards against anyone who even implies that criticism of the war can ever be wrong.

    Hey, as long as we are going to live in the past, let’s make another analogy. How is calling for withdrawal of our troops any different, from a propaganda for the enemy point of view, as Jane Fonda’s trip during the Vietnam conflict?

  • pacatrue

    Austin, I’m not sure it’s that clear of a fact. It seems that one could equally make the case that every time a U.S. official states that we should stay for years, it enables enemy propoganda that we intend to occupy the nation forever, and that Iraqis must kill American troops to ever be free of the Yankees.

    I’m not all that convinced that Al Qaeda in Iraq really much cares what Clinton or Reid or Boehner has to say about anything. Anything will be spun to play into fears. We could announce that we are sending Cadillacs to the entire population of Iraq and it will be spun to indicate that we are trying to buy people and there are probably bugs in the dashboard and a copy of The Satanic Verses in the glove compartment.

    I do agree with you that this is not McCarthyism yet, as the consequences and trials are not part of this.

  • spanielboy

    If the US were to draw down and leave Iraq, then the conflict in Iraq will become more locals vs. locals. That is not a doubt in my mind.

    With that said, what I find unacceptable with this issue is that the owners of the war are passing the blame onto others. In regards to Iraq, Clinton didn’t make the policy and implement it – that is what Edleman and others in the administration have done (very poorly as it turns out).

    If Clinton is to be held accountable for her words on the matter, then the administration needs to be equally accountable. They aren’t, so why the big fuss?!?

  • The charges from either side about who is enabling or supporting terrorists are particularly ill-reasoned. Witness Stickings’ piece yesterday saying that Bush is allied with al-Qaeda. No one challenged him, so I suppose that it’s okay to make that charge while it’s outrageous for Clinton’s stance to be questioned.

    While I think it’s stupid to throw around accusations (I do find that our pols have a more parochial view of this issue, each side jockeying for domestic position rather than actually paying attention to what’s happening on the ground) and having generals make some accusations, I do find it mildly suicidal to agitate for publishing battle plans, whether it be surge or purge.

    We have a group of singularly and collectively idiotic public officials.

    I do disagree mildly with you here, spanielboy. While it is certainly true that Clinton didn’t make policy, Congress has been trying to do just that. It’s a thin line for her to toe, being a Senator and a candidate, butshe might want to find a more elegant way of talking up the war.

  • George Sorwell

    I think Pacatrue is right.

    What’s more beneficial to enemy propaganda–that we might leave, or that we might stay indefinitely? Either could be spun into fears. Anything could be spun into fears. And anything will be spun into fears.

    And I don’t think anyone has to go back to Jane Fonda’s trip to North Vietnam to find appropriate comparisons. In the 1990’s, President Bill Clinton intervened militarily in the Balkans. Many Republicans voiced opposition to that intervention.

    For example, Tom DeLay.

    Was DeLay boosting enemy propaganda? Was he voicing legitimate concerns? Was he jockeying for political advantage?

    How were Tom DeLay’s complaints different from those of Hillary Clinton?

  • Davebo

    Witness Stickings’ piece yesterday saying that Bush is allied with al-Qaeda. No one challenged him, so I suppose that it’s okay to make that charge while it’s outrageous for Clinton’s stance to be questioned.

    Well Daniel, you obviously read the piece, and you seem to be a registered user.

    Why didn’t you challenge him on that thread? Or for that matter, on this thread?

    I’ve got a hunch, but I’d be happy to have you explain it.

  • Elrod

    I disagree 100% with Austin here. For one thing, as pacatrue points out, ANY position in the US regarding the war could be spun to serve enemy propaganda. As such, for a Pentagon official to claim that Hillary Clinton’s remarks serve as enemy propaganda crosses a mighty critical line in American politics. It is NOT a “factual statement,” simply because the enemy will construct anything we say to serve their propaganda aims. But if this goon wants to make Hillary Clinton the next President, he’s just made her a martyr to Cheneyism.

    There’s another thing bizarre about Edelman’s comment. Does he not realize that at least half of Republicans have been saying that we are going to leave Iraq in short order? Is Dick Lugar “abandoning our allies” with his talk of withdrawing troops from the front lines? Is John Warner giving “enemy propaganda” for suggesting that our “allies” in Iraq have to figure out how to run their country without our help?

    My guess is that Eric Edelman is a partisan Republican gasbag and felt that Hillary Clinton is an appropriate target because she’s the Democratic frontrunner. The elephant flies over the flag for this jerk. He should go work for Fred Thompson, who seems to feel similarly that discussing a post-occupation scenario in Iraq amounts to treason.

  • kritter

    It reminds me of the reaction after Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Syria- she was portrayed as aiding and abetting even though congressmen of both parties had visited the country. Partisanship has reached the level that a member of the opposition is now treated like the enemy if they question official WH policy- which is the role of the Senate- is it not?

  • Richard Blair

    Some are missing the point here.

    A sitting U.S. Senator has asked an eminently reasonable question (and it doesn’t matter whether the U.S. Senator has an R or D after his/her name).

    One must ask: would Sens. Brownback or Hagel have received the same response to the question? I think everyone pretty much knows the answer to that question. Or, could it be that the Pentagon depends on the GOP Senators not to even bother to ask the questions?

    Last time I checked, the U.S. congress controls the purse strings of the Pentagon, and constitutionally provides oversight of the military wing of the U.S. government. But then, I supposed that could have been written out of the constitution by a presidential signing statement, or something…

    Gawd, I can’t wait until these people are held to account. Oh – silly me – neither the Dems nor GOP will hold this rouge regime accountable…

  • truflo

    Honestly guys, haven’t we been around this block a couple of hundred times already?

    The name of this particular administration game is ‘Can’t we get the media to repeat our bull’. and given the msm’s marked reluctance to mention the word ‘republican’ and ‘filibuster’ in the one sentence, I guess the administration is going to win again.

    However, the country isn’t playing anymore.

  • DLS

    The McCarthy picture starting this topic is dishonest and slanderous.

    So we have now apparently moved to a point where a United States Senator who asks questions is in effect accused of enabling the enemy

    Also dishonest. WHAT questions, specifically?

    A sitting U.S. Senator has asked an eminently reasonable question

    False. She has no business micro-managing the Pentagon as well as posing for the anti-war public. The intelligent public knows that advertising a detailed schedule for withdrawal may as well be FAXed to al-Qaeda, and that Hillary’s demands are not only unreasonable but are obvious political posturing. (Gee, maybe the far left’s disapproval of her for her earlier pro-war stance is motiving her to be seen taking a more anti-war stance now.)

  • George Sorwell

    Truflo is right–the Associated Press is nothing but a stenography service.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • DLS

    I do agree with you that this is not McCarthyism yet, as the consequences and trials are not part of this.

    The motives are not there, either, nor are the statements such as the Pentagon officials in any way McCarthyist. “McCarthyism” is dishonest and slanderous. And, if anything related to this topic is, it is aiding the terrorists in Iraq by weakening us.

  • Rudi

    Here is a little “bone” to AR – I found KO’s Coutdown diatribe and phony outrage about Edelman last night a joke, but it did peak my interest. Edelman’s resume is very interesting and everyone needs to research it before further comment.
    1) Edelman was a member of the team that put together the 1992 draft Defense Planning Guidance (DPG).
    2) His stint as Turkeys ambassador was very controversial.

    In a column for the newspaper Yeni Safak, Karagul wrote: “Considering the range of his activities, his statements which violate the decorum of democracy, and his interest in Turkey’s internal affairs, Eric Edelman acts more like a colonial governor than an ambassador. Edelman’s actions have exceeded his diplomatic mission. His ‘interest’ in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the Turkish media, and ethnic minorities make him go beyond his role as an ambassador. His presence here has never contributed to Turkish-American relations, and it never will. If we want to address the reasons for anti-Americanism, Edelman must be issue one. As long as Edelman stays in Turkey, the chill wind disturbing bilateral relations will last.”

    3) He is another recess appointment by Bush, just like Bolton.

    His ties to the ideologue Cheney wing makes him a joke. I’m waiting for a Kristol hit piece to claim that history will judge Edelman a “success”. The Turkish government and press basically said – “Get him out of our country”.

  • Davebo,

    I’m sure that you have a hunch. And you’re welcome to air it if you wish.

    The reason I didn’t challenge him on his thread is because I didn’t read it until very late and don’t tend to come into threads late, especially if I think that the conversation has passed. At other times, when I am a work, I do not comment because that is my firm’s policy. So, timing is the culprit.

    I did challenge him, or at least his thesis, on this thread indirectly in weighing his post against this one.

    Just so we’re clear: I find these “enabling” or “supporting” arguments tiresome and intellectually lazy, whether liberals or conservatives are being accused. It’s my version of Godwin, I guess.

  • Oh, and just for information, I’m heading back into the office and unlikely to be at my laptop for 6-8 hours, so I won’t be around to comment on any hunches.

  • kritter

    I have to say that in this situation- we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Al queda has used the Iraq War as a recruiting tool and as great propaganda in radicalizing the muslim population- by showing living proof on al Jazeera that the US wants to occupy Arab lands. But it is probably also true that if we withdraw, the terrorists will see it as a sign of weakness- a democracy that depends on public opinion to wage war. So, both are probably true. Its just sickening to see both sides go for the jugular using their own poisonous spin.

    We can’t possibly make a rational decision in this kind of atmosphere. The decision to invade in the first place was made in an emotionally charged, uberpatriotic atmosphere, and now that decision is being called by many foreign policy experts the worst in our history.

    It is ridiculous to judge Clinton because any senator that doesn’t ask about a plan for withdrawel when 70% oppose the war, is guilty of not practicing oversight over the CIC.

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