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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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