Thursday, January 15, 2004

Lieberman/Drudge in 2004?

Drudge get's talking points from the RNC, takes a September 26, 2002, congressional hearing transcript that has been all over the internet for all those who wish to be informed to see, takes highly selective quotes out of context, and call's it a "World Exclusive." (Drudge's use of this term reminds me of Wallace Shawn's frequent line, "inconceivable," to describe things that kept happening in The Princess Bride. As Mandy Patinkin pointed out, "I do not think that word means what you think it means.") Then Holy Joe, looking to slime Clark with a "credibility gap," takes his talking points from Matt Drudge. This alone should disqualify him from holding office again as a Democrat.

For anyone who cares, Clark's testimony reveals that he has been not only remarkably consistent, but prescient. Any reasonable, intelligent, objective person can readily see this, which leaves Lieberman out, even though he was on the committee to which Clark testified.

In the parts excerpted by Drudge, you see what a persuasive speaker does. He doesn't get in the person's face that he his trying to persuade. He concedes the minor points, finds areas of agreement, builds trust and then points out the differences. This entire text show's that Clark did so masterfully. The Big Dog would be proud. Lieberman, on the other hand, doesn't get it.

When Clinton's letter to the ROTC commandant surfaced and lesser folks like Stephanopolous were wringing their hands, Carville supposedly smiled and said, "This letter is your best friend." This situation is not nearly as dramatic, but I do think this transcript should be a plus for Clark, if handled correctly. The Campaign should hand out a highlighted version to the press and at town meetings. Some highlights:

From Clark's Statement

We have an unfinished, world-wide war against Al Qaeda, a war that has to be won in conjunction with friends and allies, and that ultimately be won by persuasion as much as by force, when we turn off the Al Qaeda recruiting machine. Some three thousand deaths on September 11th testify to the real danger from Al Qaeda, and as all acknowledge, Al Qaeda has not yet been defeated. Thus far, substantial evidence has not been made available to link Saddam’s regime to the Al Qaeda network. And while such linkages may emerge,winning the war against Al Qaeda may well require different actions than ending the weapons programs in Iraq.

The critical issue facing the Unites States now is how to force action against Saddam Hussein and his weapons programs without detracting from our focus on Al Qaeda or efforts to deal with other immediate, mid and long-term security problems. In this regard, I would offer the following considerations:

The United States diplomacy in the United Nations will be further strengthened if the Congress can adopt a resolution expressing US determination to act if the United Nations will not. The use of force must remain a US option under active consideration. The resolution need not at this point authorize the use of force, but simply agree on the intent to authorize the use of force, if other measures fail. The more focused the resolution on Iraq and the problem of weapons of mass destruction, the greater its utility in the United Nations. The more nearly unanimous the resolution, the greater its impact in the diplomatic efforts underway.

The President and his national security team must deploy imagination, leverage, and patience in crafting UN engagement. In the near term, time is on our side, and we should endeavor to use the UN if at all possible. This may require a period of time for inspections or even the development of a more intrusive inspection program, if necessary backed by force. This is foremost an effort to gain world-wide legitimacy for US concerns and possible later action, but it may also impede Saddam’s weapons programs and further constrain his freedom of action. Yes, there is a risk that inspections would fail to provide the evidence of his weapons programs, but the difficulties of dealing with this outcome are more than offset by opportunity to gain allies and support in the campaign against Saddam.

If efforts to resolve the problem by using the United Nations fail, either initially or ultimately, the US should form the broadest possible coalition, including its NATO allies and the North Atlantic Council if possible, to bring force to bear. Force should not be used until the personnel and organizations to be involved in post-conflict Iraq are identified and readied to assume their responsibilities. This includes requirements for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance, and preparations for a transitional governing body and eventual elections, perhaps including a new constitution. Ideally, international and multinational organizations will participate in the readying of such post-conflict operations, including the UN, NATO, and other regional and Islamic organizations.

Force should be used as the last resort; after all diplomatic means have been exhausted, unless information indicates that further delay would present an immediate risk to the assembled forces and organizations. This action should not be categorized as “preemptive.”

Once initiated, any military operation should aim for the most rapid accomplishment of its operational aims and prompt turnover to follow-on organizations and agencies.

If we proceed as outlined above, we may be able to minimize the disruption to the ongoing campaign against Al Qaeda, reduce the impact on friendly governments in the region, and even contribute to the resolution of other regional issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iranian efforts to develop nuclear capabilities, and Saudi funding for terrorism. But there are no guarantees. The war is unpredictable and could be difficult and costly. And what is at risk in the aftermath is an open-ended American ground commitment in Iraq and an even deeper sense of humiliation in the Arab world, which could intensify our problems in the region and elsewhere.

Ultimately, it's going to be inadequate in the main but as far as the intelligence is concerned and the time available, I don't know how to make sense of the intelligence. I mean we've heard six months from the CIA. We've heard the latest British estimate of a couple of years. We've heard other people say a year. We've heard Iraqi defectors saying it's ready. All he has to do is just machine the plutonium if he can get his hands on it.

From Clark's Testimony:

The honest truth is that the absence of intelligence is not an adequate reason to go forward to war in and of itself, and so what we have to do is we have to build a program that builds, that encourages other nations to share our perspective. We can do it relatively quickly. We should not discard inspections. They have done some measure of good, otherwise Saddam wouldn't object to them so strongly. …

But I will say this, that the administration has not proceeded heretofore in a way that would encourage its friends and allies to support it. One of the problems we have is the overhang from a number of decisions taken by the administration which have undercut its friends and allies around the world and given the impression that the United States doesn't respect the opinions of other.

I think the broader the coalition, the stronger the preparations in advance, the smoother the operation is likely to be, the more rapid Saddam's army will collapse, and the less humanitarian hardship is likely to be imposed.

That having been said once we move into the area, what we can expect is a complete breakdown of governmental authority. …

[W]e have to imagine a complete breakdown of order. That will be accompanied no doubt by a breakdown in the distribution of services, water, food.

And so, we really don't know what we're going to face. So in the immediate aftermath, there's going to be the possibility of a chaotic environment that's going to require a substantial American presence as well as a vast humanitarian governmental structure to meet the needs of the 23 million Iraqi people.

Then we're dealing with the longer mid term, the mid term problems. Will Iraq be able to establish a government that holds it together or will it fragment?

CLARK: I'm saying there hasn't been any substantiation of the linkage of the Iraqi regime to the events of 9/11 or the fact that they are giving weapons of mass destruction capability to Al Qaida, yes sir….

So I think that, you know, the key issue is how we move from here and what do we need to do to deal with this threat? But I think what's also clear is that the way you deal with the threat from Iraq is different than the way you deal with the threat from Al Qaida. And so, my contention has been we need to look at different means for dealing with these threats. We need to take advantage of all the resources at our disposal, not just the military.

My French friends constantly remind me that these are problems that we had a hand in creating. So when it comes to creating another strategy, which is built around the intrusion into the region by U.S. forces, all the warning signs should be flashing. There are unintended consequences when force is used. Use it as a last resort. Use it multilaterally if you can. Use it unilaterally only if you must.

So the president, our commander-in-chief, has committed himself. I think it's wise to narrow the resolution that was submitted. I think it will be more effective and more useful and I think it's more in keeping with the checks and balances that are the hallmark of the American government if that resolution is narrowed.

And on the other hand, I think you have to narrow it in such a way that you don't remove the resort to force as a last option consideration in this case. So, not giving a blank check but expressing an intent to sign the check when all other alternatives are exhausted. I think in dealing with men like Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein that diplomacy has to be leveraged by discussions the threat, or in the last instance, the use of force.

Your second question was about the exit strategy and what I've tried to portray is if you're going to have an exit strategy, you're going to have a turnover you have to anticipate some of the worst things that might happen.

I hope that we're starting to do that in a very, very serious way but there are a number of steps that have to be taken first, like engaging international organizations and the U.N. and trying to build a framework because we don't want to put the United States armed forces if it takes I don't know how many, 50,000, 70,000 initially.

We don't want a bunch of young men in battle dress uniforms out there indefinitely trying to perform humanitarian assistance. That's not our job. We're not very good at it. We're also not any good at police work. Now we're doing a lot of it in place like Kosovo and Bosnia and we have and it's been unfortunate. So we should try to do better in this case.

If we had the information that you're suggesting that he was going to have a nuclear device, presumably we'd have some idea of where it was and we have the means to strike Saddam Hussein literally on a moment's notice today. We could do so if we were under threat. We should take the time. It's a matter of practical statesmanship.

I think we didn't fully appreciate the danger of Al Qaida and you know I start from the 11th of September and work backwards -- of 2001 and work backwards and say not only the intelligence communities but, you know, in the military as you well know, we have a tendency to look up the chain of command and down the chain of command and we work it from top to bottom and we do an after action review after every operation. We ask what happened, why did it happen and how can we fix it? That after action review, sir, has not been done and those who were accountable have not be held accountable….

CLARK: I think the first thing is you have a very strong determination that's out in public and supported by this body that says if we don't get the assistance we need from the United Nations, as a last resort we will use force and we will solve this problem ourselves.

HUNTER: So if the United Nations doesn't give us a strong aggressive inspection regime, we should reject a weaker inspection regime and take military action?

CLARK: I'm not suggesting that.

HUNTER: OK, now what if they give us a weaker -- I think we can --

CLARK: You're leading the witness, sir.

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