Hours after receiving a classified briefing from Pentagon officials, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) unveiled legislation to require more briefings to get more government agencies involved in the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The Thursday morning briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which Clinton is a member, was prompted by a May 23 letter Clinton sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. It urged him to make plans to redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq and for the Pentagon to give congressional committees “briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.”
Clinton received a controversial response from Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman soon after. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda,” he wrote. In a July 31 interview on CNN, Vice President Dick Cheney said he “agreed with what Eric Edelman wrote” and that he thought it was a “good letter.”
While campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president, Clinton described these responses as “political attacks” that “impugned the patriotism of millions of Americans.”
But, without any new legislation, Clinton ultimately got the briefing she wanted. In a press conference Thursday with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) and Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) about the bill the three of them are sponsoring to require more Pentagon briefings about redeployment, Clinton said: “As a result of my inquiry, a classified Pentagon briefing regarding planning took place this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I welcomed that briefing.”
When asked why their bill was needed, Clinton spoke of redeployment as a foregone conclusion and said an “interagency” approach was needed because of “the broad range of issues that have to be addressed.”
“It’s not only the Senate Armed Services that should be briefed,” she said. “Any kind of contingency panning must be an interagency operation. That means that many of the other parts of our government have to be involved.”
“What will we do with the refugees?” she asked. “Whose responsibility is that? What will we do with the approximately 100,000 private contractors, many of whom are Americans, most of whom work for American companies?”
Republican senators Richard Lugar (Ind.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John Warner (Va.), former chairman and now second-ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, have introduced similar legislation to require the Pentagon to be more forthright with their plans for redeployment. Their plan would require Pentagon officials to report to Congress at the end of October about their plans to drawdown U.S. troops from Iraq.
Of the Democrats’ plan, Kerry said, “Our bill asks for a broader set of specifics than theirs does. Theirs is moving in the same direction, and we looked at it specifically.”
Clinton said it was possible the two bills would be merged later this year to gain bipartisan support.