Thursday, April 2, 2009

One New Iraq Strategy: Clear, Hold, and Hold Hill?

So the SFRC expeditiously approved several nominations this week including those of General Eikenberry and Ambassador Hill. The nominations will now go to the full Senate.

Even as our attention is slowly being shifted by media coverage to Afghanistan, things are still moving fast in Iraq, with clashes and bombings and factions flexing their muscles in a country with long, simmering disputes. But there are, too, important stuff going on in Congress…

Judging from the speech that Senator Brownback made on the floor, Ambassador Hill’s explanation during the hearings regarding the senator’s concerns appeared to have gone in one ear and out the other (just like my 9 year old!). On March 25, the date of Hill’s hearing, the Senator from Kansas had a lot to say about the ambassador -- exactly five pages in the Congressional Record! See the pdf files below:

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning...NOMINATION OF CHRISTOPHER HILL [Page: S3767] GPO's PDF

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I thank my colleagues for the opportunity to... [Page: S3768] GPO's PDF

Three Kernels of Corn--The State Department Has More Pressing Concerns Than a... Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, here is the quote I want to read from the article... [Page: S3769] GPO's PDF

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, this is what Mr. Lefkowitz says in his response...The North Korean Six-Party Talks and Implementation Activities HEARING BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES, UNITED STATES SENATE, JULY 31,... [Page: S3770] GPO's PDF

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I already entered the note I received from the...Clinton Strikes Blow for North's Human Rights Mr. BROWNBACK. I yield the floor. [Page: S3771] GPO's PDF

Freelancing diplomacy? Wuh duh ma huh tah duh fong kwong duh wai shung!

That’s for the holy mother of goat and all her wacky nephews!!!

If we buy the argument of “freelancing diplomacy” -- are we then to understand that Hill’s previous bosses at the State Department – that would be former Secretary Rice and then up the ladder, George W.-- were so incompetent, they did not realized Hill was conducting diplomacy contrary to their specific instructions? From 2005-2009? And he wasn’t fired?

Come now -- we can’t have it both ways. Either he was a freelancing diplomat, a rogue one with incompetent superiors who let him get away with his shenanigans with the wily North Koreans, or he was a professional diplomat following the deliberate and thoughtful daily instructions of his superiors from Foggy Bottom to the White House. Which is it?

“By exclusively pursuing the nuclear tail around the six-party table, we have contributed to the horrible suffering of the people of North Korea and degraded the United States’ long-standing commitment to fundamental human rights.

And this is the part that simply befuddles me ...

How is it that our elected officials so concerned with our country’s long standing commitment to fundamental human rights voted to confirm Alberto “torture memo” Gonzales as Attorney General in 2005? The same Gonzales who made the argument that "the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," in fact, a "new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions...." Mark Danner wrote in 2004: In a prefiguring of later bureaucratic wars, lawyers in the State Department and many in the military services fought against this decision, arguing, prophetically, that it "would undermine the United States military culture, which is based on a strict adherence to the law of war."

In any case, if the senator does exercise his not so secret hold, votes can be put off indefinitely; debates could go on forever and ever amen (well, until a vote is forced) … and a new Iraq strategy will undeniably be born -- like clear, hold and hold Hill here. Yeah! There’s an idea -- why bother sending an ambassador to Baghdad? It’s not as if there are things that absolutely need our attention there.

Still -- one can't help but be forward-looking. This is Congress after all, where deals are done every day -- except well, when they're not (and the govt shuts down, remember?). Stay tuned.

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Heather said...

I've been meaning to post something on this subject, but I just don't have the emotional energy to do it properly. So thank you for doing the hard part for me. Senator Brownback's actions are childish and, even worse, irresponsible. He cannot prevent Hill's confirmation, so he chooses to delay it, which impacts the Embassy and our ability to implement policy.

DS said...

Thanks Heather ... I have posted an update on this last night. You might see Amb Hill in Baghdad soon after 4/20 when a cloture vote is expected.