Sunday, May 6, 2007

Is Condi Hiding the Smoking Gun?

A Good Piece

By Frank Rich
N Y Times

".....That accounting might well begin with Mr. Powell’s successor, Condoleezza Rice. Of all the top-tier policy players who were beside the president and vice president at the war’s creation, she is the highest still in power and still on the taxpayers’ payroll. She is also the only one who can still get a free pass from the press. The current groupthink Beltway narrative has it that the secretary of state’s recidivist foreign-policy realism and latent shuttle diplomacy have happily banished the Cheney-Rumsfeld cowboy arrogance that rode America into a ditch......

Of the Sunday interviewers, it was George Stephanopoulos who went for the jugular by returning to that nonexistent uranium from Africa. He forced Ms. Rice to watch a clip of her appearance on his show in June 2003, when she claimed she did not know of any serious questions about the uranium evidence before the war. Then he came as close as any Sunday host ever has to calling a guest a liar. “But that statement wasn’t true,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said. Ms. Rice pleaded memory loss, but the facts remain. She received a memo raising serious questions about the uranium in October 2002, three months before the president included the infamous 16 words on the subject in his State of the Union address. Her deputy, Stephen Hadley, received two memos as well as a phone call of warning from Mr. Tenet......

Ms. Rice’s latest canard wasn’t an improvisation; it was a scripted set-up for the president’s outrageous statement three days later. “The decision we face in Iraq,” Mr. Bush said Wednesday, “is not whether we ought to take sides in a civil war, it’s whether we stay in the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11.” Such statements about the present in Iraq are no less deceptive — and no less damaging to our national interest — than the lies about uranium and Qaeda- 9/11 connections told in 2002-3. This country needs facts, not fiction, to make its decisions about the endgame of the war, just as it needed (but didn’t get) facts when we went to war in the first place. To settle for less is to make the same tragic error twice.....

Ms. Rice is stonewalling his investigation by rambling on about separation of powers and claiming she answered all relevant questions in writing, to Senator Carl Levin, during her confirmation to the cabinet in January 2005. If former or incumbent national security advisers like Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski could testify before Congress without defiling the Constitution, so can she. As for her answers to Senator Levin’s questions, five of eight were pure Alberto Gonzales: she either didn’t recall or didn’t know.

No wonder the most galling part of Ms. Rice’s Sunday spin was her aside to Wolf Blitzer that she would get around to reflecting on these issues “when I have a chance to write my book.” Another book! As long as American troops are dying in Iraq, the secretary of state has an obligation to answer questions about how they got there and why they stay. If accountability is ever to begin, it would be best if those questions are answered not on “60 Minutes” but under oath."

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