July 26th, 2007
01:10 PM ET
3 years ago

Gates tells Clinton 'we need to be careful'

Watch CNN’s Bill Schneider report on the Pentagon’s latest response to Clinton.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – While saying that the discussion had "went astray," Defense Secretary Robert Gates stopped short Thursday of repudiating earlier Pentagon criticisms directed at Sen. Hillary Clinton for her request for a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Gates told the New York Democrat and presidential candidate that there is a “need to be careful not to undermine the morale of our troops or encourage our enemies” while conducting congressional oversight of the Iraq war.

Gates’ reaction stems from a sharp exchange last week between Clinton and Eric Edelman, undersecretary for defense policy, regarding the New York Democrat’s request for Iraq withdrawal plans.

Edelman, in a letter to Clinton, called such an inquiry “premature” and said it “reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies inIraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.”

In a conference call with reporters, Clinton called Edelman’s letter “totally inappropriate” and fired a letter to Gates asking if he agreed with the charge.

Responding to Clinton’s letter, Gates wrote in a letter to Clinton dated Thursday, “I emphatically assure you that we do not claim, suggest or otherwise believe that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies, nor do we question anyone’s motives in this regard.”

But Gates took care not to completely repudiate Edelman’s comments, adding, “we all recognized that there are multiple audiences for what we say, and we need to be careful not to undermine the morale of our troops or encourage our enemies - the point Ambassador Edelman was trying to make in his letter.”

Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Clinton, said the senator was “disappointed” Gates did not reject Edelman’s comments, but said she “nevertheless welcomes Secretary Gates's acknowledgment that congressional oversight of the war in Iraqis essential to our national debate.”

“She continues to believe strongly that there is absolutely no room for impugning the patriotism of those who rightfully engage in Congressional oversight,” Reines added.

Reines also said Clinton, along with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, will continue to pursue their recently introduced legislation requiring the Pentagon to brief Congress on the military’s contingency plans for withdrawing from Iraq.

Clinton said last week that "given the track record of this administration with respect to its failure to plan" it would be reassuring if the Pentagon briefed the Armed Services Committee on its plans.

"We have no reason to have confidence in this administration's grasp of the complexity of the problems we find ourselves in, and their record of dismissing and belittling the professional military when it comes to providing expertise and caution about certain policies raises very big red flags in our minds about what it is that is occurring when it comes to contingency planning," she said.

– CNN's Ted Barrett and Alexander Mooney contributed to this report


Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Pete, TS Florida

    I'll bet you were one of those voters in Florida confused by the butterfly ballot and now you're just angry cause you voted for Buchanan and not gore?

    Supporting troops = getting them home

    Pete it may come as a huge surprise but we have military personnel deployed not just in Iraq: Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, Netherlands, England, Cuba, Greece, Iceland, Bahrain, and Spain.

    Are we not supporting THESE troops cause they're "not home"?

    Supporting the troops means making sure the best resources available to get the job done... and THEN come home. I understand the cut-and-run crowd wants to hide behind the false pretense of helping the troops...but CLEARLY pulling out now will only assure greater violence/bloodshed in the region, greater instability, and very likely us being drawn in (again) because of the resulting pull-out.

    How about we all let the Commanding Generals guide deployment policy? Granted I know you're quite qualified as a foreign policy expert... but I'll take my chances with our Military leaders.

    July 26, 2007 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. Edward, Los Angeles, CA

    I believe President Bush, Sr. should have gone for the jugular during the Gulf War and removed Sadam. However, had he done so, well....what would have most Americans (and the world)said about him and this nation? The result..more than a decade for Sadam to prepare for inevitable! We cannot and should not back down in Iraq. We should continue to support our heroic Soldiers for what they are doing in the name of Democracy. If we do not, we send out a message to the world that the US does not stand behind what our forefathers believed in and established for all of us to enjoy today: The Declaration of Independence; Bill of Rights; and our Constitution!

    I believe we will be in Iraq for many years and that our next President, once in office, will realize that one thing is running for President and another is when you are actually the President. God Bless America.

    July 26, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  3. Mike, HI

    Shhh, Clinton, we need to watch out for the boogeyman!

    Jon:

    but CLEARLY pulling out now will only assure greater violence/bloodshed in the region, greater instability, and very likely us being drawn in (again) because of the resulting pull-out.

    That's not clear at all. The only thing that is clear is that thousands of Americans will be back home, and the Fed won't have to be printing money overtime.

    July 26, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  4. bprosserme

    That's right Hillary! Keep that real Hillary hidden, don't want the unsuspecting public accosted by that vixen, right?

    July 26, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Jon California, your 5:12 posting could not say it any better.

    Yeah, I know Clintonista's, only Bush lied and the world loved us when Clinton was in office.

    Tell that to the people that lost loved ones in the 1st WTC bombing, USS Cole (my navy brother's), multiple embassies etc etc.

    Bush lied and we were loved, keep repeating it doesn't make it true.

    July 26, 2007 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  6. Mrs. America

    The fact that Sen. Clinton has Robert Gates' attention should make it obvious who has the clout among the Dem hopefuls.

    July 26, 2007 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  7. Sandy Moore-Furneaux, Norman, OK

    I could hardly bear to read the article due to the terrible grammar slapping me in the face in the first sentence! This is yet another example of what Morris Berman describes in Dark Ages America. We already know we can't trust anyone in the current administration.

    July 26, 2007 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  8. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca … I’ll keep track of how you're doing as I go along.

    UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was so “important” to the UN, that even THEY didn’t support using it as a basis for invasion. It’s a historical FACT that NOTHING WAS SUPPORTED based on UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Congress and the American people supported an invasion based on the “imminent threat of WMDs” LIE, and Dubya invaded based on “he tried to kill my daddy”.

    Then again Wolfowitz said the real reason we invaded Iraq was so we could remove our troops from Saudi Arabia – and the WMD's was the only thing that the Bush administration could get everyone to agree on as a logical basis for war to remove those troops.

    So either way, you’re “we invaded based on Resolution 1441” argument is a based on a blatant lie.

    0-1!

    “This resolution also called for Iraq to surrendor current WMDs or provide evidence of their destruction.”
    Not accounting for something did not automatically mean they currently possessed it. And Hans Blix faulted the administration for assuming exactly that. How do you prove you destroyed something you don’t even have? And that we STILL haven't proven they had?

    See, here’s what Bush did ... and he was smart in a way. Bush knew that no weapons were being found. And he knew that the longer inspectors searched and didn’t find them, the worse the US would look – especially if the US attacked, which was a foregone conclusion anyway since he was planing this since “practically the first day in office” according to Contradicta Rice. So rather than logically find the WMDs (that they weren’t finding) before he invaded, Bush decided to pull a switch and make a corollary that would put the burden of proof on Saddam rather than the US. Pretty much … “Well, we can’t prove he has them, so we’ll just make HIM prove that he doesn’t. We still can’t prove he’s guilty, so we’ll just make him prove he’s innocent.”

    And, once AGAIN, The burden of proof is on the accuser – not on the accused. It’s called “innocent until proven guilty” – not visa versa. Perhaps you’ve heard of something called the Constitution? You might want to check under Duby’s foot for it.

    0-2!

    “Global Intelligence provided by England, Germany, France combined with the Clinton Administration’s compilation overwhelming suggested WMDs were present.”

    Overwhelmingly EXCEPT for the people actually DOING THE SEARCHES who said Saddam was clean of the very weapons that this administration insisted he had. Clinton only had heresay as evidence. Dubya the most recent and CONTRADICTORY evidence possible – results of real-time, actual searches which turned up nothing.

    And you can name and quote all the people you want (to support your “Well, they SAID so!” argument) who were WRONG about Saddam having WMD's – it doesn’t support your case. They were ALL wrong!

    Bush chose to ignore the inspectors who told him they doubted Saddam had those weapons (based on actual SEARCHES) … and therefore chose to ignore the very people who would be the ones to KNOW whether or not Saddam had them. That’s like Bush demanding a lung be removed even though a licensed physician tells him there's no cancer!

    So forget what the inspectors say … believe Chalabi, Curveball, the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress, and BLATANTLY forged documents right?

    0-3!

    “Not to mention Saddam USED wmds – killing thousands of Kurds.”

    We invaded based on CURRENT POSESSION of those weapons – not what he posessed a DECADE-PLUS prior.

    0-4!

    “Granted after a thorough search no huge stockpiles were found – but warheads, documentation of development, etc were present.”

    Yep .. documentation of PREVIOUS programs that were stopped. Are you gonna say that we should have invaded based purely on the existence of documentation – of abandoned programs – now too? You could attack pretty much any of our former enemies in the world with that logic!

    And let’s look at those warheads shall we? Are you talking about the mortar shells that have been proven NEGATIVE for blistering agents? Or sarin shells that while found in Iraq, STILL cant be tied to Saddam by the U.S. govt’s own admission (Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt)?

    You can prove that they weren’t left over from the Gulf War a decade-plus earlier or that they weren't from US recently since those m155 shells are still used by the U.S. marines and fired from an m198 howitzer?

    Better yet, how can you prove that the “shells, etc” weren’t from any of the thousands of terrorists have been swarming in across the border into Iraq and bringing GOD KNOWS WHAT in with them since the borders weren’t secured by enough troops?

    Let me put it a way that even a 10 year old can understand it. If you lend your car to someone while you’re away for a few years, and heroin is found it it, is it automatically YOURS? If you go on vacation and other people have been partying in your house for 5 months while you were away ... is whatever found there while you were gone automatically YOURS? That’s the same situation in Iraq after Saddam was removed. And that’s why your “well … it was found there” argument isn’t conclusive proof and is completely irrelevant.

    I wont even bother discussing those "mobile weapons labs" that turned out to be water trucks!

    That would make you 0-5 buddy.

    Good luck with your next post!

    July 27, 2007 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  9. Rick,

    Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca ... "I’ll take my chances with our Military leaders."

    Does this include the leaders who were retired for not telling Dubya the TRUTH – which wasn't what he wanted to hear?

    Does this include the leaders who haven't gotten the job done after FOUR-PLUS years of trying vs a third world country with 1/1000th the military we have?

    Or the leaders that unfortunately have no choice now but to blindly follow whatever orders and mission they're given like good soldiers regardless of the fact that there's no U.S. military solution to someone ELSE'S civil war?

    And does this include Dubya (as a military leader)? The guy who was stupid enough to send the troops off to war without necessary armor to die based on intel he knew was suspect? Who said "I don't think you can win "it" – a war on terror – after he send them over to fight it? Who repeatedly lied and said we WERE winning the war up until his Sec of Defense said we WEREN'T? Who refuses to make Iraqis accountable for their OWN lack of progress in fighting their OWN damn war while their govt takes a vacation cuz its "too hot" to govern? The same guy who NEVER personally even saw combat because his daddy got him a gig in a champaign unit of the National Guard flying for Viet Kong over TEXAS in a plane not suitable for combat in Vietnam before he flunked a physical for reasons he won't disclose and refused to re-take the physical so he could continue doing the job the military paid him GOOD money to do?

    Does it?

    With leaders like THAT ... I'll take my chances with anybody else.

    Thanks for remaining brainwashed by FOX News – where blind patriotism is routinely substituted for critical thinking and common sense.

    July 27, 2007 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  10. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca ... "I’ll take my chances with our Military leaders."

    Does this include the leaders who were retired for not telling Dubya the TRUTH – which wasn't what he wanted to hear?

    Does this include the leaders who haven't gotten the job done after FOUR-PLUS years of trying vs a third world country with 1/1000th the military we have?

    Or the leaders that unfortunately have no choice now but to blindly follow whatever orders and mission they're given like good soldiers regardless of the fact that there's no U.S. military solution to someone ELSE'S civil war?

    And does this include Dubya (as a military leader)? The guy who was stupid enough to send the troops off to war without necessary armor to die based on intel he knew was suspect? Who said "I don't think you can win "it" – a war on terror – after he send them over to fight it? Who repeatedly lied and said we WERE winning the war up until his Sec of Defense said we WEREN'T? Who refuses to make Iraqis accountable for their OWN lack of progress in fighting their OWN damn war while their govt takes a vacation cuz its "too hot" to govern? The same guy who NEVER personally even saw combat because his daddy got him a gig in a champaign unit of the National Guard flying for Viet Kong over TEXAS in a plane not suitable for combat in Vietnam before he flunked a physical for reasons he won't disclose and refused to re-take the physical so he could continue doing the job the military paid him GOOD money to do?

    Does it?

    With leaders like THAT ... I'll take my chances with anybody else.

    July 27, 2007 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  11. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    Hillary is falling in the polls in the lead states.

    Someone made a comment that it is not clear that the mid east region will fall into more chaos if we withdraw.

    Actually, it has been well documented and even CNN is reporting on the issue and quoting ARAB diplomats in the area around Iraq. CNN didn't consult one politician in their investigation.

    If you're justifying pulling the troops out because of no proof of greater conflict, then you haven't done your homework -at all.

    Nothing is scarier than Shillary at the helm in this time of great conflict. Whomever you want to blame for the mess, go ahead, but pulling out is a second mistake far worst than the first. Wake up. The Peace Dividend is a myth.

    July 27, 2007 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  12. Anonymous

    The question is what enemy is US fighting in Iraq and why are they enemy?

    July 27, 2007 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Oh Bush lied, Bush lied, Bush lied!! Christ, people the majority of the Senate didnt even read the damn intelligence report and voted for the war anyway.

    Oh, but thats okay, they were misled, so...

    Please. The fact is we screwed up and invaded, and made the country a mess. If you make a mess, youre supposed to clean it up, and that means cleaning it up completely, not just brushing dirt under a rug, and leaving it behind for someone else to fix it.

    Oh and Rick, if you are driving and get pulled over, and heroin is found, you are responsible, as the car's owner. You still go to jail.

    Furthermore when has the UN ever supported anything they've passed. Its full of a bunch of talk hard do nothing politicians, who were too busy lining their own pockets to really care about what was going on over there.

    The fact is, if you pull all of the troops out of there, you better make sure you get the civilians out too. Oh, and in a few years when World War III starts in the Middle East if we pull out (as it surely will), you can at least say you supported our troops. Granted, more will die if we are forced to go back in, but thats okay, because at least it wont be based on Bush's lie.

    July 27, 2007 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. Mike, Corpus Christi Texas

    Rick from Chicago:

    Thank you for always posting the truth on this blog site, your posts are always refreshing to read. Keep up the good work!

    July 27, 2007 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  15. Rick, Chicago Ilinois

    Anonymous ... "Oh and Rick, if you are driving and get pulled over, and heroin is found, you are responsible, as the car’s owner. You still go to jail."

    Good luck making those charges stick if the authorities know for a fact that others have been using your car for YEARS while you were gone – especially when "gone for years" means "already IN jail" when the heroin is found in the car.

    "you better make sure you get the civilians out too."

    No, WE don't have to get them out, they can just stay there because the Iraqis will have stepped up and started doing the fighting and the dying for their own damn country right?

    If not ... TOO BAD! It's THEIR fault, not ours. We gave them plenty of time to stop fighting at OUR expense.

    "Oh, and in a few years when World War III starts in the Middle East if we pull out (as it surely will),"

    LOL ... WW3 is going to break out if we leave Iraq now? Just like you guys all said about Vietnam .. and were proven wrong!

    "you can at least say you supported our troops."

    I can say I support them NOW.

    By NOT wanting them to die for people who have a nonchalant attitude towards the security of their own country, people who only show up every 3 or 4 days to complete their combat training, and for a govt who thinks it's "too hot" for them to sit and govern while WE fight and die – for them.

    Can YOU say that?

    Yeah, I didn't think so!

    July 27, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Rick in Chicago,

    "UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was so “important” to the UN, that even THEY didn’t support using it as a basis for invasion. It’s a historical FACT that NOTHING WAS SUPPORTED based on UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Congress and the American people supported an invasion based on the “imminent threat of WMDs” LIE, and Dubya invaded based on “he tried to kill my daddy”."

    Good grief – do you just pull your "facts" from thin air? Resolution 1441 (unanimously passed) authorized military action. There were approx 60 nations participating in the initial operation – granted the US and UK provided the vast majority of troops but many other nations participated to show support. Spin it however you like Rickey.

    "Bush knew that no weapons were being found. And he knew that the longer inspectors searched and didn’t find them, the worse the US would look – especially if the US attacked, which was a foregone conclusion anyway since he was planning this since “practically the first day in office"

    Did Michael Moore spoon-feed you, Ricky? Bush had this whole thing planned out from the first day in office??? Your statements reek of paranoia and conspiracy theory rhetoric. Hans Blix "faulted" the administration for proving they destroyed something they didnt have? RICK – WE GAVE SADDAM WMDs YEARS BEFORE! Saddam used them on his people. IF Saddam didn't have them – then why piss off the world AGAIN by kicking out the UN Inspectors? What did he have to hide??

    “innocent until proven guilty” – Glad to know Ricky you thought Saddam was so innocent. THAT speaks loudest about your logic!

    "Overwhelmingly EXCEPT for the people actually DOING THE SEARCHES who said Saddam was clean of the very weapons that this administration insisted he had"

    The search wasn't finished. Saddam repeatedly kicked out inspectors. Do you NOT remember the Iraqi surveillance on the Inspectors? How UN Inspectors were thwarted by the Iraqi military – calling ahead to inspection sites before inspectors could arrive? How inspectors were prevented at times from entering certain sites? Have you conveniently forgotten the games Saddam continued playing?

    Oh wait.. Saddam was innocent – Right, Rick?!

    "We invaded based on CURRENT POSESSION of those weapons – not what he posessed a DECADE-PLUS prior."

    This proved he would use WMDs mercilessly, Rick.

    How about we put it a way a 5 year old could understand... If you're a dictator – guilty of gassing thousands of your own people, invading Kuwait, a history of 10 UN Resolutions calling for you to disarm ~ prove disarmament ~ and allow full inspections, DO NOT kick out UN Inspectors while the army of your enemy is next door (and yes – ESPECIALLY when you attempted to kill the father of the sitting President).

    Thanks for the baseball analogy too. Suspecting your a Cubs fan – I completely understand why you're so uptight!

    July 27, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  17. S Bengtson, Pheonix AZ

    This response is almost as absurd as the first one. This is just another example of how this administration believes it answers to know one. And thank you Sen. Clinton for asking the question, and having the stones to ask something that know one ells did. It’s time for real leadership!!!

    July 27, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  18. Mike, Corpus Christi Texas

    Man, I don't know why people just can't get it?! Sadamm had made death threats against the daddy before the 9/11 incident. Dubya's plan to invade Iraq and take down Sadamm started before 9/11. It wasn't going to matter whether or not WMD's were found in Iraq. Dubya had plans to take down Sadamm, plan and simple. I've seen Dubya in action ever since he was govenor of Texas, and he doesn't need any reasons to do anything at all, he just does it!!!!!!! It's PATHETIC!!!!

    July 28, 2007 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Dear CNN ...

    You'll post replies from others that call me a "tool" and an "idiot" but you won't post my response to Jon in Sacramento? Then you ignore my follow-up posts regarding your refusal to post my response?

    It made my decision that much easier!

    See, I can post on the Chicago Sun Times blogs too. Tell me why I should take an hour-and-a-half to two-hours putting together a response or rebuttal to the questions someone asks me on a thread (like I did to Jon) only to have you NOT post it?

    I've decided to not waste my time with your blogs, web site or your TV station as I'm enjoying the Sun Times lack of selective censorship already!

    Don't worry, I know you guys certainly don't have the balls to post this either.

    Keep up the censorship gang! Maybe you'll get a job at FOX News someday!

    July 31, 2007 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  20. Floyd

    I'll take the lack of additional terrorist attacks in the US as a supportable reason for the US to have deposed SH. If I hear another person complain about the lack of WMD in Iraq-what did Bill Clinton, Albright and Tenet say prior to Bush. That Iraq had WMD (whops) so did the UN.

    January 26, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
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