July 26th, 2007
01:10 PM ET
4 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. JWH

    Gates: “need to be careful not to undermine the morale of our troops or encourage our enemies”

    That would be EXACTLY what President Bush and his Neo Con supporters are doing by leaving our troops hunkered down in the slums of Iraq.

    Bring them home now!

    July 26, 2007 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    So it was a lie when she said during the debate that he called her un-patriotic?

    As usual she lies, gets great press and nobody calls her on it.

    July 26, 2007 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Steve, Lyons, Colorado

    Thanx, you suddenly brainless Republicans. You've given Hillary Clinton major sand in the nomination fight with your obvious terror at the idea of another Clinton in the White House.

    Wow. Clinton's lead is widening, even among blacks vs. Obama. As probably the most conservative of the Dems (note, whiners, I said "of the Dems"), Hillary is now the clear favorite to take on whomever the Republicans can come up with.

    What more fun than a Hillary vs. Rudy prez campaign? Can you imagine the fun?

    Better yet, Thompson vs. Hillary. No cue cards to help Thompson = ground long pig for Clinton.

    July 26, 2007 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    What's the problem? Clinton already has said she plans on keeping 50,000 troops anyways.

    Gates and Edelman are just playing games.

    July 26, 2007 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    That looks "Presidential" Hillary... How about next time you just stamp your feet and throw a hissy fit because the Pentagon is worried about not PUBLICALLY discussing these issues... unlike you who sends letters and makes demands through news conferences.

    Hillary Clinton – antagonistic, political, and personal grand-standing at the potential cost of our troops safety.

    Nice.

    July 26, 2007 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. Notmyvote

    Hillary is not worried about the morale of our troops or her encouraging word to our enemies. Ditto for the rest of the demorats. Its plain to see that their highlighting of US deaths in a bias media provides them with shortsighted political advancements. "Stop the War on Terror" is their bumper sticker issue.

    Treason: a crime of disloyalty to one's nation. A person who in some way willfully cooperates with an enemy, is considered to be a traitor.

    July 26, 2007 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. Melinda, Kemp, Texas

    I am so tired of hearing that we cannot get pertinent information in the name of "national security" and that our troops are hurt by the American people asking questions. What exactly did our forefather's fight for again???? It has been lost in the bush!!

    July 26, 2007 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. Andy Jones, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

    Defense Secy. Gates' response is totally inadequate. I am not surprised anyway. This is yet another example of the inner-circle of George Bush, where they all conspire and question the patriotism of his opponent. I think it is time that American public wake up and realize that they have a crook/imbacile in the White House.

    July 26, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  9. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    Yep, the invasion is the worst thing this country has done since Vietnam (and then some), but what do we do now? It's true that we need to be careful not to allow our eventual retreat to be exploited as a sign of our weakness, but maybe now is a time for a little humility since we caused this mess.
    I love the last quote about us having no reason to have confidence in the administration's handling of the world's complexities anymore.
    And get ready for the armchair warriors' responses about Democrats "cut and running" or whatever. I'd like to see these wannabes patrolling the streets of Tikrit.

    July 26, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Travis

    Good point Jon. If she wants to see contingency plans why is she airing it to the press? Be responsible. I'm sure the Pentagon is anxious to show her all kinds of sensitive info after this public airing.

    July 26, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. Jen Portland Oregon

    None of the demos seem to so cowardly that they can't tell the truth that our soliders have and are dieing in vain..do they just not understand what that means? well let me explain..our soliders are dieing in vain because Iraq has never been and never will be a noble cause..they do what they are told trusting the commander in chief, and going to war based on lies..If Iraq is a noble cause then why do the Dems want to impeach Bush, and why do most Americans want are troops home..Mike Gravel is not saying he is not supporting our troop, what he is saying is that our soliders are dieing for no good reason..For once could we get someone to tell the truth?The way it's looking with the 3 leading canidates, nothing is going to change.

    July 26, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    The Pentagon already despises Hillary. Back in the "co-presidency" she refused to let officers where their uniforms in the White House. Not to mention their stripping the military of their budget. Yeah, Im sure they want to tell you anything Hill..

    July 26, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Michael M. Noonan New Orleans, La.

    In what sense does Hillary Clinton or any Democratic truly honor our troops when they dishonor our mission. What does Senator Clinton or Senator Reid think the troops hear when defeatist rhetoric is used?

    July 26, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Andy ~ Rancho SM, CA "Defense Secy. Gates’ response is totally inadequate"

    What would you have him say pubically, Andy? "Yes Hillary we're pulling out in 3 stages beginning April 2008 out of the Baghdad Airport at 7:30 am"??? Hillary is the one making this a public spectacle!

    Jen ~ Portland "me explain..our soliders are dieing in vain because Iraq has never been and never will be a noble cause."

    I understand many Americans have lost sight of what was really happening when the US Troops began liberating Iraq. Let me remind you... Our good men and women in the military were irradicating the Taliban from Afghanistan. Meanwhile Saddam (ruthless dictator with "reported" WMDs and continuing to defy UN resolutions) kicked out UN inspectors. Saddam was given several deadlines to comply with UN Resolutions and allow inspectors to finish their work. He refused. Our good men and women were called on to inforce these UN Resolutions (with the help of other nations) – remove Saddam, eliminate insurgent resistance, and help establish law and order. It may not be very noble to you.. but I proudly support the efforts of our brave soldiers.

    July 26, 2007 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. Vicki, Waterloo, IN

    If you want to lower morale of the military, elect Clinton. She can downsize the military just like her husband and the troops will be deployed longer and more often then they are now. Why not tell Congress the exact dates for withdrawals? There has never been a leak of sensitive information from Congress. Maybe the candidates need to revisit the past before they demand anything.

    July 26, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. Bill Bloom, Doylestown, PA

    I somehow recall the 'governator' making an important announcement on Leno's show. These are comedy shows and some of you sound like you could use a good laugh-choose Dave BETTERMAN!

    July 26, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  17. EDISON, NEW JERSEY

    WHY NOT WORKING ON THE WAR,JOBS,ECONOMY,OUT SOURCE JOBS,TAXES?

    July 26, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. Kevin the K, Seattle, WA

    I applaud Clinton for asking for proper Constitutional oversight to make sure that there is a plan in place for withdrawl. Not a *date*, people, just a plan. Considering how little attention the present junta paid to post-combat preparedness (over the objections of the military and just about any expert they might have asked), I think it is a proper request, despite whatever I feel towards Clinton as a candidate.
    As for Vicky fom Waterloo and her comment that "(Hilary) can downsize the military just like her husband and the troops will be deployed longer and more often then they are now," ask a Q: Who trained and equipped the military who so easily won the combat phases of the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq? Bill Clinton. Who has had 6 years to increase the size of the military if he so desired? Bush II.
    You can blame some things on Clinton, but not this one.

    July 26, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. Taylor Philadelphia, PA

    Saddam was given several deadlines to comply with UN Resolutions and allow inspectors to finish their work. He refused. Our good men and women were called on to inforce these UN Resolutions (with the help of other nations) – remove Saddam, eliminate insurgent resistance, and help establish law and order. It may not be very noble to you.. but I proudly support the efforts of our brave soldiers.

    Our men and women were not called upon. Bush said if the UN wouldn't act, we would go it alone. So the UN kept reporting no foul play by Saddam, Bush swore their were WMDs, and the US invaded Iraq. The UN was right. We never found WMDs and that's when the story started to change. "The people who caused 9/11 are in Iraq." "We are helping people by removing an evil dictator." It just makes me wonder what today would be like had we not invaded Iraq by mustering post-9/11 support around a false story.

    Thanks for giving us an incorrect history lesson.

    July 26, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. Mike - Milwaukee

    "Q: Who trained and equipped the military who so easily won the combat phases of the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq? Bill Clinton. "

    LOL... oh my sides are hurting from that one!! The only thing Bill Clinton was training was Monica on how to be a cigar affectionado.

    July 26, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. Chris, Dallas, Texas

    It is awful nice of Gates to extend her that type of courtesy. Quite frankly, I don't she can discern her butt from a hole in the ground when it comes to anything militarily. Nothing would mobilize the Christian right and anyone affiliated with the military more than giving her the nomination.

    July 26, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. Pete, T.S. FL

    Jon, Sacramento

    Immediately go to the E.R. and have your stomach pumped, you obviously ingested too much of the Kool-Aid. You don’t support the troops; you support the president and his misguided and illegal war.

    Supporting the troops means not letting them die while Bush and co try to figure out what to do next. It means getting them home!

    And by the way Clinton wanting answers is her job; she never wanted a public briefing.

    “WE THE PEOPLE”

    July 26, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    "Our men and women were not called upon. Bush said if the UN wouldn’t act, we would go it alone. So the UN kept reporting no foul play by Saddam, Bush swore their were WMDs, and the US invaded Iraq. The UN was right. We never found WMDs and that’s when the story started to change. “The people who caused 9/11 are in Iraq.” “We are helping people by removing an evil dictator.” It just makes me wonder what today would be like had we not invaded Iraq by mustering post-9/11 support around a false story."

    Taylor, you may WANT to actually review the actual account of what happened preceding our intervention in Iraq – as opposed to what you think you remember.

    UN Security Council Resolution 1441 – passed uninmously (including China, France, Russia, and Arab nations) on 11/8/02 – offering Iraq 'a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" – set forth in previous resolutions #660, 661, 678, 686, 687, 688, 707, 715, 986, and 1284.

    This resolution also called for Iraq to surrendor current WMDs or provide evidence of their destruction. Global Intelligence provided by England, Germany, France combined with the Clinton Administration's compilation overwhelming suggested WMDs were present. Not to mention Saddam USED wmds – killing thousands of Kurds. Granted after a thorough search no huge stockpiles were found – but warheads, documentation of development, etc were present.

    Taylor – PLEASE look into the truth and quit just echoing the Bush-Lied mantra.

    July 26, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. Pete, T.S. FL

    Vicki, Waterloo

    “Maybe the candidates need to revisit the past before they demand anything”.

    You should take a trip down history lane yourself; it was the first Bush prior to the gulf war who started the downsizing and troop reductions.

    “WE THE PEOPLE”

    July 26, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  25. Anonymous, California

    Clinton stripped the budget because we just had won the Cold War.

    It is called the Peace Dividend...taxpayers finally getting a return on their investment.

    Now ironically we are spending more than we did during the peak of the Cold War to chase down people that hide in caves and don't have a single jet or ship in their arsenal.

    We are not going to win any wars by going bankrupt or letting our country fall apart from within.

    July 26, 2007 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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