Joe Biden Just Obliterated Every Administration Argument About Iraq
That was a very significant moment at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings with Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus. Joe Biden asked Amb. Crocker where it would be better for American national security interests to eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq or Al Qaeda along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Crocker had nowhere to hide with that question. Spencer Ackerman describes the outcome.
Crocker, in an impossible political position -- give the correct answer and humiliate the Bush administration; give the administration's answer and look like a fool -- dodged as much as he could. Then Biden forced him down. Crocker: "I would therefore pick Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border."
Every single argument that the Administration and their lapdogs like John McCain have made or are making break down after that answer. The Ambassdor to Iraq just admitted that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror. He just admitted that the potential for Al Qaeda to gain a beachhead in Iraq should the United States withdraw is miniscule compared to the already-established beachhead along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He admitted that the global fight against terror is currently misdirected.
Whether the military is lowering casualties in Iraq or not, or whether political reconciliation is occurring or not, or whether Prime Minister Maliki won in Basra or Muqtada al-Sadr did, none of this is germane given the new information we just received here. We invaded Iraq to attack a group that did not attack us on 9-11, and we are continuing in Iraq and continuing to ignore the group that did attack us. So our policy is being held captive to developments inside Iraq while the terrorist threat that was supposed to be the impetus for this war and occupation in the first place goes on literally unabated.
(Biden's other great achievement was his strong statement that Congressional PERMISSION is needed to make any long-term commitment to Iraq. There were actually cheers in the hearing room after that one.)
You can actually end this hearing right now. We have all the information we need. Joe Biden made the entire Administration policy for 6 years look foolish. If deployed right by the Democrats, this election is over, too.
UPDATE: It should be noted that Amb. Crocker ought to know what he's talking about - one of his prior posts in the foreign service was in Pakistan.
UPDATE II: Russ Feingold is hitting on this as well, talking about Al Qaeda's presence in the safe haven in the FATA region in Pakistan. And he asked THE SAME QUESTION to Crocker... who's basically saying that he has to look at the Iraq perspective because that's his job. Petraeus is retreating into Zawahiri's statements about Iraq being the central front in the war against terror (we should absolutely listen to Zawahiri because he really has American interests at heart), but Feingold is hammering him, and Petraeus basically admitted that there's a safe haven for Al Qaeda in Pakistan. So now BOTH Crocker and Petraeus have admitted that we're focusing on the exact wrong issue.
UPDATE III: We've got video:
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, is Al Qaeda a greater threat to US interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?
AMB. CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, Al Qaeda is a strategic threat to the United States wherever it is, in my view–
SEN. BIDEN: Where is most of it? If you could take it out? You had a choice: Lord almighty came down and sat in the middle of the tabel there and said mr ambassadro you can elimibnate every AQ source in afghanistan and pak, or every aq personell in Iraq, which would you pick?
AMB. CROCKER: Well given the progress that has been made again Al Qaeda in Iraq, the significant decrease in its capabilities, the fact that it is solidly on the defensive, and not in a position of–
SEN. BIDEN: Which would you pick, Mr. Ambassador?
AMB. CROCKER: I would therefore pick Al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.
SEN BIDEN: That would be a smart choice.
UPDATE IV: George Voinovich was very impressive; I'll try to find a transcript. Obama is up right now. He's getting right on to asking questions instead of making a speech. He corners Petraeus about Al Qaeda in Iraq, saying they weren't in there before we invaded. And he's asking whether we can ever reach a point where AQI couldn't reconstitute themselves. He's trying to pin down Petraeus on some metrics. This seems like a windup for a big pitch. I LOVE that he mentioned that Maliki said there was no room in the security forces for the Sunni Awakening groups and yet he recently added 10,000 Shiite Badr Brigade members, and he's picked up on Sen. Boxer's point that the Iraqi government is as pro-Iranian as the "special groups" that Crocker claims is the source of all Iraq's problems. I think Obama's remarks reflect a facility with the situation on the ground and a reasonable expectation of the goals we can expect in Iraq when we eventually withdraw. Best of all, Obama is doing his job instead of grandstanding. He added that the two malign groups Crocker and Petraeus keep discussing, AQI and Iran, were a DIRECT result of our initial invasion. He did an excellent job.