Ted Kennedy and Donald Rumsfeld exchanged one liners over whether Iraq was an American win or an insurgent victory. The Australian Broadcast Corporation reports:
TED KENNEDY: Secretary Rumsfeld, as you know, we are in serious trouble in Iraq, and this war has been consistently and grossly mismanaged, and we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire. Our troops are dying, and there really is no end in sight.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, that is quite a statement. First, let me say that there isn't a person at this table who agrees with you that we're in a quagmire, and that there's no end in sight. The suggestion by you that people – me or others – are painting a rosy picture is false. I think that the comments you made are certainly yours to make, and I don't agree with them.
TED KENNEDY: Well, my time has just expired, but Mr Secretary, I'm talking about the misjudgements and the mistakes that have been made, the series which I've mentioned. Those are on your watch. Isn't it time for you to resign?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Senator, I have offered my resignation to the President twice, and he's decided that he would prefer that he not accept it. And that's his call.
Carl Levin and John Abizaid had exchanges of their own. From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation again.
CARL LEVIN: General Abizaid, can you give us your assessment of the strength of the insurgency. Is it less strong, more strong, about the same strength as it was six months ago?
JOHN ABIZAID: Senator, I'd say…
CARL LEVIN: Could you put the mic right in front of you?
JOHN ABIZAID: In terms of comparison from six months ago, in terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago. In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it's about the same as it was.
CARL LEVIN: So you wouldn't agree with the statement that it's 'in its last throes'?
JOHN ABIZAID: I don't know that I would make any comment about that, other than to say there's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency.
CARL LEVIN: Well, the Vice-President has said it's in its last throes. That's the statement that the Vice President. Doesn't sound to me from your testimony, or any other testimony here this morning, that it is in its last throes.
JOHN ABIZAID: I'm sure you'll forgive me from criticising the Vice-President.
CARL LEVIN: I just want an honest assessment from you as to whether you agree with a particular statement of his, it's not personal. I just want to know whether you agree with that assessment. It's not a personal attack on him, any more than if he says that something is a fact and you disagree with it, we would expect you to say you disagree with it.
JOHN ABIZAID: I gave you my opinion of where we are.
So just where are we? From that set of exchanges above, we get the following headlines. General, Cheney at odds on Iraq, Iraq insurgency still strong, general says, Iraq war an 'intractable quagmire': Ted Kennedy, 'US not losing in Iraq'. One would think then, that we are on the Eve of Destruction. The Washington Post reports:
Abizaid noted that while confidence among U.S. forces in the field "has never been higher," the political mood in Washington appears strikingly different. "I've never seen the lack of confidence greater," he said. ... Rumsfeld and the other military authorities attempted to present a picture of considerable progress in Iraq across not only military but also political and economic fronts. They said that despite a rise in enemy attacks since earlier this year, the number remains at about the same level as a year ago and at only about half of previous peaks. They said Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable, and Iraqi opinion polls showed more confidence in the forces and in the interim government. Additionally, Iraqi political authorities remain on track to draft a new constitution and elect a new national government by the end of the year, they said.
We are probably in politics as usual. Here's the money quote from the Post. "There appeared to be little support on either the Senate or House armed services committees for setting a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops." There would be lots of support for a withdrawal timetable if there were any substantial sense the US was being defeated. Then the discussion in the Senate moved on to a subject which indicated, in a backhanded way, where the Senators really thought things were going.
Arguing that something needs to be done to "change the current dynamic in Iraq," Levin suggested added pressure on Iraqi authorities to keep to their schedule for a new constitution and national elections by warning them that failure would cause the United States "to rethink our presence there."
Levin's (D-Mich.) question accidentally suggested that there was a causal relationship between an American presence and a future Iraqi constitution and national elections, which would in turn imply that without OIF there would be no constitution and no elections. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it, too.