Tuesday, January 23:
After taking a red-eye from San Diego last night, I arrived in Washington DC this morning and hit the ground running. Our wonderful Colonel Ann Wright had left me a message that she was at a hearing on the nomination of General Patraeus at the Senate Armed Services Committee. The General had been nominated to run the US forces in Iraq.
I found Ann (with her black T-shirt saying “3060 Dead: How Many More?”) and DC activist Harriet Barlow (with her pink shirt) sitting up front, right behind a row of generals.
Ann had already made a stand—literally—getting up after Senator Joe Lieberman had given a spiel about Congress' questioning of the President “surge” was bad for troop morale. She'd stood up saying she had been in the military for 29 years, that vigorous debate was for good for the US and that the troops were well aware of that. Go Ann!!!
It was fascinating listening to the discussion.
The Senators included Hillary Clinton (who was pretty good at least on the “surge”” issue) and Joseph Lieberman (who was terrible, making it seem like the surge was the only thing that would allow for a victory in Iraq). I cornered Lieberman as he was leaving and got a chance to have a conversation. I insisted that there was no military solution, and that a political solution was only possible with a timeline for US withdrawal, and he said we first had to stop the violence. We went round and round on that one.
We took a quick lunch break and then proceeded to another hearing—this one put on by the Senate Foreign Relations Committtee on alternatives in Iraq. The head of that committee is now Joe Biden, with Dick Lugar the ranking Republican. It's great to see the tables turned in all these committees, with Democrats setting the agenda.
The hearing had started in the morning but the afternoon witnesses were John Murtha and Newt Gingrich. Why Newt Gingrich would be asked to testify is beyond me, except, I suppose, as an anti-dote to the level-headed Murtha? Murtha was just stupendous. He said occupations don't succeed. He cited Algeria, India and Afghanistan, where the French, British and Russians, respectively, got their butts kicked. He insisted that we'd become the occupiers and that we should get out and let the Iraqis find a solution.
Gingrich was just selling fear—saying garbage like if we didn't “win” in Iraq, three US cities would be blown up by terrorists. He also handed out a paper that included a section saying that the dictators of Cuba and Venezuela were trying to acquire nuclear weapons!
The Senators are at least posing hard questions about Bush's policies. After four years, it's a start!