Clinton Plans Counterattack On Edelman Letter; Teams Up With Kerry

In baseball terms, Eric Edelman pitched a lollipop at Hillary Clinton, and she's about to hit a four-bagger.

In a new letter to Defense Sec. Bill Gates, Clinton calls Edelman's contention that congressional oversight helps the enemies of the U.S. a "political attack."

And now, as a direct result of the letter, she plans to introduce, with Sen. John Kerry, legislation requiring the Pentagon to tell Congress about its contingency plans for Iraq withdrawal.

"Senator Clinton sent a serious letter on a matter of national security to the Secretary of Defense, and in response, received an unacceptable and outrageous political attack from an under secretary," a Clinton aide said.

Kerry and Clinton will hold a joint press conference with reporters this afternoon. The latest Clintion letter can be found after the jump.

July 19, 2007

The Honorable Robert M. Gates

Secretary of Defense

The United States Department of Defense

The Pentagon

Suite 319

Washington, D.C. 20301



Dear Mr. Secretary:



On May 22, 2007, I wrote to you to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress – including the Senate Armed Services Committee – with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, I asked for an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.



I am in receipt of a letter from Eric Edelman, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy who wrote that he was responding on your behalf. Under Secretary Edelman’s response did not address the issues raised in my letter and instead made spurious arguments to avoid addressing contingency planning for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.



As I noted in my original letter, “the seeds of many problems that continue to plague our troops and mission in Iraq were planted in the failure to adequately plan for the conflict and properly equip our men and women in uniform. Congress must be sure that we are prepared to withdraw our forces without any unnecessary danger.”



Rather than offer to brief the congressional oversight committees on this critical issue, Under Secretary Edelman – writing on your behalf – instead claims that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. Under Secretary Edelman has his priorities backward. Open and honest debate and congressional oversight strengthens our nation and supports our military. His suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and dangerous. Indeed, you acknowledged the importance of Congress in our Iraq policy at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March, when you stated, “I believe that the debate here on the Hill and the issues that have been raised have been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government and on the Iraqis in knowing that there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.”



Redeploying out of Iraq will be difficult and requires careful planning. I continue to call on the Bush Administration to immediately provide a redeployment strategy that will keep our brave men and women safe as they leave Iraq – instead of adhering to a political strategy to attack those who rightfully question their competence and preparedness after years of mistakes and misjudgments.



Other members of this Administration have not engaged in political attacks when the prospect of withdrawal planning has been raised. At the June 7 Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, I asked General Lute “what level of planning has taken place” and “whether the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs have been briefed about the level of planning.” I also asked General Lute to determine “what kind of timeline would exist if a decision for either military or political reasons were taken to begin withdrawal” and if he considered this kind of planning to be part of his responsibilities.



General Lute replied, “Thank you Senator. I do think such an adaptation, if the conditions on the ground call for it, will be part of this position.”



I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning. I also renew my concern that our troops will be placed in unnecessary danger if the Bush Administration fails to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces. Finally, I request that you describe whether Under Secretary Edelman’s letter accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response directly from you. Thank you for your consideration.



Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton



CC: General Peter Pace, USMC

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff



Admiral Michael Mullen, USN

Chief of Naval Operations



Lieutenant General Douglas E. Lute, USA

Assistant to the President and

Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan