General George W. Casey Jr., former Iraq commander and the man Bush has nominated to be chief of staff of the Army, was raked over the coals at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning by Republican senator and presidential contender John McCain. “We have paid a very, very heavy price in American blood and treasure,” McCain told Casey, because of his bad “judgment.”
The hearing by Democratic Senator Carl Levin’s Armed Services Committee is part of a sprawling debate all across official Washington — within the Pentagon and in both houses of Congress as well — over the President’s decision to send more troops to Iraq. Elsewhere in the Senate, Senator Joe Biden’s Foreign Relations Committee was questioning former national security advisor Lt. General Brent Scowcroft about his ideas on Iraq. (Scowcroft advised the administration’s of both Gerald Ford and Bush senior and was a critic of our Iraq policy before the war began.) Meanwhile, Democrats are determined to pass a non-binding resolution against boosting troop levels. Republicans who have broken with Bush, led by former armed services committee chair John Warner of Virginia, will be instrumental in pushing through a bipartisan measure, one that protests additional forces but reasserts overall support for the troops serving in Iraq.
This afternoon the Senate will also hold a confirmation hearing on the nomination of retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell to be Director of National Intelligence. McConnell has become controversial because of possible conflicts of interest stemming from his former employment at the consulting firm Booz, Allen, Hamilton and for other possible ties to the defense sector. He is known to be a hardliner on Iran and is likely to support Dick Cheney’s views on the war.
Although other military commanders and the President have conceded the Iraq policy hasn’t worked, Casey insisted today, “I do not believe the policy has failed.” He said he wants two more brigades in Iraq to help secure Baghdad. General David Petraeus, the new commander, has asked for 5 brigades. McCain, for his part, thinks 5 brigades are not enough.
In questioning Casey, McCain quoted Casey’s own statement in 2004 saying “we are broadly on track” to accomplishing objectives with Iraqi security forces “to get there by December 2005.” After a moment of silence, Casey said, “that obviously has not panned out.” Casey has said he doesn’t subscribe to the idea Iraq has descended into civil war. Nevertheless, he agrees the situation in Baghdad is “bad.”