Rice Confirmed

Editor's Note: Condoleezza Rice was confirmed Wednesday as secretary of state with a vote of 85-13. In a statement from Jan. 25, Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) explains below why he intended to be one of the No votes.

Mr. President, I intend to oppose Condoleezza Rice's nomination. There is no doubt that Dr. Rice has impressive credentials. Her life story is very moving, and she has extensive experience in foreign policy.

In general, I believe the president should be able to choose his Cabinet officials. But this nomination is different, because of the war in Iraq. Dr. Rice was a key member of the national security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it's been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire. In these circumstances, she should not be promoted to secretary of state.

There is a critical question about accountability. Dr. Rice was a principal architect and advocate of the decision to go to war in Iraq, at a time when our mission in Afghanistan was not complete and Osama bin Laden was a continuing threat because of our failure to track him down.

In the Armed Services Committee before the war, generals advised against the rush to war. But Dr. Rice and others in the administration pressed forward anyway, despite the clear warnings.

Dr. Rice was the first in the administration to invoke the terrifying image of a nuclear holocaust to justify the need to go to war in Iraq. On Sept. 9, 2002, as Congress was first considering the resolution to authorize the war, Dr. Rice said: " ... We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

In fact, as we now know, there was significant disagreement in the intelligence community about Iraq's nuclear weapons program. But Dr. Rice spoke instead about a consensus in the intelligence community that the infamous aluminum tubes were for the development of nuclear weapons.

On Sept. 8, 2002, she said the aluminum tubes "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." On July 30, 2003, she said "the consensus view of the American intelligence agency" is that the tubes "were most likely" for use in nuclear weapons.

Dr. Rice continually spoke of the "contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq" and the "connection" between al Qaeda and Saddam. In fact, as we now know, there was no operational link between Iraq and al Qaeda – as the 9/11 Commission has confirmed.

On the eve of the war, many of us argued that inspectors should be given a chance to do their job and that America should share information to facilitate their work. In a March 6, 2003 letter to Sen. Levin, Dr. Rice assured the Congress that "United Nations inspectors have been briefed on every high or medium priority weapons of mass destruction, missile, and UAV-related site the U.S. [i]ntelligence [c]ommunity has identified."

In fact, we had not done so. Dr. Rice was plain wrong. The Intelligence Committee's report on pre-war intelligence concluded "Public pronouncements by administration officials that the Central Intelligence Agency had shared information on all high and moderate priority suspect sites with United Nations inspectors were factually incorrect."

Had Dr. Rice and others in the administration acknowledged publicly that the U.S. had not shared all information, it might have changed the course of history. The rush to war might have been stopped. We would have stayed focused on real threat, kept faith with our allies, and would be safer today.

America is in deep trouble in Iraq today because of our misguided policy and the quagmire is very real. Nearly 1,400 of our finest men and women in uniform have been killed, and more than 10,000 have been wounded.

We know now know that Saddam had no nuclear weapons program, and no weapons of mass destruction of any kind. The war has not made America safer from the threat of al Qaeda. Instead, as the National Intelligence Council recently stated, the war has made Iraq a breeding ground for terrorism that previously did not exist.

As a result, the war has made us less secure, not more secure. It has increased support for al Qaeda, made America more hated in the world, and made it much harder to win the real war against terrorism – the war against al Qaeda.

Before we can repair our broken policy, the administration needs to admit that it is broken. Yet, in two days of confirmation hearings, Dr. Rice categorically defended the president's decision to invade Iraq, saying, "The strategic decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein was the right one."

She defended the president's decision to ignore the advice of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, who felt that a larger number of troops would be necessary if we went to war. She said, "I do believe that the plan and forces that we went in with were appropriate to the task."

She refused to disavow shameful acts of torture that have undermined America's creditability in Iraq and the world. When Senator Dodd asked her whether in her personal view, as a matter of basic humanity, the interrogation techniques amounted to torture, she said, "I'm not going to speak to any specific interrogation techniques ... The determination of whether interrogation techniques are consistent with our international obligations and American law are made by the Justice Department. I don't want to comment on any specific interrogation techniques. I don't think that would be appropriate, and I think it would not be very good for American security."

Yet, as secretary of state, Dr. Rice will be the chief human rights official for our government. She will be responsible for monitoring human rights globally, and defending America's human rights record. She cannot abdicate that responsibility, or hide behind the Justice Department as secretary of state.

Dr. Rice also minimized the enormous challenge we face in training a competent Iraqi security force. She insisted that 120,000 Iraqis have now been trained, when the quality of training for the vast majority of them is obviously very much in doubt.

There was no reason to go to war in Iraq when we did, the way we did, and for the false reasons we were given. As a principal architect of our failed policy, Dr. Rice is the wrong choice for secretary of state. We need instead a secretary who is open to a clearer vision and a better strategy to stabilize Iraq, to work with the international community, to bring our troops home with dignity and honor, and to restore our lost respect in the world.

The stakes are very high and the challenge is vast. Dr. Rice's failed record on Iraq makes her unqualified for promotion to secretary of state, and I urge the Senate to oppose her nomination.
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