Earlier this month, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) received a letter from Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, who told her that her request for briefings from the Pentagon on the administration’s redeployment plans from Iraq was inappropriate:
Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. … [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates then wrote an apology letter to Clinton, stating, “I truly regret that this important discussion went astray and I also regret any misunderstanding of intention. … I emphatically assure you that [the Defense Department does] not claim, suggest, or otherwise believe that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies, nor do we question anyone’s motives in this regard.”
Today, CNN aired a preview of Larry King’s interview tonight with the Vice President, in which Cheney contradicts his Secretary of Defense and states that he agrees with Edelman. “I agreed with the letter Eric Edelman wrote. I thought it was a good letter,” said Cheney. Watch it:
Perhaps not surprisingly, Edelman has close ties to Cheney. He served under Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, in the first Bush administration. At that time, Cheney set up a “shop” to “think about American foreign policy after the Cold War, at the grand strategic level.” The project also included Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby. From 2001-2003, Edelman served as a national security adviser to Cheney.
KING: A member of the Department of Defense sent Hillary Clinton a letter, saying she should not criticize, because it helps the enemy. Do you agree with that letter?
CHENEY: Didn’t say she should not criticize. She was demanding the plans for withdrawal from Iraq.
KING: Do you agree with that letter?
CHENEY: I agreed with the letter Eric Edelman wrote. I thought it was a good letter.
KING: So you should not call for the plans for withdrawal?
CHENEY: No, there’s an important principle here, Larry, and that is — and a debate over what our policy ought to be is perfectly legitimate. What we don’t do is we don’t get into the business of sharing operational plans — we never have — with the Congress. And to get into that business would be — it would be for example, like saying during the course of Desert Storm we deployed Marines off the coast of Kuwait. We never planned to put those Marines ashore at Kuwait, but the Iraqis didn’t know that. So they put five or six divisions down there to block that. We wouldn’t release that kind of information or discuss that kind of information in advance of the operation.
When you get into the business of talking about operational planning by the Department of Defense, you don’t share that as a general proposition until you’re ready to actually go out and execute those orders, and then you might share it with the Congress at that point. But to get into the business now, where we’ve got all these contingencies, we always have got a lot of contingencies, where we’re going to start shedding those to respond to the political charges, such as those that Senator Clinton made, I think would be unwise.