'Irraqtional' Exuberance?

Yesterday brought high drama to Capitol Hill, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld balkily appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) asked him why anyone should trust his remarks on the situation in Iraq, given his previous, "unfulfilled" assessments.

Rumsfeld responded this way:

"Senator, I don't think that's true. I have never painted a rosy picture. I've been very measured in my words. And you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic."

Clinton promised to submit "rosy" statements on Iraq into the record — and because we here at Mixed Signals didn't have a "dickens of a time" to spend looking for them, we asked Clinton's press secretary for the ones she meant, with citations. Among the highlights:

· "The level of support from the international community is growing" (June 2005)

· "The Iraqi security forces could, for the most part, deal with the problems that exist." (March 2006)

· "We do not expect to have 115,000 troops permanently deployed in any one campaign." (February 2004)

· "We know where [the WMD] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." (March 30, 2003)

It's worth reading these for yourselves to make your own judgment on whether Rumsfeld was "excessively optimistic" — and it's also worth noting Clinton is running for re-election this fall in New York, a liberal state — and is also preparing for a likely bid for the Democratic nomination for president in two years.

July 9, 2003: Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

"The residents of Baghdad may not have power 24 hours a day, but they no longer wake up each morning in fear wondering whether this will be the day that a death squad would come to cut out their tongues, chop off their ears or take their children away for 'questioning,' never to be seen again." (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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September 30, 2003: House Appropriations Committee hearing

"My impression is that the war was highly successful." (Source: Transcript of Hearing of House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense on President's FY '04 Supplemental Request for Iraq and Afghanistan, available online from FDCH Political Transcripts on Lexis-Nexis.)

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February 4, 2004: Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

"The increased demand on the force we are experiencing today is likely a 'spike,' driven by the deployment of nearly 115,000 troops in Iraq. We hope and anticipate that that spike will be temporary. We do not expect to have 115,000 troops permanently deployed in any one campaign." (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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May 7, 2004: Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

Sen. Evan Bayh: So my question, Mr. Secretary, my final question is just very simply, do you believe we're on the right course presently, or is dramatic action necessary to regain the momentum so that we can ultimately prevail in what is a very noble and idealistic undertaking?

Secretary Rumsfeld: I do believe we're on the right track. (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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June 23, 2005: Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

"But terrorists no longer can take advantage of sanctuaries like Fallujah." (Source: Congressional Quarterly — registration required)

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June 23, 2005: House Armed Services Committee hearing

"The level of support from the international community is growing." (Source: Congressional Quarterly — registration required)

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March 9, 2006: Senate Appropriations Committee hearing

Sen. Robert Byrd: Mr. Secretary, how can Congress be assured that the funds in this bill won't be used to put our troops right in the middle of a full-blown Iraqi civil war?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Senator, I can say that certainly it is not the intention of the military commanders to allow that to happen. The — and to repeat, the — at least thus far, the situation has been such that the Iraqi security forces could for the most part deal with the problems that exist. (Source: The Joint Chiefs of Staff)

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Press Interviews and Other Forums

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November 14, 2002: Infinity CBS Radio Connect, interview with Steve Kroft

"The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that." (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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February 7, 2003: Town hall meeting with U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy

"And it is not knowable if force will be used, but if it is to be used, it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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February 20, 2003: PBS NewsHour

Jim Lehrer: Do you expect the invasion, if it comes, to be welcomed by the majority of the civilian population of Iraq?

Secretary Rumsfeld: There's obviously the Shia population in Iraq and the Kurdish population in Iraq have been treated very badly by Saddam Hussein's regime, they represent a large fraction of the total. There is no question but that they would be welcomed. (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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March 30, 2003: ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos

"We know where [the WMD] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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February 1, 2006: Department of Defense News Briefing

Q: One clarification on "the long war." Is Iraq going to be a long war?

Secretary Rumsfeld: No, I don't believe it is." (Source: Dept. of Defense)

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