White House abruptly cancels classified Iraq 'progress' briefing with senators
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Wednesday June 7, 2006
President Bush has cancelled a classified briefing on the situation in Iraq, according to a letter from four Democratic senators obtained by RAW STORY.
US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad had been set to brief Senators today. Democratic aides tell RAW STORY that the meeting, set to address "all members," was cancelled abruptly yesterday. Requests for a briefing by another administration official went unanswered.
In the letter, four U.S. Senators call on the White House to "publicly and immediately commit to making senior Administration officials available" for questioning regarding the current state of Iraq.
Although the correspondence states that the group was set to be bipartisan, just four Senators, all high-ranking Democrats, are known by RAW STORY to have signed: Reid (D-NV), Durbin (D-IL), Levin (D-MI) and Biden (D-DE).
Khalilzad, an Aghan-American and former attorney for Iraqi Sunnis, has been widely reported as the primary component of America's attempts to get the new Iraqi government off the ground. Sectarian violence continues to escalate in Iraq, while ministers for the nation's departments of interior and defense have yet to be named.
The letter, as obtained by RAW STORY, follows:
June 7, 2006
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Today the Senate was expecting to receive a classified briefing from Ambassador Khalilzad on recent developments in Iraq. Yesterday, however, we learned that Ambassador Khalilzad was not available to conduct this briefing and the Administration was unwilling to make other officials available to brief in his place. Given the recent escalation of violence, the increasing risk to U.S. forces, and the failure of the Iraqis to agree on two of the most important Cabinet positions, we are concerned that not a single national security official from your Administration was willing to appear before a bipartisan group of Senators to explain your strategy in Iraq.
This decision is even more troubling when you consider that in the first five months of this year, officials from your cabinet have appeared only sporadically before the Senate to discuss Iraq. In this time, close to 300 troops have died, Iraqis have failed to stand up a unity government, and sectarian violence has increased considerably. Meanwhile, the Congress was asked to appropriate another $60 billion for the war, pushing the total expenditures for Iraq well over $300 billion.
With thousands of American lives on the line and with a staggering investment in U.S. resources, the American people and the Congress deserve more complete and regular information about your plans in Iraq. Therefore, we call upon you, Mr. President, to publicly commit to providing members of Congress sustained and comprehensive briefings and consultations. These sessions should include regular and detailed briefings from military officials and civilian leaders from the Defense Department, the State Department, the National Security Council and the Intelligence Community.
Regrettably, the Administration's most recent quarterly report to the Congress on Iraq ("Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,") was a disappointment. It failed to present a clear and objective picture of what is happening in Iraq. Its many shortcomings provide yet another reason for your Administration to produce senior officials on a regular basis who can provide members of Congress with facts and answer the growing number of questions about your strategy.
We hope you will publicly and immediately commit to making senior Administration officials available. A continuing failure by your Administration to engage the Congress in a more meaningful and sustained way needlessly complicates our mutual efforts to overcome the many challenges in Iraq.
Senator Harry Reid
Senator Richard Durbin
Senator Joseph Biden
Senator Carl Levin