Washington Dispatch: Is the Senate holding a confirmation on Bush’s pick to replace Rumsfeld – or a ritual blessing?
By James Ridgeway
December 6, 2006
No one in Washington thinks there’s any question about Robert Gates getting confirmed as Secretary of Defense. The hearings this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee are one of the capitol’s purely ceremonial affairs: Gates is the ostensible reason for the get-together, but the real goal is to honor outgoing committee chairman John Warner — who, it’s worth remembering, for the past five years has presided over the Senate’s oversight of the war in Iraq.
Only two committee members proffered any real questions on the first day of the confirmation hearings. The first was Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who simply asked the nominee what everyone wants to know: Would you support attacking Iran and Syria? Gates pretty much said no. Then Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., asked Gates if he believed that Iran wants nuclear weapons. Gates said yes, adding that in his view, the effort is largely driven by the need for a deterrent.
The rest of the hearing was simply embarrassing, with senators complimenting the US government for giving “sovereignty” back to Iraq, opining that not all Muslims were bad, and buffing up their bona fides for the 2008 presidential campaign.
What follows are a few questions senators should have asked Gates to make these hearings worthy of the name – and could still raise in floor debate. But don’t hold your breath.
- Why did the CIA fail to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union?
- What role did you have as a subordinate of CIA director William Casey in the Afghan war against the Soviets?
- Please tell us all the occasions since 1988 (under both Bush administrations) on which you were asked for advice on the Afghan and Iraqi wars and what advice you gave.
- In 1984 you wrote Casey that: “It is time to talk absolutely straight about Nicaragua,” and added, “The Nicaraguan regime is steadily moving toward consolidation of a Marxist-Leninist government, and the establishment of a permanent and well-armed ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba on the mainland of the western hemisphere. Its avowed aim is to spread further revolution in the Americas.” You said this was an “unacceptable” course and argued the U.S. should do everything “in its power short of invasion to put that regime out.” Any hopes of causing that regime to reform itself for a more pluralistic government are “essentially silly and hopeless.” With Daniel Ortega back in power, what should we do now? Does he now pose a threat to the western hemisphere? Are hopes for a pluralistic government still “essentially silly and hopeless”? Your views, please.
- In 1985 you wanted to “redraw the map of North Africa,” advocating invading Libya with a force of 90,000 American soldiers, seizing half the country, and overthrowing Muamar Ghaddafi. On the basis of your advice, Casey ordered up a list of Libyan targets. Please explain your thinking on Libya.
- You have said that you first learned of the operation we now know as Iran-Contra when Eugene Hasenfus’s plane was shot down over Nicaragua on October 5, 1986. If that is so, tell us about your meeting on October 1, 1985 with the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer, Charles Allen, who told you of his suspicion funds were being diverted to the Contras. What action did you take when he told you this?
- Some of your former colleagues at the CIA allege that you played a role in politicizing intelligence at the agency, a claim you have long denied. Can you explain how a memo came to be drafted under your direction, based on information from one source, that alleged Soviet involvement in the papal assassination plot? Why did your cover note on this memo, which was sent to the president and the vice president, call this assessment a “comprehensive examination”?
James Ridgeway is the Washington Correspondent at Mother Jones.
From: “Dr. Robert M. Gates”
Date: December 7, 2006
To the Aggie Family:
The United States Senate yesterday voted to confirm me as the 22nd
Secretary of Defense. I will be sworn in and take office on December
18th, and will resign as the 22nd President of Texas A&M that same day.
And so it is final. My last official act as President will be to
preside at the commencement ceremonies on December 15-16.
You already know that I am leaving this incredible University
reluctantly and with a heavy heart. By the same token, Aggies – more
than anyone else – understand why I must do so.
Our University is in good hands and on an upward course. All the major
initiatives – expanding the faculty, new undergraduate degree programs,
greater diversity, more than half a billion dollars in new
construction – 90% of it for academic facilities, and unprecedented
involvement of faculty, staff and students in decision-making – are on
track, taking us to new heights of academic excellence. It is now also
evident that our athletic program is on track to reach a new level of
As the end of my service as President draws near, please know that: for
the rest of my life I will always be an Aggie. Wherever I am, whatever
I am doing, as long as I live I will bleed Maroon.
A final request to all in the Texas A&M family. Never forget who we
are and where we came from. Never forget the Aggie Code of Honor. And
never forget the obligations of duty and honor and country.
God bless all of you, God bless Texas A&M, and God bless America.
Gig ’em Aggies.
Until we meet again.
Robert M. Gates
Texas A&M University
Meet Robert M. Gates, Iran-Contra Crook and Bush 41 CIA Chief – Wonkette
Then there’s this from the man himself.
From: “Dr. Robert M. Gates”
Date: Wed, 08 Nov 2006 12:24:25 -0600
Subject: To the Aggie Family
By the time you read this, the President of the United States will have announced that he will nominate me to be the next Secretary of Defense. I am deeply honored, but also deeply saddened.
As most of you know, almost two years ago I declined an opportunity to become the first Director of National Intelligence. I did so principally because of my love for Texas A&M and because much of the program we had initiated to take A&M to a new level of excellence had only just started.
Today, two years later, all of the initiatives of greatest importance are well underway and on an assured path to completion. The faculty reinvestment program is on track and all 447 new positions should be funded by next September. Work is underway or in planning for more than $500 million in construction, some 90% of it on new academic facilities. We have made significant progress in increasing the diversity of our faculty and student body, and both the programs and funding are in place to continue that important and on-going effort. And many new initiatives are now underway or are already complete to enhance both graduate and undergraduate education, including, above all, the new University Studies degree program. The Corps is on the right track in terms of growth and grades, and the Capital Campaign will end next month having far exceeded our billion dollar goal.
Some of you may worry whether one or another of these efforts will continue with my departure. You need to know that the progress we have made has been a team endeavor, and the team will remain. A remarkable faculty and a group of gifted administrators and staff who truly deserve the credit for all that has been accomplished over the past four-plus years will still be here — above all, my strong right arm for nearly four and a half years, the Executive Vice President and Provost, Dr. David Prior.
I apologize for surprising you with this momentous decision and announcement, and for leaving as president before fulfilling my commitment to serve Texas A&M for at least five years. I hope you will understand the circumstances that made this necessary and that this appointment comes nearly as much a surprise to me as to you.
I will have more to say to you before I leave (if I am confirmed by the Senate). But I must tell you that while I chose Texas A&M over returning to government almost two years ago, much has happened both here and around the world since then. I love Texas A&M deeply, but I love our country more and, like the many Aggies in uniform, I am obligated to do my duty. And so I must go. I hope you have some idea of how painful that is for me and how much I will miss you and this unique American institution.
At this point, I expect to remain as President of Texas A&M until completion of the confirmation process and a Senate vote. I assure you, you will hear more from me before my departure.
Robert M. Gates
President Texas A&M University
I was surfing around and saw this and thought it was funny.
The caption read, “Photo apparently taken by Alan Cox at Heathrow International Airport, London, England; arrived over the Net. Aren’t you glad that planes don’t fly by Windows?”