- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

As expected, Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice won the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s backing yesterday and seems all but certain to be confirmed as the next secretary of state. It wasn’t without a partisan barb, however: California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who sounded an ugly tone with some specious accusations anyone with an Internet connection can prove are unfounded.

We don’t normally look to Mrs. Boxer to elevate the tone of the Senate, so we were unsurprised to hear the accusations. The highlights: Telling Miss Rice in polite terms that she was a liar (her “respect for the truth” had been overwhelmed, she said); comparing the Iraq war to a salesman’s gimmick (“rolling out a new product like a can opener”); claiming al Qaeda has grown stronger since the war to topple the Taliban; and claiming the Senate voted to go to war against Saddam Hussein solely because of weapons of mass destruction.

The first two — calling Miss Rice a liar and comparing the Iraq war to can-opener sales — can be dismissed outright as rhetorical discharge. But the second two — on al Qaeda and the Senate vote — can be disproved factually. Miss Rice forcefully refuted the first of these in her response to Mrs. Boxer. Al Qaeda, Miss Rice pointed out, “once trained openly in Afghanistan, [and] once ran with impunity in places like Pakistan, [but] can no longer count on hospitable territory from which to carry out their activities. In the places where they are, they’re being sought and run down and arrested and pursued in ways that they never were before.” Intelligence services around the globe are pursuing al Qaeda. Most of al Qaeda’s top leadership has been captured or killed. Mrs. Boxer should get a briefing from her Senate Intelligence Committee colleagues before again venturing into substantive discussion.

On the second, the Senate vote for war against Iraq, Mrs. Boxer is provably wrong. “It was WMD, period,” Mrs. Boxer said, “That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.” Well, no, it wasn’t. As the text of the resolution to authorize force shows, a number of reasons for war were cited: enforcing U.N. resolutions; the need to end Iraq’s support for terrorism; promoting the security of the entire Gulf region; ending Iraq’s repression of its own citizens; Iraq’s blatant disregard of international law governing POWs; Iraq’s 1993 attempt to assassinate then-President George H.W. Bush; and the knowledge that Iraq harbored an unspecified number of al Qaeda operatives, among others. Mrs. Boxer urged Miss Rice, “let’s not rewrite history,” and scolded her on the need to “read what we voted on when we voted to support the war.” The junior senator from California seems to have boxed herself into a corner on that one.

Senate hearings sometimes reveal embarrassing facts about the invited witness. In this instance, it was the senator herself who fell victim to her own questions.

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