Saturday, March 22, 2008

White House doesn't want Adm. William Fallon testifying to Congress

How badly does the White House not want Admiral William Fallon to testify before Congress? Fallon's retirement was announced last week. He retires in May. Until then he's a member of the US military.

At the Pentagon yesterday, press flack Geoff Morrell stated he was "ruling out" Fallon testify next month on 'progress' to Congress (despite the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton has requested he testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee) and stated Congress will only hear from Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

Morrell declared, "And I can tell you that Admiral Fallon will not be testifying with the general and the ambassador. The process we used last time worked quite well and we're going to stick with that this time."

By "worked quite well," it certainly did provide a snow job but is the White House maintaining, via the DoD flack, that Congress can only call witnesses that the White House approves?

"I'm ruling it out," declared Morrell of Fallon testifying and, last time I checked, a flack at the Pentagon was not over Congress and had no say in whom Congress could invite (or subpoena) to testify before them.

Morrell offered that Fallon steps down at the end of this month and seems to feel that makes Fallon unable to testify about Iraq. But Fallon was just testifying to Congress earlier this month. And it's not as if 'late breaking news' is going to be interjected into the testimony (it never is, see the Oversight & Government Reform Committee's agreement not to ask about the Sept. 17th slaughter in Baghdad by Blackwater when they later had Blackwater's Erik Prince before them -- as well as flunkies from the State Dept. including Condi).

Fallon is (until he steps down) the commander of CENTCOM. If Congress wants him to testify, he testifies. That's not really up to the White House and certainly isn't in any job description for a Pentagon flack.

With Fallon finishing his command of Centcom at the end of the month, it makes perfect sense for him to then appear before Congress and offer testimony on what he observed while commanding.

Morrell attempted to confuse the issue by stating that Gen. Martin Dempsey, interim CENTCOM commander, wouldn't be needed to testify. Why would he? A few weeks in the job? Isn't he just adjusting? Fallon, who probably wouldn't deviate from the White House script too much (but there's always hope), has overseen CENTCOM during the period that Congress is supposed to be receiving a report on.

Morrell kept referring to a "system" and an "arrangement" repeatedly. Congress chooses who they want. They do not hold hearings at the pleasure of the White House. They do not serve the White House, they serve the people and they honor the Constitution.

Growing increasingly frustrated, Morrell declared, "I have not talked to the secretary [of Defense, Robert Gates] about whether or not he has personal objections to the notion of Admiral Fallon testifying again."

Exactly where then is Morrell getting his information?

Morrell then tried to back pedal and accuse the reports of 'changing' the question ("you changed the question") and stated Fallon might or might not testify but it really wasn't needed ("I do know that Admiral Fallon is due to resign his command of Central Command at the end of this month. So he would not testify [in early April] in that capacity") and that Petraeus and Crocker were whom the White House would be offering up.

"Arrangement" or "system" the White House devised doesn't really matter. If Congress wants Fallon to testify as part of the presentation, than he should testify. The White House does not control Congress. (The White House doesn't want Fallon at the same hearing due to the risk that he'd go off script. Showing up at another hearing or after Operation Happy Talk via Petraeus and Crocker again enters the newstream could allow Fallon to be dismissed or overlooked. But taking part in the same hearings as Crocker and Petraeus risks going off message.)

In the New York Times' Sunday magazine tomorrow, Ben Ehrenreich's "War dodgers" appears:

Next month, the Canadian House of Commons is slated to debate a resolution that would allow conscientious objectors "who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations" to apply for residency in Canada. The phrasing is vague but the intent is not. The war in question is the Iraq war, and the resolution represents the culmination of a four-year debate about what to do with the small but steady stream of American soldiers who have fled across our northern border to avoid fighting in Iraq.
It all began in Jan. 2004, when a young American with a long, serious face walked into the Toronto law office of Jeffry House to ask for help with what was at the time a highly unusual immigration case. The American turned out to be a soldier named Jeremy Hinzman, an infantryman in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He told House that his petition for conscientious-objector status was denied while he was stationed in Afghanistan. He crossed the border into Canada just days before his unit was to be deployed to Iraq. Of the more than 25,000 American soldiers who, according to the United States Department of Defense, have deserted since 2003, the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign estimates that 225 have fled to Canada. (The D.O.D defines a deserter as anyone who has been AWOL for 30 consecutive days or who seeks asylum in a foreign country; desertion carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.)
The majority of the deserters in Canada have chosen not to make the authorities aware of their presence. Like any other illegal immigrants, they have settled for invisibility. A few dozen, though, followed Hinzman's lead. Most found their way to Jeffry House. One young Army medic named Justin Colby read an AOL news posting about Hinzman's case while stationed in Iraq. He telephoned House from Ramadi and showed up in his office a few months later.
House would eventually represent between 30 and 35 American deserters. Most of them, like Colby, say they joined the military in part out of patriotism. "I thought Iraq had something to do with 9/11," Colby says, "that they were the bad guys that attacked our country." But unlike Hinzman, most did not apply for conscientious-objector status. They tend to say they aren't opposed to all wars in principle -- just to the one they were ordered to fight. It wasn't until Colby arrived in Iraq that he started to see the conflict as "a war of aggression, totally unprovoked," he says. "I was, like, 'This is what my buddies are dying for?'" Midway through his tour, he decided: "I'm never going to do this again." He went AWOL the day before his unit left to train for a second deployment. House says that more than two-thirds of his clients have been deployed to Iraq at least once. "One is resisting a third deployment."

War resisters in Canada were dealt a setback in November the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored. We will note war resisters in Canada tomorrow. There is not time today, my apologies.

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