House Armed Services Committee 1, Robert Gates 0

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates went before Congress Thursday to defend the President’s escalation of the Iraq War. He probably wishes he had some of his testimony back.

Trying to downplay the risk that Bush’s decision will prolong the war, Gates said, “I think most of us, in our minds, are thinking of it as a matter of months, not 18 months or two years.” This, of course, is a haunting echo of many statements made by Bush and Co. before the war. Examples from the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline:

“Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” — Donald Rumsfeld, November 14, 2002

“It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” — Donald Rumsfeld, February 7, 2003

“We’re going to stand up an interim government, hand power over to them, and get out of there in three to four months.” — Lawrence Di Rita, April 2003

Gates took a beating at the hearing, attacked by both Republicans and Democrats over the war in Iraq. At one point, under intense questioning, Gates actually said, “I would confess I’m no expert on Iraq.” (I would confess, from the looks of things, no one in the Bush Administration is.) Later, when asked about the balance between American and Iraqi troops, Gates provided what might be the greatest soundbite from a Secretary of Defense ever.

He told the panel he was “no expert on military matters.”

Clearly, this is the most qualified man in America to run the Armed Forces at this trying time.

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