When bad panels happen to good people

Congress has put together a bipartisan panel to study the war in Iraq. The panel will be headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Hamilton was also the co-chair of the atrocious 9/11 commission. The other panelists are, inevitably, a mixed bag — former CIA Director Robert Gates; Rudy Giuliani; Vernon Jordan; Leon Panetta; former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry; Chuck Robb; and Alan Simpson. Reports that Sandra Day O’Connor will be asked to join the panel are, I hope, a joke. I can picture her recommending that the U.S. withdraw from towns whose names end with a vowel and keep left-handed soldiers in the rest of the towns for a period of up to 25 months.

As Hugh Hewitt explains, however, the real problem with the commission is the concept, not the composition. Hugh writes:

This is a terrible move, this establishment of a body that will by its very nature be second guessing an army in the field and under fire during a time of intense partisan debate. Voters rendered a verdict on Iraq in 2004 elections. They can modify that verdict in 2006 if they choose. The idea of civilians gathering to second guess the military and its strategy and the president and his leadership reminds of the country’s experience with the Commmittee on Reconstruction’s adventures from the post-Civil War era, the Church Committee’s wonderful effects on intelligence gathering, and most recently the antics of Bob Kerrey and Richard ben Veniste on the 9/11 Commission.

These proceedings inevitably become show trials, and the new concentration of media will guarantee such a debacle unfolding quickly, with Bush’s enemies in the MSM using every opportunity to bend every witness and every report into a political weapon.

I don’t care who the staff is — and the staff hasn’t been named, which is a very bad sign– this is a disaster for those who are serious about the war. It is a boon for the Feingolds and KosKids and every other member of the retreat and defeat caucus.

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