Lawmakers Pepper Administration With Libya Questions

Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:32pm

The Obama administration’s closed-door briefings Wednesday for House and Senate lawmakers about U.S. military operations in Libya didn’t end the broadside from Capitol Hill.

Administration officials were repeatedly hammered with questions during their briefing with House lawmakers, but some Republicans said few answers were forthcoming.

“They didn’t do much to convince me they did the right thing,” said Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who has criticized U.S. involvement in the international military campaign in Libya. The coalition began enforcing a no-fly zone over the North African nation March 19, after the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution calling for military action to protect Libyan civilians from a violent crackdown on political dissidents by Moammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Likewise, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said officials “answered as well as they could,” but “we didn’t learn a lot.”

Brady and Burton also complained that the administration did not provide specific answers to questions that have plagued the mission. “Why wasn’t Congress consulted? What is the true mission here?” Brady asked.

Burton went further, arguing that the briefing proved that members of the administration “don’t really have a plan. … Why did this have to happen — boom — just like that?”

“I think they have no idea,” he added. “I don’t think they have any idea. It sounds to me like they jumped into this thing and they’re saying, ‘What do we do now?’”

Rep. Joe Pitts complained that the administration wouldn’t define the military operations in Libya as a war. “If anybody fired 160 missiles at us, flew bombing missions and sent in attack gunships, we would call that an act of war,” the Pennsylvania Republican said.

He also criticized the administration’s intelligence on the Libyan opposition movement. “Even after today’s briefing, it is obvious that we do not have a clear picture of the Libyan rebels,” Pitts said. “In fact, there are reports that al-Qaida militants are involved in the fight against Gaddafi. When we engage American forces, we must have clear goals and a strategy to accomplish these goals.”

Pitts added that Obama should seek direction from Congress and then give the troops the tools and direction they need to win.

“We shouldn’t be halfway at war,” he said.

Numerous Senators declined to comment on their briefing, citing administration requests that the details remain secret.