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Incoming Chairmen Ready to Investigate
Warner is not considered an administration apologist, but the committee's posture is certain to be more combative as soon as Levin assumes the chairmanship, colleagues and analysts said.
Levin "takes issues of oversight and hearings and authorization very seriously, and he guards very carefully the prerogatives of Congress," said Kurt Campbell, a former Pentagon official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Levin will quiz military commanders on their advice about Iraq, Campbell said, and he will dig deeply into allegations of mismanagement and favoritism in the granting of contracts and plum jobs after the fall of Hussein.
"I think the Republicans will bristle at some of the things he wants to do," Campbell said, "because this really gets to the question of whether the previous Congress dropped the ball."
Levin plans to use his new powers in his long-running dispute with the Bush administration over the conduct of Douglas J. Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy. Levin says Feith exaggerated the relationship between Hussein's government and al-Qaeda when the Bush administration was trying to build public support for the Iraq invasion.
The administration's repeated refusal to give Levin 58 documents related to Feith's activities is about to be tested. "We're entitled to those documents," Levin said. "If necessary, I intend to subpoena those documents."
Levin's House counterpart, incoming Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), also plans Iraq-related hearings. "His big priorities are support for our troops and their families; readiness, especially in the Army and Marine Corps; oversight; and Afghanistan, which he feels is the forgotten war," said his spokeswoman, Loren Dealy. "His concerns have been the lack of oversight in general. He feels it has not been adequate."
Levin said Iraq's future is his top priority. The situation "has got to be solved by the Iraqis politically," he said. "There is no military solution to it."
He said the 2003 invasion obligated the United States to help post-Hussein Iraq get back on its feet. "We have carried out that obligation," Levin said. "We've been there three years plus. We've given them the opportunity."
Levin said he plans later hearings on the abuses of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison and the treatment of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.
Under Warner, the committee showed some interest in those topics, Levin said, "but the subpoenas haven't gone out, obviously. We may have to issue subpoenas in that area as well."