However, the senator from Arizona didn’t get the answer he wanted from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen when they sat before the Senate Armed Service Committee March 2. Gates condemned the “loose talk” about a no-fly zone, which clearly irked McCain.
So when he got his next chance to grill a top U.S. military official, he’d use it to find the answer he wanted. Next up: Gen. Martin Dempsey for his confirmation hearing to be the next Army chief of staff.
First question, senator. Would you like to ask about the service’s end strength or maybe how it might restructure itself into a more mobile force? Nope.
“Prior to the Iraq war there was a no-fly zone imposed as a result of the agreement, the cease-fire, and that went on for, I believe, a decade. Isn’t that correct?” McCain asked.
“Yes, sir,” Dempsey answered.
“And we did not take out Iraqi air defense — air defenses, did we?” McCain continued.
“Actually, we did, Senator.”
Uh oh, either a congressional aide didn’t do his homework, or McCain didn’t read that part of the brief.
Dempsey went on to explain how the U.S. took out any air defense systems the Iraqis placed near the no-fly zone established in Iraq.
Well, at least the general has seen the media reports of the violence in Libya, right?
“I have, Senator,” Dempsey answered.
“You have seen that? You might tell Admiral Mullen that you’ve seen that,” McCain sarcastically replied.
Glad we settled that. Next, we’ll bring forth Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz to answer questions on whether the Army is making a mistake transferring too many armored cavalry regiments to Stryker brigades.