Democrats pound Rice over Iraq problems

  • Updated: October 25, 2007 - 7:24 PM

WASHINGTON - House Democrats on Thursday accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of grossly mismanaging diplomatic efforts in Iraq and concealing information from Congress, putting a frustrated Rice on the defensive.

WASHINGTON - House Democrats on Thursday accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of grossly mismanaging diplomatic efforts in Iraq and concealing information from Congress, putting a frustrated Rice on the defensive.

At a hearing by a congressional watchdog committee, Democrats said the State Department had been too lax with armed security contractors, ignored corruption at the highest levels of the Iraqi government and was sloppy in overseeing construction of the costly new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

"I think there was a huge gap between what she said and reality," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The hearing gave Democrats the venue to hammer the administration on the war. But the strategy did not go unnoticed by Republicans.

Democrats want "to drill enough small holes in the bottom of the boat to sink the entire Iraqi enterprise, while still claiming undying support for the crew about to drown," said Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the committee's top Republican.

The usually unflappable Rice was frustrated at several points, including a tense exchange on whether Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was corrupt. When repeatedly pressed to say whether she thought Al-Maliki was covering up fraud and abuse, Rice said she would not respond to rumors.

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