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The Democrats Oversight Fight Over Iraq

House Democrats are relying on oversight more and more to undermine the administration's Iraq policy after repeatedly failing to set a withdrawal date through the annual spending process.

Four prominent chairmen wrote Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Friday to express their frustration with the State Department for failing to comply with congressional investigations into the allegations of widespread corruption within the Iraqi government.

Oversight Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Wis.) sent Rice a letter Friday complaining that government corruption was undermining U.S. military efforts in Iraq.

"We are writing to express our concern that endemic corruption in Iraq may be fueling the insurgency, endangering our troops, and undermining the chances for success," the chairmen wrote. "We are equally concerned that the refusal of State Department officials to answer questions about the extent of corruption in the government of Iraq undermines our ability to work together to eliminate this source of support for the insurgency and to enhance our chances of success in Iraq."

The chairmen cited reports and testimony by numerous watchdogs affiliated with the U.S. and Iraqi governments to make the case that graft, oil smuggling and embezzlement are rampant throughout the government and imperils the U.S. mission in Iraq.

They also complain that the State Department classified testimony by Controller General David Walker last week after initialing clearing it for release to the public.

House Democrats, led by Waxman, have been making the case all year that government corruption has undermined the U.S. mission in Iraq, but the push has become increasingly coordinated this fall, with multiple hearings on a range of committees to probe the issue further in recent weeks.