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OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR CARL LEVIN, CHAIRMAN
Chairman LEVIN. Good afternoon, everybody. The Senate Armed Services Committee meets this afternoon to continue our hearings on U.S. policy toward Iraq. The purpose of these hearings is to give the administration an opportunity to present its position on Iraq and to allow this committee to examine the administration's proposal with administration witnesses and experts outside the government.
We welcome Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, to the committee. Next week, the committee will hear from former senior military commanders on Monday and from former national security officials on Wednesday.
We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.
Last week, in his speech to the United Nations, President Bush rightfully declared that the Iraqi threat is, “exactly the kind of aggressive threat that the United Nations was born to confront." The President reminded the world that Iraqi aggression was stopped after the invasion of Kuwait, in his words, "by the might of the coalition force and the will of the United Nations.” The President called upon the United Nations to act again, stating, "My Nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions."
We, in Congress, applauded the President's efforts to galvanize the world community through the United Nations to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Our actions now in Congress should be devoted to presenting a broad, bipartisan consensus in that critical effort. This does not mean giving a veto to the U.N. over U.S. foreign policy. No one is going to do that. It is an acknowledgment that Saddam is a world problem and should be addressed in the world arena, and that we are in a stronger position to disarm Iraq and even possibly avoid war if Saddam sees the world at the other end of the barrel, not just the United States.
Some have suggested that we also commit ourselves to unilateral action in Iraq and that we do so now. In the middle of our efforts to enlist the world community to back a U.N. resolution or resolutions enforcing Iraqi compliance with unconditional inspections and disarmament requirements, they say that, although we told the U.N. that their role is vital just a week ago, we should now say we are just fine in proceeding on our own. I believe if we really mean it when we say that we want the U.N. to be relevant, then we should not act in a manner that treats them as irrelevant.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, the United Nations, at the urging of former President Bush and with the full support of Congress, condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, demanded that Iraq withdraw its forces, and, in November of 1990, passed a resolution authorizing member states to use all necessary means to free Kuwait. Two months later, in January 1991, after debate and a close vote, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the participation of U.S. Armed Forces in that effort. The military campaign against Saddam Hussein in 1991 by the U.S.-led coalition was carried out with the active participation of most of our NATO allies, the ground forces of several Muslim nations, and the support and backing of virtually every nation in the world.
U.N. resolutions paved the way for the establishment and enforcement of the no-fly zones over Northern and Southern Iraq and for the air and missile attacks on Iraqi facilities related to weapons of mass destruction programs that it had in December of 1998 following Iraq's expulsion of the U.N. weapons inspectors.
The experience of the last decade teaches us that, in dealing with Iraq, the United States has been able to work with the world community through the United Nations. A go-it-alone approach where we attack Iraq without the support and participation of the world community would be very different. It would entail grave risks and could have serious consequences for U.S. interests in the Middle East and around the world.
If we go it alone, would we be able to secure the use of air bases, ports, supply bases, and overflight rights in the region important to the success of a military operation against Saddam Hussein? If we go it alone, would we continue to enjoy broad international support for the war on terrorism, including the law enforcement, financial, and intelligence cooperation that has proven to be so essential? If we go it alone, what would be the impact on the stability of moderate Arab nations, and what would be our future relationship with moderate Arab and Muslim nations? If we go it alone without U.N. authority in attacking Saddam, would he or his military commanders be more likely to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations in the region and against U.S. military forces in response than would be the case if he faced a U.N.-authorized coalition, particularly if that coalition included a number of Muslim nations, as the coalition did during the Gulf War? If we go it alone, would other nations use our action as a precedent for threatening unilateral military action against their neighbors in the future?
Members of this Senate Armed Services Committee are ever mindful of the fact that confronting the threat posed by Saddam Hussein could ultimately lead to committing U.S. military forces, including ground forces, to combat. How and under what circumstances we commit our Armed Forces to an attack on Iraq could have far-reaching consequences for our interests throughout the world and for the future peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and Middle East.
I want to echo the statement that General Myers makes in his prepared remarks. “America's military is the most capable and professional fighting force in the world." There is no doubt in my mind and there should be no doubt in Saddam Hussein's mindthat, once committed, our Armed Forces will prevail in any conflict. None of us seeks such a conflict, but, if it comes, our military will have the full support of every member of this body, whether they favor committing to a go-it-alone approach at this time or not.
STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN WARNER Chairman WARNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Rumsfeld, I read, with great interest, an account of your testimony before the House yesterday. I was particularly moved by your comments with regard to Israel, its role in the 1991 episode, and the threats poised as a consequence of this extraordinary unrest relating to Iraq.
I wrote the President a letter on August 2, a copy of which went to you. I went to the floor of the Senate today and put that letter in the record, expressing my deep concern about this conflict and my compassion for the people of Israel who have suffered these devastating losses. I would hope, in due course, that could be taken into consideration, because I think there's a connection between the unrest that is a consequence of the tragic disputes between the people of Israel and the Palestinian people and the options that we face as we examine the problems in Iraq.
So I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this hearing. I begin by commending President Bush for the leadership he has shown on the issue of the threat to the world, not just the United States, posed by Saddam Hussein in his relentless drive to manufacture and acquire weapons of mass destruction. We would not be holding this hearing today—we, in all likelihood, would not be having the full attention of the United Nations—had it not been for the bold leadership given by President George Bush together with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, who both brought attention to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to the whole world.
I commend you, Mr. Secretary, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and others who have been in the very forefront of bringing into sharp focus threats posed by the weapons of mass destruction which he possesses today and which every single day he is working to augment and build.
Mr. Chairman, on August 27, I wrote you, as a follow on to our previous discussions, a letter requesting that the committee hold these hearings on Iraq. You and I have concurred on a series of hearings, the details of which are forthcoming. We're going to go into this situation very carefully. [The information referred to follows:]
August 27, 2002. Chairman CARL LEVIN, Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR CARL: We have been regularly discussing the role of our committee in the on-going debates in Congress and in the public on Iraq. Together, we decided to defer setting a schedule for hearings on Iraq until the Senate Foreign Relations Committee undertook an initial exploration of policy-related considerations. Those hearings, which were conducted on July 31 and August 1, turned out to be constructive and beneficial.
Since the commencement of our recess on August 1, the crescendo of debate on Iraq has reached an extraordinary level, with knowledgeable people—many of whom have served in public office-rendering conscientious, constructive opinions, with a growing diversity of viewpoints.
The time has come, I think you will agree, for you and I to set a schedule of hearings for our committee to explore the national security implications of possible military action against Iraq. While any schedule of hearings will follow our regular procedures for selecting witnesses, I believe we should begin with administration witnesses—preferably Secretary Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Myers.
As I look back on the 1990 and 1991 congressional activities related to Iraq, the work of our committee was crucial. Sam Nunn, as the chairman, and I, as the ranking member, held a series of hearings throughout the fall and winter of 1990, leading up to the historic debate on the Gulf War resolutions on January 10-12, 1991. As you may recall, when our committee conducted a series of hearings in 1990 following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, our first hearing was with then-Secretary of Defense Cheney and then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Powell on September 11, 1990.
I was the principal author of the resolution to authorize the use of force against Iraq, which passed by a mere five votes on January 12, 1991. Immediately following that vote, having satisfied itself that the Senate had had a full and fair debate, all united in support behind the President. This resolution is now being cited-as it was during the previous administration—as one of the legal foundations for military action against Iraq.
Our committee performed an essential role through its hearings in 1990 in developing the body of fact that was used during the Senate floor debate and the public debate. It is important, subject to protecting classification of certain facts, that the American people be informed. Their support is essential.
While I cannot predict all that the Senate will do in the coming weeks prior to adjournment, I believe that the issue of Iraq will be central. Our committee, therefore, should convene a series of hearings on Iraq, as soon as possible, to contribute to a full body of fact for any Senate deliberations on this issue.
As I read and follow the debate, there appears to be a “gap” in the facts possessed by the executive branch and the facts possessed by the legislative branch. I am encouraged that the President and his senior advisors have repeatedly stated that there will be "consultations” with Congress prior to the initiation of any military action against Iraq. Our committee has an important role to play in these consultations. We must act to provide the necessary facts so individual members can make informed decisions.
Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, is, in my opinion, not going to sit on the sidelines. It is essential, I believe, in this extraordinarily complex foreign policy debate, that Congress step up and assume its responsibilities, and share with the President and the executive branch accountability to the public for such actions as may be taken regarding military action against Iraq.
Speaking for myself, I do not contest the President's right, as Commander in Chief under the Constitution, to initiate the use of military force when U.S. interests are threatened. Through our 24 years in the Senate, you and I have witnessed many Senate debates over the War Powers Resolution and related issues, and those issues will not be resolved now.
I do believe, as do a majority of members, that Congress has a responsibility to add its voice to the debate on an issue involving the use of U.S. military force. Hearings by our committee on Iraq are an essential first step in exercising that responsibility.
We owe no less to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, and their families, who stand by, as always, to carry out the orders of the Commander in Chief. With kind regards, I am Sincerely,
Ranking Member. In 1990 and 1991, when I was privileged to be ranking member of the committee, together with Senator Nunn as chairman, our committee was critical in putting together a record for the historic debate on the Senate floor early in January. The committee held a series of nine hearings and two closed briefings on the situation in the Persian Gulf in the fall and winter of 1990, leading up to the debate on the Senate floor on January 10, 11, and 12, 1991. Those hearings developed the body of fact that was used during the Senate floor debate and, indeed, the equally important public debate on Iraq. The committee will fulfill that same important function today.
I was privileged to be an author of the resolution that was debated on the floor, and it carried by a mere five votes. My distinguished colleague to my right, Mr. Lieberman, was my principal cosponsor on that resolution.
We started the committee hearings on Iraq on Tuesday with testimony from the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, and the acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Rear Admiral Jake Jacoby. It was a sobering, thorough assessment that was given to all members of the committee, a common base of knowledge about the clear and growing threat that Saddam Hussein poses to the United States, to the region, and to the entire international community. In particular, Saddam Hussein's relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver these weapons represents a present threat and an immediate challenge to the international community. Our President made that ever so clear in his speech.
We must end Saddam Hussein's continued defiance of the clear pronouncements of the international community as expressed in a series of 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions, beginning with the resolution which mandated the council's terms and conditions for how the war was to end.
I remind my colleagues that the Iraqis agreed in writing on April 6, 1991, in a letter to the U.N. Secretary General from the Iraqi Foreign Minister, to accept the cease-fire conditions as embodied in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687.
Prior to that, we all watched as Iraqi generals, at the direction of Saddam Hussein, met in a tent at the Safwan Airfield in Iraq, with General Norman Schwarzkopf, the brave commander who led the U.S. and coalition forces to victory, to discuss the conditions for a ceasefire. Those conditions have never been met.
It is now most appropriate that we hear from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on the role of the Department of Defense
and particularly the men and women in uniform-in implementing U.S. policy toward Iraq as that evolves. Most important is the readiness of our Armed Forces and their ability to carry out such military operations as may be directed in the future.
Our President didn't go to the U.N. and declare war. He went to the U.N. to say, “It's time for you to become accountable to your charter, to your forebears, to those who conceived this organization, and to the world.”
One week ago, our President gave a historic speech at the United Nations, challenging the U.N. to live up to its responsibilities as stated in Article I of the U.N. Charter and “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace."
In my view, President Bush's speech was clearly one of the finest and most important speeches ever given by a head of state to the August assembly of the United Nations. The speech dramatically elevated the level of debate and the attention of the world's leaders on Iraq's conduct and continued defiance of the United Nations. It further challenged the nations of the world to think long and hard about what they expect from the United Nations. Is it to be effective and relevant and live up to its Charter, or is it to be irrelevant and fall into the dustbin of history, as did the League of Nations as the world descended into darkness in the aftermath of World War I?