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with the U.N. resolutions concerning inspections, but that he had been truthful all along. There are those who would believe him.
Given what we now know about Saddam's weaponry, his lies, his concealment, we would be fools to accept inspections, even an inspection regime far more ambitious than anything the U.N. contemplates, as a substitute for disarmament.
That is why, Mr. Chairman, the President is right to demand that the United Nations promptly resolve that Saddam comply with the full range of United Nations resolutions concerning Iraq or face an American-led enforcement action.
I returned last night from Europe where the issues before you were being widely discussed. Perhaps the most frequently asked question put to me by various Europeans is, “Why now? What is it about the current situation that has made action to deal with Saddam urgent? He has been there for a decade.
My answer is that we are already perilously late. We should have acted long ago, and we should certainly have acted when Saddam expelled the inspectors in 1998. Our myopic forbearance has given him four years to expand his arsenal without interference, four years to hide things and make them mobile, four years to render the international community feckless, and its principal institution, the United Nations, all but irrelevant.
We can, of course, choose to defer action. Some counsel that. To wait and hope for the best. That is what Tony Blair's predecessors did in the 1930s. That is what we did with respect to Osama bin Laden. We waited. We watched. We knew about the training camps, the fanatical incitement and the history of acts of terror. We knew about the Cole and the embassies in Africa. We waited too long and 3,000 innocent civilians were murdered.
If we wait, if we play hide-and-seek with Saddam Hussein, there is every reason to expect that he will expand his arsenal further, that he will cross the nuclear divide and become a nuclear power.
I urge this committee, Mr. Chairman, to support the President's determination to act before it is too late. Thank you.
Mr. HUNTER. Thank you, Mr. Perle. I appreciate your statement.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Perle can be found in the Appendix on page 335.]
Mr. HUNTER. And General Clark, you have been a very well-respected leader of the U.S. military through some difficult times for the United States, and we appreciate your service and thank you very much for being with us on this very challenging issue. The floor is yours, sir. STATEMENT OF GEN. WESLEY K. CLARK, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED)
General CLARK. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, Representative Skelton, and distinguished members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
This is a committee that has been very strongly supportive of the men and women in uniform, and I want to thank you personally for the support that so many of you have given to me during some very, very tough times when I was in uniform. And, on behalf of all the men and women and their families, we really appreciate this committee, your commitment, your willingness to give up your own time to come out and visit with the troops, your determination to work interests on behalf of the troops and families when there is nothing but your duty as representatives of the people on the line. And, we recognize it and we appreciate it and we are grateful for it.
I want to tell you also I am very honored to be here, because I believe that in our democracy, discussions of critical strategic issues—and this is certainly one—at an historic time strengthen the United States, they don't weaken us.
Public information, public dialogue, and public discussion is what this country is all about. And, certainly when we are considering a course as fraught with uncertainty as that which appears to be unfolding before us, we need the wholehearted understanding and resolution of the American people. And, I am particularly honored, Mr. Chairman, that you would ask me as a retired military officer to come back and appear before you and that you would consider my opinions and concerns relevant to the issue at hand, even though I have left the United States Army and I am now engaged in another profession, which is under question-investment banking. And so, I am delighted to be with you, sir. I have submitted a written statement, but I would like to summarize
Mr. HUNTER. Welcome back, General.
Mr. HUNTER. Without objection, your statement will be taken into the record.
General CLARK. There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat. I was in the Joint Staff in October of 1994. I think the date was the 8th of October, Thursday morning. The intelligence officer walked in and said, “Sir, you are not going to believe this. Here are the pictures. You can't believe that this is the Republican Guard. They are right back in the same attack positions that they occupied four years ago before they invaded Kuwait. And here are the two divisions, and there are signs of mobilization and concerns north, and we can't understand it."
And, General Peay was the commander of Central Command (CENTCOM). Shalikashvili, I think, was visiting Haiti at the time with Secretary of Defense Perry, and we rushed together and we put together a program. General Peay deployed some 15,000 American troops and aircraft over to block it. And, after a few days Saddam Hussein recognized what a difficult position he had put himself in and withdrew the troops. But, we had not expected it. It was an unanticipated move. It made no sense from our point of view for Saddam Hussein to do this, but he did it. It was a signal warning that Saddam Hussein is not only malevolent and violent, but he is also to some large degree unpredictable, at least to us. I am sure he has a rationale for what he is doing, but we don't always know it.
He does retain his chemical and biological capabilities to some extent. And he is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risk, as would we. Saddam might use these weapons as a deterrent while launching attacks against Israel or his other neighbors. He might threaten American forces in the region. He might determine that he was the messenger of Allah and simply strike directly at Israel; or Israel, weighing the possibilities of blackmail or aggression, might feel compelled to strike Iraq first.
Now, Saddam has been pursuing nuclear weapons and we have been living with this risk for over 20 years. He does not have the weapons now as best we can determine. He might have the weapons in a year or two if the control for the highly enriched uranium and other materials broke down. I think his best opportunity would have been to go to his friend Slobodon Milosevic and ask for those materials during the Kosovo campaign, since there was active collusion between the Serbs and the Iraqis; but apparently, if he asked for them, he didn't get them, because the Serbs have turned them over for us. If he can't get the highly enriched uranium, then it might take him five years or more to go through a centrifuge process or gaseous diffusion process to enrich the uranium.
But, the situation is not stable. The U.N. weapons inspectors, however ineffective they might have been—and there is some degree of difference of opinion on that nevertheless provided assistance in impeding his development programs. They have been absent for four years. And, the sanction regime designed to restrict his weapons materials and resources has been continuously eroded and therefore the situation is not stable.
The problem of Iraq is not a problem that can be postponed indefinitely. And of course, Saddam's current efforts themselves are violations of international law as expressed in U.N. resolutions.
Our President has emphasized the urgency of eliminating these weapons and weapons programs. I strongly support his efforts to encourage the United Nations to act on this problem. And, in taking this to the United Nations the President's clear determination to act if the United Nations can't, provides strong leverage for undergirding ongoing diplomatic efforts.
But, the problem of Iraq is only one element of the broader security challenges facing our country. We have an unfinished worldwide war against al Qaeda, a war that has to be won in conjunction with friends and allies, and that ultimately will be won as much by persuasion as by the use of force. We have got to turn off the al Qaeda recruiting machine. Now some 3,000 deaths on September 11 testified to the real danger from al Qaeda. And, I think everyone acknowledges that al Qaeda has not yet been defeated.
As far as I know, I haven't seen any substantial evidence linking Saddam's regime to the al Qaeda network, though such evidence may emerge. But nevertheless, winning the war against al Qaeda and taking actions against the weapons program in Iraq, those are two different problems that may require two different sets of solutions. In other words, to put it back in the military parlance, Iraqthey are an operational-level problem. We have got other operational-level problems in the Middle East, like the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Al Qaeda and the foundation of radical extremist fundamentalist Islam, that is the strategic problem. We have got to make sure that in addressing the operational problem, we are effective in going after the larger strategic problem.
So, the critical issue facing the United States right now is how to force action against Saddam Hussein and his weapons programs without detracting from our focus on al Qaeda or our efforts to deal with other immediate and maybe long-term security problems.
I would like to offer the following observations by way of how we could proceed. First of all, I do believe United States diplomacy in the United Nations will be strengthened if the Congress can adopt a resolution expressing U.S. determination to act if the United Nations cannot act. The use of force must remain a U.S. option under active consideration. Such congressional resolution need not at this point authorize the use of force. The more focused the resolution on Iraq, the more focused it is on the problem of weapons of mass destruction, the greater its utility in the United Nations, the more nearly unanimous the resolution, the greater its utility is, the greater its impact is on the diplomatic efforts underway.
The President and his national security team have got to deploy imagination, leverage, and patience in working through the United Nations. In the near term, time is on our side and we should endeavor to use the United Nations if at all possible. This may require a period of time for inspections or the development of a more intrusive inspection regime such as Richard Perle has mentioned, if necessary, backed by force. It may involve cracking down on the eroding sanctions regime and countries like Syria who are helping Iraq illegally export oil, and enabling Saddam Hussein to divert resources to his own purposes.
We have to work this problem in a way to gain worldwide legitimacy and understanding for the concerns that we rightly feel and for our leadership. This is what U.S. leadership in the world must be. We must bring others to share our views and not be too quick to rush to try to impose them, even if we have the power to do so.
I agree that there is a risk that the inspections would fail to provide evidence of the weapons program. They might fail. But, I think we can deal with this problem as we move along. And, I think the difficulties of dealing with this outcome are more than offset by the opportunities to gain allies, support, and legitimacy in the campaign against Saddam Hussein.
If the efforts to resolve the problem by using the United Nations fail either initially or ultimately, then we need to form the broadest coalition, including our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in the North Atlantic Council, if we are going to have to bring forces to bear.
We should not be using force until the personnel, the organizations, the plans that will be required for post-conflict Iraq are prepared and readied. This includes dealing with requirements for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance in preparations for a transitional governing body and eventual elections, perhaps even including a new constitution.
Ideally, the international and multinational organizations will participate in the readying of such post-conflict operations: the United Nations, NATO, other regional and other organizations, Islamic organizations. But, we have no idea how long this campaign could last. And, if it were to go like the campaign against the Afghans, against the Taliban in which suddenly the Taliban collapsed and there we were, we need to be ready; because, if suddenly Saddam Hussein's government collapses and we don't have everything ready to go, we are going to have chaos in that region. We may not get control of all the weapons of mass destruction, technicians, plans, capabilities. In fact, what may happen is we will remove a repressive regime and have it replaced with a fundamentalist regime which contributes to the strategic problem rather than to helping to solve it.
So, all that having been said, the option to use force must remain on the table. It should be used as the last resort after all diplomatic means have been exhausted, unless there is information that indicates that a further delay would represent an immediate risk to the assembled forces and organizations. And, I want to underscore that the United States should not categorize this action as preemptive. Preemptive—and that doctrine has nothing whatsoever to do with this problem. As Richard Perle so eloquently pointed out, this is a problem that is longstanding, it has been a decade in the making and needs to be dealt with and the clock is ticking on this.
Obviously, once initiated, a military operation should aim for the most respected accomplishment of its operational aims and prompt turnover to follow-on organizations and agencies.
And, I think if we proceed as outlined above, we may be able to minimize the disruption to the ongoing campaign against al Qaeda. We could reduce the impact on friendly governments in the region and even contribute to the resolution of other regional issues, perhaps such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iranian efforts to develop nuclear capabilities, and Saudi funding for terrorism.
But, there are no guarantees. The war is unpredictable. It could be difficult and costly. And, what is at risk in the aftermath is an open-ended American ground commitment in Iraq and an even deeper sense of humiliation in the Arab world, which could intensify our problems in the region and elsewhere.
The yellow light is flashing. We have a problem. We have got to muster the best judgment in this country. We have to muster the will of the American people. And, we've got to be prepared to deal with this problem. But, time is on our side in the near term and we should use it. Thank you.
Mr. HUNTER. Thank you General Clark.
[The prepared statement of General Clark can be found in the Appendix on page 338.]
Mr. HUNTER. General Clark, when we went into Desert Storm, our best estimate and the United Nations' best estimate was that Saddam Hussein was three to five years away from having a nuclear system. That information to some degree was the basis upon which very distinguished Americans like Sam Nunn said what you just said today, which is time is on our side, and they offered a policy that involved sanctions over a long period of time.
When we arrived we found that he was, according to the United Nations and inspectors who testified before this committee, six months away from having a nuclear weapon, meaning that the judgment that time was on our side argument was one that was greatly in error. And, had we taken it, we would have perhaps suffered disastrous consequences.
Now we have had inspectors appear before this committee who said that they were turned away when they were close to things