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Mr. SAXTON. That has been a widely held view, at least in some quarters, and I suspect that one of the difficulties that we have had in addressing this subject comes because of the difficulty of collecting intelligence in that region of the world, for all the reasons that we know. However, yesterday, the President's National Security Adviser began to talk about this subject in a different light. She said we clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al Qaeda going back for a long time. We know, too, that several of the al Qaeda detainees, in particular, some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development. Now, I suspect that it would be difficult for someone to say that if they didn't have information to back it up. And, she also suggested that the details of the contacts would be released at a later date, and from my knowledge of intelligence work—which is sketchy, but from what I know-it is difficult sometimes to disclose details because you endanger sources.
And, so I think this is a subject that certainly there are beginning to be indications that there are as a matter of fact, other bad guys have gone to Iraq. Abu Nidal died there recently. And, when you couple all this with the notion that Saddam has been very determined to act out against his neighbors in the West, and seems to stop at nothing, to draw the conclusion based on evidence that is beginning to emerge that there is no contact and no general theme of cooperation between Saddam and officials of al Qaeda is a stretch and, I think, a dangerous conclusion to come to.
Mr. Perle, would you give us your opinion?
Mr. PERLE. I think you have identified an important issue and a serious problem. It is true it is difficult to collect intelligence in these areas. But, the bigger problem in my view has been a stunning lack of competence among our own intelligence agencies. They simply proved incompetent in this area and I have testified on this theme several times over the last 10 or 15 years.
What we are now beginning to see is evidence that was there all along. It simply wasn't properly assessed. And the reason why it wasn't assessed, in my view, is that a point of view dominated the intelligence community, the CIA in particular, and that point of view held that a secular Ba'athist regime like that of Saddam Hussein would not cooperate with religious fanatics like al Qaeda. This was a theory. There was nothing to support it except the speculation of the intelligence officials who held that view. And as a result, they simply didn't look for evidence that there might be a connection. Now that we are aware of the strange ways in which terrorists cooperate all over the world, we are beginning to find significant evidence.
You know, there is no logical basis for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) cooperating with terrorists in Colombia, and yet we have caught them red-handed doing it. There is a kind of professional trade craft involved in which people engaged in the business of terrorism work with one another for mutual convenience, sometimes for exchanges of money and the like. So, there is in fact evidence of relations between Saddam and al Qaeda. And, I believe that the more intensively we scrutinize databases of information available to us in the past, the more evidence of that we are going to find.
General CLARK. Representative Saxton, if I could just tag along on that, I think there is no question that even though we may not have the evidence, as Richard says, that there have been such contacts, it is normal, it is natural. These are a lot of bad actors in the same region together. They are going to bump into each other. They are going to exchange information. They are going to feel each other out and see if there are opportunities to cooperate. That is inevitable in this region.
And, I think it is clear that, regardless of whether or not such evidence is produced of these connections, that Saddam Hussein is a threat. So, I think the key issue is how we move from here and what do we need to do to deal with this threat? But, I think what is also clear is the way you deal with the threat from Iraq is different than the way you deal with the threat from al Qaeda. My contention is we need to look at different means for dealing with these threats. We need to take advantage of all the resources at our disposal, not just the military.
If I could just say with respect to the inspections issue, as well, and the comments of my friend and colleague Richard Perle, I am not either optimistic or pessimistic. I practiced weapons inspection. I have been involved in diplomacy at the United Nations and I have been involved in setting up the plans for a number of postconflict situations, including Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo, so I am only giving you the best judgment from my own perspective. I don't label it.
So Richard, if I can just in a friendly way say if you won't label me, I won't label you.
Mr. PERLE. What I was labeling was the unavoidable conclusion that you think inspections can work, and I think the overwhelming evidence is that they can't.
General CLARK. I have been very clear. I don't have any expectation, ultimately, that the inspections will work in the sense of finding and eliminating every weapons of mass destruction program. What I am suggesting is that the inspections are useful in pursuing America's security concerns, and we should be endeavoring to pursue those concerns with every means at our disposal, one of which is inspections.
Mr. PERLE. If I may say so, if the inspections fail to achieve their purpose, that is, finding Saddam's weapons, then I think they are not only helpful, they are quite damaging; because, the failure to find those weapons will make it very difficult to sustain the inspections regime itself beyond a certain point to keep sanctions in place and to take action that might actually be effective in removing those weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. SAXTON. If I may reclaim my time for 30 seconds.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Saxton, if you want back into this conversation, you go right ahead.
Mr. SAXTON. I wanted to thank General Clark for clarifying his position. I thought you had said there had been no contacts. And, now you do know, as we do, that there have been contacts between Saddam and al Qaeda. So, thank you.
General CLARK. I say no substantiation of it. It has to be going on. It has to be.
Mr. SAXTON. I am glad you and Condoleezza Rice are on the same track. I was worried there for a while but, General Clark, maybe you could respond to that last point in your interchange, which was if we find--if the inspectors find a bunch of empty rooms or are shown a bunch of empty rooms in this next inspection regime, how does that rally the world then to the United States' goal of disarming Iraq?
General CLARK. I think this goes into the design and inspections program itself. And, as I indicated earlier, I have not sketched this out in great detail. I could present something in writing to the committee if you would like, but there can be an inspection program set up which is echeloned in the sense of starting narrow and going broader and broader and more intrusive, until the concerns of the state which brings forward this requirement, i.e. The United States, are satisfied. And in the process, we are either going to push this far enough that we gain some other ends or we are going to hit a red line in which we will get the trigger. What I want to make clear is the difference I think between
Mr. SAXTON. Maybe you could explain how you get the trigger if they absorb us and they allow enough inspections to find empty rooms but nothing else, and at that point you want to see a galvanized world community behind the United States. Why would they galvanize behind an America which has gotten inspections, been absorbed by Iraq, and found nothing?
General CLARK. I think we need to look carefully at the composition of the inspection team, its authorities and information sources it uses, and that is why I say it is echeloned. It may start narrow and go broader.
Second, I think the experience of the inspection team is as they begin to work, they do find some levels of information. And, as we put people in there more and more on the ground, they will eventually find things.
But, I think the fundamental question is this: Is the purpose of the inspection team, is the value of it only in finding the weapons of mass instruction, or does it not also have value in impeding Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program, undercutting his authority, providing warning, establishing a trigger, and I think it has these broader impacts.
So, I think we should not be driven by excessive fear at this point that the inspections may come up dry from trying to work an inspection program that meets the broader purposes that serve the United States and our goals.
Mr. SAXTON. The stated goal is none of the above. It is to disarm Iraq, at least according to the administration.
General CLARK. This is one of the difficulties, and we are in open session and I don't mean to be anything other than direct and straightforward, but I think we know that programs like inspections have consequences that are beyond their stated purpose. And, certainly Saddam Hussein recognizes this and this is why he didn't want the inspectors there. Not that he couldn't fool them, but he couldn't be sure he could fool them all the time, with enough energy left over to pursue his aims and still do everything else.
Even though the inspections may have been of not full usefulness in terms of stopping his program, they provided other benefits, and
we should pursue those benefits within the time available as a way of building legitimacy for the United States and our concerns.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Allen.
Mr. ALLEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you both for being here. We have had a lot of conversation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and where we are going. I am concerned about what we are doing right now as a country, and I wanted to focus on a couple of things. If our goal is to win allies for dealing with Saddam Hussein, both here at home and abroad, it seems to me we have made some mistakes.
And, let me call attention to a couple of things. First of all, it seems to me that we can deal with Iraq without making into doctrines applicable to other countries and other times, you know, whatever it is we plan to do here. Example number one, regime change. It hasn't been enough for this administration to say we need to replace Saddam Hussein; we have to create a doctrine of regime change that for what are now called—the phrases keep changing, but they are now called terrorist states—we have the right to change those regimes.
The second component is preemptive strikes. It is not enough to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, which is real. It may not be immediate, but it is not that far in the future. It is very serious. But instead, we have a new doctrine put down on paper that says we claim the right to strike preemptively at other countries. We have developed a theory, I think—the administration has a theory of unilateralism as a fundamental approach to the world. All of this, I can tell you back home just in my district, creates unnecessary anxiety and hostility to what the administration is trying to do, and that is nothing compared to the reaction overseas.
And, I think that the question you posed, General Clark, about how do we move from here in a way that takes into account not only the military challenges, but the political challenges, is important. And, I want to begin with Mr. Perle and then have you respond, too.
Mr. Perle, on September 10, there was an article in the Boston Globe, and basically there was the suggestion that—we are used to the hawks-and-the-doves kind of language now, but there was a suggestion in the piece that according to the hawks in the administration, Iraq is just the first piece of the puzzle. And I quote: “After an ouster of Hussein, they say, the United States will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, and we will be in a better position to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian, conflict and we will be able to rely less on Saudi oil”.
And, then there was another comment in here that among the more extreme version was a view elaborated in a briefing in July by a RAND Corporation researcher to the Defense Policy Board which you chair, Mr. Perle. That briefing urged the United States to deliver an ultimatum to the Saudi Government to cut its ties to militant Islam or risk seizure of its oil fields and overseas assets. It called Iraq the “tactical pivot”, and Saudi Arabia the “strategic pivot”.
My question to you, Mr. Perle, first if you could comment both on the doctrines of preemption and regime change and then on the briefing that either you or your policy board heard. And, with re
spect to that component, I would be interested in whether you think that kind of threat against Saudi Arabia is the way the administration ought to move. And then I would like General Clark to respond.
Mr. PERLE. Well, thank you, Mr. Allen. First, on the question of doctrines, I think we sometimes do ourselves a disservice by discussing in doctrinal terms the specifics of a situation that may be unique. And, indeed in these matters there are almost never two situations that are exactly alike. So, I am not in favor of developing a doctrine of regime change. I am in favor of removing Saddam Hussein from power. And, I can imagine others posing a similar threat where one would also wish to see them removed. But, I don't think that doctrine is necessarily helpful, and I agree with you on that.
With respect to preemptive strikes, again, I don't think it makes much sense to develop this into a doctrine, although I think it is important to point out that waiting until one is struck first is not always the best way to protect ourselves. And in this instance, I happen to think that idea applies. And as for the theory of unilateralism, I haven't heard that advocated as such. I have never known any official of this or any other administration that would not much prefer to have broad support internationally for anything that we attempt to do.
What I think is an issue here is the question of how prepared we should be to act alone when, for whatever reason, we are unable to gather the support of other countries. And, I think what you are seeing here is a reaction to some years in the previous administration where there was a great emphasis placed on multilateral activity, on negotiating multilateral agreements, and acting in a multilateral context, and I think there is a sense that we went too far in that direction and maybe we need to assert the particularism that that is appropriate for a country that is unique and perhaps uniquely a target and therefore is bound to differ from time to time with other countries.
But, I certainly share your thought we shouldn't make things more difficult for ourselves by elevating specific contingencies to broad general principles. With respect to the briefing on Saudi Arabia, let me say, first, that the Defense Policy Board is an unusual institution. It is a group of people who come together from time to time, receive briefings, discuss the context of those briefings, and eventually, discuss their reflections with the Secretary of Defense. This usually takes place over two days.
We have encouraged a very broad approach in the sense that we want all points of view. And, there is no censorship. Nobody examines the briefer beforehand what he is going to say. An expert who is working hard to understand the complex issue that the board is trying to understand may well be invited to come and present to us. And, that particular briefing was a very interesting briefing. It was not as portrayed in the press. Whoever thought it was a good idea to turn over the slides from that briefing and the speakers notes, I think, was probably not present when the briefing was given, and therefore, assumed that everything in the speaking notes was said in the meeting.