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Opening Statement for The Honorable Ike Skelton (D-MO),
Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of
Full Committee Hearing on U.S. Policy Toward Iraq
September 18, 2002
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you Secretary Rumsfeld and
General Myers for being with us today to answer the many questions
shared by our colleagues and the American people.
This is a critical time for us to be considering U.S. action against
Iraq. President Bush has made clear to the Congress, the United
Nations, and the American people his determination to remove Saddam
Hussein from power and to neutralize the threat posed by the Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction program. I applaud his realization that the
threat posed by Saddam is one that faces the United Nations as a whole.
I think we all agree that Saddam is a despot who has violated the
Security Council's resolutions for years.
But having recognized the central role of the United Nations, we
must take seriously its collective judgment about how to enforce these
resolutions. I am not suggesting that Congress will or should only
consider an option fully supported by the United Nations, but the
administration must be able to answer fundamental questions about any
decision to use force. Why must action be taken now? What is the
threshold beyond which the United States can no longer wait for Iraqi
compliance with Security Council resolutions or for U.N. action in the
face of Iraqi defiance?
Beyond the decision to act with or without the United Nations, I have wrestled with a series of questions which I have shared with the President. Exercising our constitutional responsibilities requires Congress to take into account not only these near-term considerations of HOW to act, but also the longer-term implications for U.S. security interests globally of using military force against Iraq.
Some of these questions have to do with waging the broader war on terrorism. How will the United States ensure that we continue to have international support for our efforts against al Qaeda, even if the administration seeks military action without Security Council approval? Do we have the forces, fiscal resources, munitions, and other military capabilities to wage both campaigns effectively? How is the United States preparing to deal with likely Iraqi efforts to draw Israel into the conflict by launching missiles, possibly with chemical or biological warheads? What type of planning is going into succeeding in sustained urban operations or on a battlefield made toxic by chemical weapons? As members of the Armed Services Committee, we all share the
commitment to making sure that our troops can succeed on the battlefield at the lowest possible level of risk if we decide to put them in
In considering the long-term aspects of the question to use force, I
am reminded of Carl von Clausewitz's maxim in On War: that in
strategy it is “imperative...not to take the first step without considering the last.” We must think through carefully and NOW-before we
authorize military force—how the United States would manage Iraq
after Saddam fell. Planning for the occupation of Germany and Japan
took years before the end of World War II. In today's dynamic
battlefield, we don't have the luxury of years to prepare. How can we
build a stable and democratic Iraq that takes all major groups—Shi'a,
Sunni, and Kurd—into account? How will we handle members of the
Baath party and those scientists and engineers that designed Iraq's
WMD programs? What military commitment will be required from the
United States at the time of our victory and in the years to come?
Any decision to act against Iraq must begin with answers to these
questions about the strategy for achieving victory and long-term
responsibilities that come with doing so. With answers to these
questions, I will look forward to supporting the President and in helping
to craft a congressional authorization to do so. I thank both witnesses for
being with us today, for sharing their expertise and hopefully for
providing answers to the questions I have outlined. Thank you, Mr.
BEFORE THE 1TH CONGRESS
S COMMITTEE I welcome the opportunity to share with you the nature of the threat that the Iraqi regime presents to the United States, our forces and our allies. I also welcome this chance to share with you what you the improved capabilities our Armed Forces possess today.
As it has for the past decade, the Iraqi regime remains a significant threat to our interests and those of our allies. Despite the presence of UN sanctions, Iraq has repaired and sustained key elements of its offensive, conventional forces. Iraqi armed forces maintain over 2,000 main battle tanks, more than 3,500 armored personnel carriers and more than 2,000 pieces of artillery. Today, Iraqi ground forces have 23 divisions, to include 6 Republican Guard divisions. Its Air Force operates over 50 key air defense radars and has about 300 jet aircraft, to include a limited number of Mirage F-1s and MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft.
Since 2000, Iraq's air defense forces have engaged coalition forces enforcing the UN mandated No-Fly Zones over Northern and Southern Iraq more than 2,300 times. Since August of 2001, Iraqi hostile actions have downed 3 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. In the last 2 weeks, over 25 coalition aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zones have been engaged by Iraqi anti-aircraft and surface-to-air missiles.
Despite these hostile actions, in the aggregate, the regime's military forces are down by roughly 50 to 60 percent, compared to 1990. Poor morale is reportedly widespread in many units and the quality of training is low. Iraqi forces employ aging weapon systems. Nonetheless, Iraq continues to invest heavily in rebuilding its military, including air defense systems and command and control networks. The Iraqi army also has preserved some limited countrywide mobility for its armored forces. The nature and type of these military forces are similar to the offensive capability Iraq used to invade Iran, to invade Kuwait, to attack the Kurds, and to crush popular uprisings against Saddam's regime.
At the same time, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program represents a greater threat to American lives, our interests and those of our allies and friends. When UN inspection teams were forced to leave Iraq in 1998, they documented that Iraq had failed to fulfill UN disarmament mandates and to accurately account for its most dangerous weapons. In response to ejecting those inspectors, the US and our coalition partners conducted Operation DESERT FOX in December 1998. In 70 hours, the coalition dealt a limited blow to Iraq's WMD and missile programs. At the time, we estimated that we set back its programs by six months to a year. In the four years since, Iraq has continued to develop chemical weapons, primarily mustard agent, the nerve agent Sarin, and VX - an extremely potent nerve