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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 they thought were important. They were held off in parking lots. They were ushered into a lot of empty rooms. They never met with the weapons community. And, out of the 200 and some-odd inspections that they made, almost none of them were a surprise. The upshot of their testimony was that if Saddam Hussein wants to keep us from seeing his chemical, biological, and nuclear complexand he denies that he has a chemical or biological complex-he will succeed.
We then followed that testimony with the testimony of an Iraqi nuclear engineer who was very much at the forefront of Saddam Hussein's programs, who said essentially, "While you Americans were inspecting in 1993, we were continuing to move aggressively, not far away, with a weapons program right under your noses, basically”.
Now, everything that you have told us with respect to the timeis-on-our-side argument is based on the presumption that these inspections can be successful. What can you offer us in terms of how we could have more effective inspections and how we could, against the will of Saddam Hussein, actually walk into a room and have a large piece of evidence of a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons program in front of us on the table when our inspectors arrive? Please tell us how we can do that what we haven't been able to before.
General CLARK. First of all, I am not making my case on the presumption that inspections won't necessarily be effective. That is not the case. I think an inspection program will provide some impedance and interference with Saddam's efforts. I think it can undercut the legitimacy and authorities of his regime at home. I think it can provide warning of further developments. I think it can establish a trigger. I think it can build legitimacy for the United States. Ultimately, it is going to be inadequate in the main. But as far as the intelligence is concerned and the time available, I don't know how to make sense of the intelligence. And, we have heard six months from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). We have heard the latest British estimate of a couple of years. We heard other people say a year. We heard Iraqi defectors saying it is ready; all he has to do is machine the plutonium if he can get his hands on it.
The honest truth is that the absence of intelligence is not an adequate reason to go forward to war in and of itself. So what we have to do is, we have to build a program that encourages other nations to share our perspective. We can do it relatively quickly. We should not discard inspections. They have done some measure of good; otherwise, Saddam wouldn't object to them so strongly.
Mr. HUNTER. But, General Clark, if we embark on these inspections and we accept inspections as the answer, as the end, and we embark on these inspections--and we must presume that Saddam Hussein is as successful as he has been in the past at hiding the evidence from the inspection teams, evidence that we knew existed-how are we--you mentioned if we do these inspections, we are somehow going to galvanize the community of nations on our side. Now, if we do inspections and we don't find that which we know is there, but Saddam Hussein has allowed us to come into the country and absorb the inspectors successfully, how does that
galvanize a community of nations to rally behind the United States?
General CLARK. I think you have to have an echelon series of inspections. I think you start small and I think you expand the intrusiveness, the scope and scale of the inspections. And, I think you do that until you are either satisfied, and the nation which brings the complaint to the United Nations, i.e. The United States, is satisfied; or you cross- and triple-red-line, which Saddam says no, and then you move to the next stage.
But, I am not presuming that inspections will be successful. What I am asking you to consider is the United States' overall leadership responsibilities in the world and how we move ahead collectively with our allies and friends around the world to deal with this problem. What inspections are useful in doing, they are useful in highlighting the nature of the Iraqi regime, and we may deter him, impede him, undercut him, get warning, establish a trigger, and build our legitimacy from this. And, this is one way of proceeding.
Mr. HUNTER. Would you recommend very aggressive, very intrusive inspections, which would be accompanied by forces which could, in cases where inspectors are denied entry, literally force their way into Iraqi facilities?
General CLARK. I would like to see a program like that established, but it may not be the initial program.
Mr. HUNTER. What if the United Nations does not end up ordering those inspections, but nonetheless—but instead orders inspections which to some degree replicate those that were in the past, those that were not successful in removing this program. What would you recommend at that point?
General CLARK. I think we need to give the President the strongest possible leverage to get the right program put in place at the United Nations.
Mr. HUNTER. That is going to require consensus from other members of the United Nations. That is not a unilateral instrument for the United States.
General CLARK. That is correct.
Mr. HUNTER. Let me finish my question. Don't you think that it is not reasonable to expect that the United Nations is going to produce an extremely aggressive backed-by-force inspection re
General CLARK. I think that the President's determination has given us strong leverage to get the kind of commitment from the United Nations that we need. But, every country has its own domestic problems and this requires the energy and imagination of our diplomats to work through this. I don't consider this case lost at this point. I think it is very much up in the air. I think the actions of this body are very important to determining the outcome.
But, I will say this: The administration has not proceeded heretofore in a way that would encourage its friends and allies to support it. One of the problems we have is the overhang from a number of decisions taken by the administration, which have undercut its friends and allies around the world and given the impression that the United States doesn't respect the opinions of others. So, we are swimming a little bit upstream on this. But, I think a