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ward Iraq. He is the first cabinet-level official to appear on the Hill regarding Iraq, so we are all anxious to discuss these matters with him today.
Secretary Rumsfeld is joined by General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Welcome, gentlemen. Thank you for being with us.
Mr. Secretary, before we ask you for your opening remarks, I want to invite Mr. Skelton, the distinguished gentleman from Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the committee, to offer any comments he might have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hunter can be found in the Appendix on page 137.]
STATEMENT OF HON. IKE SKELTON, A REPRESENTATIVE
FROM MISSOURI, RANKING MEMBER, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
Mr. SKELTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Secretar general, we welcome you, and we look forward to your testimony today. This is certainly a critical time for us to be considering American action against Iraq. President Bush has made clear to Congress, to 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, and I applaud his realization that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein is one that faces the United Nations as a whole, and I think all agree that Saddam Hussein 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 UN action in the face of Iraqi defiance? 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 long-term implication for American 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 sustaining an urban operation or operations on the 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 should we decide to put them in harm's way.
In considering the long-term aspects and the question of use of force, I am reminded of Karl von Clausewitz's maxim, which is in his book, “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 the Second World War. In today's dynamic battlefield, we don't have the luxury of years to prepare. How can we build a stable and a democratic Iraq that takes all major groups, Shia, Sunni, Kurd into account? How will we handle members of the Baath Party and those scientists and those engineers that design weapons of mass destruction for Iraq? 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 attack Iraq must begin with answers to these questions about the strategy for achieving victory and the long-term responsibilities that come with doing so.
With answers to these questions, Mr. Secretary and General, I look forward to supporting the President in helping to craft a Congressional authorization to do so.
I thank both witnesses for being with us today and for sharing your expertise and hopefully providing answers to these very difficult, but very important, questions. Thank you so much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Skelton can be found in the Appendix on page 139.]
Mr. HUNTER. I thank the distinguished gentleman, and Mr. Secretary, our members on this Armed Services Committee have put in a lot of hours on this question, and we look forward to working with you and hearing your testimony.
We thank you for being with us. The floor is yours, sir.
STATEMENT OF HON. DONALD H. RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF
DEFENSE Secretary RUMSFELD. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Skelton, members of the committee. I have submitted a rather lengthy statement which I would like included in the record. It sets out
Mr. HUNTER. Without objection.
Secretary RUMSFELD. Thank you. It sets forth a number of the elements of the case that the President presented with respect to Iraq in some detail and also attempts to respond to a number of the questions that have been raised over recent days and weeks. What I would like to do is to hit some of the high points of that statement. As we all know, this is not an intelligence briefing. I understand that the committee has very recently, in fact maybe this morning, received an intelligence briefing, and it is also an open hearing. So my remarks will reflect those two facts.
Today I do want to discuss the task of preventing attacks of even greater magnitude than what was experienced on September 11th, attacks that could conceivably kill not just thousands of Americans but potentially tens of thousands of our fellow citizens.
As we meet, chemists and biologists and scientists are toiling in weapons lab and underground bunkers working to give the most dangerous dictators weapons of unprecedented power and lethality. The effect posed by those regimes is real, it is dangerous, and as the President pointed out, it is growing with each passing day. We have entered a new security environment in the 21st century, one where terrorist movements in terrorist states are developing capacities to cause unprecedented destruction.
Today our margin of error is notably different than was the case previously, in the 20th century when we were dealing with conventional weapons for the most part. Today we are dealing with weapons of mass destruction that of course tend to be used not against combatants, but against innocent men, women and children, as well. We are in an age of little or no warning when threats can emerge suddenly to surprise us. Terrorist states are finding ways to gain access to these powerful weapons, and in word and deed, they have demonstrated a willingness to use those capabilities.
Moreover, after September 11th, they have discovered a new means of delivering those weapons: terrorist networks. To the extent that they might transfer weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups—and we know terrorist groups are actively seeking those weapons—they could readily conceal their responsibility for attacks on our people. So we are on notice. An attack very likely will be attempted. The only question is when and by what technique. It could be months, it could be a year, it could be years, but it will happen, and each of us needs to pause and think about that.
If the worst were to happen, not one of us here today would be able to honestly say that it was a surprise, because it will not be a surprise. We have connected the dots, as much as as is humanly possible before the fact. Only by waiting until after the event could we have proof positive, and by then, needless to say, it will be too late.
The question facing us is this: What is the responsible course of action for our country? Do we believe it is our responsibility to wait for a weapon of mass destruction 9-11, or is it the responsibility of free people to do something, to take steps to deal with such a threat before such an attack occurs?
[Disturbance in hearing room.]
Mr. HUNTER. If we could ask the staff to see to it that our guest is escorted.
Mr. Secretary, we will be with you in a minute. Mr. Secretary, we are going to put them down as undecided.
Secretary RUMSFELD. Mr. Chairman, as I listen to those comments, it struck me what a wonderful thing free speech is, and of course the country that threw the inspectors out was not the United States. It was not the United Nations. It was Iraq that threw the inspectors out, and they have thrown them out, and they have rejected 16 resolutions of the United Nations and stipulations, but of course, people like that are not able to go into Iraq and make demonstrations like that because they don't have free speech.
I think one other point I would make before proceeding is that there is obviously a misunderstanding on the part of those who think that the goal is inspections. The goal isn't inspections. The goal is disarmament. That is what was agreed to by Iraq. That is what was understood by the United Nations. The ease with which people can migrate over and suggest that the task before the world is inspections, you can only have inspections when a country is cooperating with you. They have to agree that that is—they have the same goal as those that are attempting to validate something. So one would hope that those thoughts could be a part of this dialogue.
There are a number of terrorist states pursuing weapons of mass destruction: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, to name but a few. But no terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. These facts about the Saddam Hussein regime I think should be part of this record in our country's considerations.
He ordered the use of chemical weapons against his own people, in one case killing some 5,000 innocent civilians. His regime invaded two of its neighbors and launched ballistic missiles at four of its neighbors. He plays host to terrorist networks, assassinates his opponents, both in Iraq and abroad, and has attempted to assassinate a former President of the United States. He has executed members of his cabinet. He has ordered doctors to surgically remove the ears of military deserters.
His regime has committed genocide and ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, ordering the extermination of over 50,000 people. His regime on an almost daily basis continues to fire missiles and artillery at U.S. and coalition aircraft as they fulfill the U.N. mission with respect to Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch. His regime has amassed large clandestine stocks of biological weapons, including anthrax and botulism toxin and possibly smallpox. His regime has amassed large clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons including VX and Sarin and mustard gas. His regime has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons. And let there be no doubt about it, his regime has dozens of ballistic missiles and is working to extend their range in violation of U.N. restrictions.
His regime has in place an elaborate organized system of denial and deception to frustrate both inspectors and outside intelligence efforts. His regime has diverted funds from the U.N. Oil for Food Program, funds intended to help feed starving Iraqi civilians, to fund his weapons of mass destruction programs. And his regime has violated 16 U.N. resolutions, repeatedly defying the will of the international community without cost or consequence.
As the President warned the United Nations last week, the Saddam Hussein regime is a grave and gathering danger. It is a danger we do not have the option to ignore. In his U.N. address, the President explained why we should not allow the Iraqi regime to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and he issued a challenge to the international community to enforce the numerous resolutions that the U.N. passed and that the Iraqis have defied and to show that the U.N. is determined not to become irrelevant.
President Bush has made clear that the United States wants to work with the U.N. Security Council, but he made clear the consequences of Iraq's continued defiance. He said, “The purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced or action will be unavoidable, and a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power."
The President has asked Members of the House and the Senate to support actions that may be necessary to deliver on that pledge. He urged that the Congress act before the recess. He asked that you send a clear signal to the world community and to the Iraqi regime that our country is united in purpose and prepared to act. It is important that Congress send that message before the U.N. Security Council votes. Delaying a vote in Congress would send a wrong message in my view, just as we are asking the international community to take a stand and as we are cautioning the Iraqi regime to respond and consider its options.
It was Congress that changed the objective of U.S. policy from containment to regime change by the passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998. The President is now asking Congress to support that policy.
A decision to use military force is never easy, and it is important that the issues surrounding this decision be discussed and debated. In recent weeks, a number of questions have been surfaced by Members of the Congress and others. Some of the arguments raised are truly important. And in my prepared testimony, I attempted to discuss in detail a whole series of those questions and what I believe to be appropriate responses. Let me touch on a few this morning
Some have asked whether an attack on Iraq would disrupt and distract from the U.S. global war on terror. The answer is that Iraq is part of the global war on terror. Stopping terrorist regimes from acquiring weapons of mass destruction is a key objective of that war, and we can fight all elements of the global war on terror simultaneously. As the members of this committee know well, our strategy includes the ability to win decisively in one theater and be able to occupy a country, to near simultaneously swiftly defeat a country in another theater, to provide for homeland defense and a number of lesser contingencies such as Bosnia and Kosovo. That is what our force sizing construct is. That is what was briefed to this committee. So let there be no doubt but that we can do both at the same time.
Our principal goal of the war on terror is to stop another 9/11 or a WMD attack that could make a 9/11 seem modest by comparison, and to do it before it happens. Whether that threat comes from a terrorist regime or a terrorist network is beside the point. Our objective is to stop them regardless of the source.
Another question that has been asked is where is the smoking gun? Well, the last thing we want to see is a smoking gun. A gun smokes after it has been fired, and the goal must be to stop such an action before it happens. As the President told the United Nations, “The first time we may be completely certain that a terrorist state has nuclear weapons is when, God forbid, they use one. And we owe it to our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming,”.
If someone is waiting for a so-called smoking gun, it is certain that we will have waited too long. But the question raises another