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Hearing on Post-Saddam Iraq

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on Post-Saddam Iraq

BIDEN:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for having this hearing. I think, in a sense, you and I have been like a broken record since last spring, attempting to focus on this subject.

BIDEN:
All the members sitting here before you now are from a generation—the so-called Vietnam generation—that we may have had different views during the conduct of that war and we may have different views as to the consequences of that war, but I suspect, without talking to any of my colleagues, we would all agree on one thing—that the one lesson universally learned from Vietnam is that a foreign policy, no matter how well or poorly articulated cannot be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. There is no informed consent today. The American people have no notion what we are about to undertake.

I have focused on, with my experience of—in my state and my region and in other parts of the country—I have focused on the war in Iraq in terms of and from the perspective of the last war in Iraq. I believe—and I don't know what the polls would say, but I can tell you what my anecdotal evidence is—and I suspect my colleagues don't have a very different view. I think most of our constituents think if we go to war the war will be swift and successful, as close to bloodless as they've become accustomed to in Kosovo and the last Gulf War and that Johnny and Jane are going to come marching home again quickly.

There has been an overwhelming reluctance on the part of the administration to speak to—even acknowledge in the witnesses we had in the summer—of the necessity to have a significant concentration of American forces in place in Iraq for some period of time.

We're going to hear from Colonel Feil and Mr. Cordesman and General Zinni. We have heard from them in the past. I believe they were here about five months ago—six months ago telling us, "get ready"—not "don't do it"—not "do it," but "get ready." We're about to take—undertake an enormous—an enormous responsibility, not only for our own safety's sake, but for the regions.

That is not a reason not to proceed against Saddam Hussein, but it is a compelling reason to discuss, in as much detail as possible, what we're about to ask of the American people. I think they are fully prepared to do whatever is asked of them if it's rationale.

But I am very concerned—and I will say this, although I do not speak for the military—Mr. Feith's at Defense—but I had an opportunity to speak with a couple hundred generals assembled in the Gulf not long ago. And they all asked privately and some public—well, not publicly—it was a closed meeting—the—they asked—they wanted to know whether or not—asked the Senator from Nebraska and I were we going to be there when it's over and the guns go silent. Were we going to, when it came down to deciding we had to put another $10 billion, $20 billion, $30 billion, $40 billion, $50 billion—and the estimates vary greatly and it will depend on how the fighting takes place, if it occurs—are we going to make sure we don't do what we've done in Afghanistan? We have now safely committed the fate of Afghanistan, in large part, to the warlords.

I'm told when I speak to members of the administration, "Things are all right in Western Afghanistan—Ishmael Khan is in charge." I find that very reassuring. We now have, essentially, "Ameri-Kabul" (ph), a guy named Karzi and a struggle between what we have in Afghanistan and the warlords for control of Afghanistan.

As far back as last spring, speaking to the French and—speaking for myself—speaking to the French foreign ministers and defense ministers—the Germans and everyone else, the one thing that was most often raised with me was, "All right, we think you should go, but when it goes, what are you going to do? Are you going to do what you did—or you're doing in Afghanistan?"

We appropriated—we authorized $200 million for Afghanistan. We didn't appropriate any of it. We were told, "We don't need any more in Afghanistan." To state the obvious, Iraq is a heck of a lot more complicated—heck of a lot more sophisticated and they live in a neighborhood that is very, very, very, very complex.

And so, I don't think we're talking about the day after. I don't think we're talking about post-conflict policy in terms of weeks. I think we're talking about the decade after. That's just my view. I hope I can be dissuaded that that's the extent of the commitment.

Mr. Chairman, maintaining a secure environment after a possible war with Iraq is going to be the center (ph) cornon (ph) for any positive change we wish to bring to Iraq. I suspect we'll discover the definition of security will take on a very broad dimension—patrolling cities and borders; mediating between rival groups; helping refugees return peacefully; remaking a new Iraqi Army; helping those discharged find employment; and arbitrating the most mundane of local disputes.

I predict to you that Kirkuk is going to make Metroveechio (ph) look like a picnic.

When the Senator and I concluded this, Mr. Chairman—when the Senator and I had our little seven—eight-hour car ride through the mountains of northern Iraq in the middle of the night to meet with the Kurds, they went way out of their way to demonstrate to us how much progress they had made. And it was obvious they had in their semi- state of autonomy up there since the no-fly zone has been imposed.

And then they went out of their way—and I'll—don't speak—I don't do that—no one speaks for Senator Hagel, but I suspect because we talked so much about it we also were impressed by how much of the way they went to tell us that the Barzani and Talabani (ph) clans were together and they were united and they were resolved.

But then they'd say, as we were leaving, "But, by the way, Kirkuk, we've been ethnically expelled from Kirkuk for the past 20 years, methodically replacing IndoEuropean Kurd with Sunni—with an abSunni (ph). We're going home."
"The oil is a national asset," they add—quickly add, "but Kirkuk is ours. You're going to guarantee that for us, aren't you?"

So I just think whatever we do we have to understand we're about to make some significant commitment. And I hope we will not do the kinds of things we have done over the 30 years I have been here and that is decide to leave the women and men—the warriors after they do—after they do the fighting without a long-term commitment we're going to give them whatever they need, even if it means reducing the tax cut, not having health care, not increasing money for education, not moving to fix our highway, not doing anything else. That is the single, solitary first fundamental commitment we make.

And I, quite frankly, expect the president to keep the commitment he made publicly and privately to a bunch of us and to me, personally, that he will tell the American people that's the deal—that's the deal.

And so I ask unanimous consent that the remainder of my statement be placed in the record. I can think of no more important hearing than this at the moment. And I know you're going to follow through on not just this generic look at this end, but we're going to go down the line to try to flesh this out.

We don't expect all of the answers, but we do expect an acknowledgement that this is a gigantic undertaking in what—the word that we don't like to hear—"nation building"—"nation building."
Thank you.

BIDEN:
Mr. Chairman, I have been...
First of all I want to thank both witnesses for being here.
And Secretary Feith, I think your explanation of the response to we're going for oil needs to be repeated and repeated and repeated. I was recently on French television when I was at the World Economic Forum. And a group of French journalists asked me if this is about oil and I said, "Yes." And they said, "Ah, an American admits it." I said, "It's about French oil. It's about French oil."

(LAUGHTER)
Because they are the ones with significant investment. They are the ones with a significant opportunity. They are the ones, along with the Russians, who have a phenomenal opportunity, they think, under Saddam, to be able to benefit.
So I think that should be repeated.

And, again, I thank you both for being here. And you are not the ones to whom I am directing this. I have been publicly and privately, I think, as supportive as I can be to this administration. I must tell you I think it's been close to irresponsible that we do not have an office that you are talking about now set up until three weeks ago. I think it is irresponsible. I think the comments of the secretary of defense as recently as this summer with this—where he said to us—and I'm paraphrasing—that he did not think there would be a need for any large commitment of U.S. forces after victory because this is a country rich with oil and well-trained people—Secretary Weinberg, as Mr. Feith will remember testifying, when he testified told us he didn't think this was just a red herring to keep from going in—the people who raised this issue were people who really didn't want to deal with Saddam Hussein.

And it does disturb me that, although you say that how this transition is going to take place is not knowable—you have guidelines, certain things are knowable—at least you should know them by now, with all due respect. You should know whether or not this is going to be the transition, even though you may find these—this bevy of incredibly neutral technocrats and bureaucrats who will be accepted by the Kurds, the Shiite and the Sunni, who are not part of the security apparatus—to keep the water running and the lights on and the traffic flowing, et cetera, they have to answer to somebody—somebody.

Who's that going to be? Is that going to be an American general? Is that going to be, like we have in Bosnia, the EU and some European? Is it going to be the United Nations? Those decisions I can't fathom—when we're three weeks away from war or five weeks away from war, possibly—you don't know the answer to yet—you haven't made a decision yet.

They are monumental. The debate is still going on in the press, at least, as to whether or not the model is going to be a McArthur model in Japan or a—for lack of a better phrase, as often used—a Kosovo model, where you have someone else taking the responsibility day-to-day. Somebody's going to have to make the judgment. Somebody's going to be sitting in a chair, and it won't be a technocrat, who, when you have 2,000 Kurds standing on the outskirts of Kirkuk saying, "We want our house back—we want our property back,"—somebody's going to have to negotiate that. Somebody's going to be standing there, as my friend the former governor of Ohio knows from all his work he and I did in the Balkans—somebody. And you all haven't figured out whether that's going to be a UN official, backed by American forces and others—that's going to be a EU official—that's going to be a NATO official or that's going to be an American.

So my question is this—rather than tell me—and you've done more than generically respond, but generically what the guidelines are—what are the missions that you believe the military and the civilian side are going to have to be fulfilled in the first six months after the shooting stops? By "missions," I mean securing the borders—I'm not—I'm not—I'm not telling you what the missions should be, but just giving—illustrative—what are the missions that you must know by now must be undertaken by some entity other than an Iraqi entity at the front end of this?

BIDEN:
What are the missions? It's not even who's going to do them—what are the missions—preventing ethnic conflict, securing the borders? You mentioned one clearly we've focused on correctly is securing the oil fields or getting them back up and running. What are the missions that you have decided—not you, personally, but the administration decided must be fulfilled and can only be fulfilled by some outside entity or group of people overseeing—outside entity overseeing an indigenous group of Iraqis that must be fulfilled to prevent this country from splitting apart like a gyroscope out of kilter?

Thank you for listening to me and I'm anxious to hear your answer.

GROSSMAN:
Mr. Biden, let me try to answer all that I can. And I know Doug will have some views, as well.

BIDEN:
All you have to do is answer the mission part. You can respond to my comments.

GROSSMAN:
Well, I'd like to—I'd like to respond to the question of the decision of who runs that section two—the middle section, if you will, of...

BIDEN:
Well, I'm worried about section one.

GROSSMAN:
No—but I think it's related and important to it...

BIDEN:
OK.

GROSSMAN:
... if you don't mind, sir.

BIDEN:
Sure.

GROSSMAN:
One of the reasons that we have not made this decision—or I should properly say, the president hasn't made this decision—is if you list, as you did, the possible groups that could take on that mission, who do you list—United Nations, the European Union, the United States?

I think you will understand that from our perspective, and perhaps we're doing this too slow, but from our perspective, I can't answer the question yet of whether I want to have a United Nations transitional authority until I know what the United Nations is or is not going to do if there has to be military conflict. For example, if we go through, as the president said last week—and he now welcomes and supports a second resolution and we are successful in getting a second resolution and 15 to nothing or something less than 15 to nothing the United Nations says, "Yes, Saddam Hussein hasn't met his obligations under 1441 -- let's go," then the United Nations role, possibly, in a transition or in the first six or eight weeks could be a big one.

BIDEN:
Marc, you're the single best negotiator I have observed in my last 10 years here. You know darned well the way you should be talking with the United Nations is say, "Look, if you guys are in on the deal, here's what we'd like you to do." What they wonder about is whether or not you want them in on the deal.

And if that doesn't work, you should be talking to the EU. You can walk and chew gum at the same time. You don't have to wait to see what they're going to do. One of the problems is they're worried that you all don't have a plan.
Every European leader I've met with the last year is worried you don't have any plan because they've heard all this rhetoric about no nation building—heard all of this rhetoric about "we're warriors—we're going to fight the war and we're going to leave." They've heard all of this rhetoric and guess what? They believe our rhetoric. Fortunately, we don't, but they believe it.
(LAUGHTER)

GROSSMAN:
Just let me come back.

BIDEN:
Sure. I apologize for...

GROSSMAN:
No, let's just—you make a fair point. But in terms of a negotiation right now, the United Nations—this issue is to the United Nations—it's to the Security Council—the Security Council has a decision to make about whether it's going to back its 15 to nothing vote under 1441. And I will speak truly for myself here and, again, I say, no decisions have been made.

But you can see a completely different path, Mr. Biden, if there—if the United Nations Security Council votes again 15 to nothing for a new resolution, then it seems to me we might consider a role or some role for the United Nations. I say, no decision has been made—that is my view. But if the United Nations does not meet its responsibilities, then it's very much harder, I think, for us to come and argue in front of all of you that in a part of phase one or part of phase two that we would turn this over to some international body.

I don't know the answer to that question. But I just wanted to let you know that it's not for lack of thinking about it, it's the fact that you've got—from our perspective, you've got to get the sequence right.

And I believe the same thing would apply to the European Union. I would guess that if you went to an EU meeting today and you made a proposition to them the first thing they would say is, "Well, when's there going to be—is there going to be another UN Security Council resolution?" And we would say, "We sure hope there is..."
(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN:
Ten-second interruption—you have no trouble saying all along, "Look, we want the UN to go with us. We want a UN resolution. If we don't get that resolution, we'll go ourselves." You could easily have been saying, "We want you all to participate in this. We want this to be a joint operation. We want this to be a joint occupation. We want this to be won by the UN—if, in fact you say that. And—but, by the way, if you don't, then we may have to do it ourselves."
You all haven't done that. And I've talked to all of those foreign ministers and I've talked to all those heads of state. Unless they're not telling me something you're telling them, I don't think you've told them any of that.

GROSSMAN:
Well, private—I don't mean to get in a conflict here, but part of the challenge of course is that we are here today to talk to you about our plans for humanitarian reconstruction—for political reconstruction. And I think it's right that we would be consulting with the United States Senate before we do much more with a lot of—a lot of people outside of the United States.
So...
(LAUGHTER)
... we're here...

BIDEN:
You're good, pal—you're good.

GROSSMAN:
We're here to do—we're here to do a consultation.
(LAUGHTER)
And that's what we're trying to do.

BIDEN:
OK.

GROSSMAN:
So I have—if people—people should be in no doubt about our plan. Let me try to answer the question that you posed about every six months—or for the first six months, excuse me.

You hit, I think, all the important ones—security—as we both emphasized, weapons of mass destruction—trying to bring basic human services to Iraqis. And one of the things that I think is very impressive is—and we're glad to consult further on this or provide further information—USAID, for example, has laid out a very detailed plan for their operations in the first month—month one two—one to three—three to six—in areas of water sanitation, public health, humanitarian, seaport, airports, establishing food distribution, emergency electricity.

So, as I said in my introduction, we now have a stack of these plans that aren't just ideas, but actually lay out one, three and six month timetables. And I'd be glad to put them into the record. And I think you'd be interested in them and take a look at and see the mile markers and you can see our goal is to make real progress.

BIDEN:
Well, that's two functions. You only made—are they the only two functions? In other words, what do mean there—you said "humanitarian."

GROSSMAN:
Right.

BIDEN:
Are we going to secure the borders? Are we going to secure the borders of Iraq? Is that a mission?

GROSSMAN:
Yes.

BIDEN:
OK. Is that going to require troops and—on the Iranian border? Or is it going to require—I mean, what is the mission? What are you anticipating?

FEITH:
Senator, the—it's hard to answer a lot of these "what ifs" because a lot depends on, you know, future events that we don't know. As Secretary Rumsfeld likes to say—it's that he doesn't know whether the—if there is a war it's going to be four days, four months—four weeks, four months. A lot depends on, if there is a war, what the nature of the war is—how much destruction there is—how much cooperation one gets—how many Iraqi units defect. There are enormous uncertainties. And the most you can do in planning is develop concepts on how you would proceed, not rigid plans based on some, you know, inflexible assumptions about how future events are going to unfold. That's our problem. And you know that as well as we do.

What we—so what we have done is we have been thinking this through as precisely as we can, in light of the uncertainties.

Now, on the—on one question that you posed—just so that there is no lack of clarity on that—if there is a war and if U.S.- led coalition forces come into control of Iraq, then the responsibility for administering the country in the immediate aftermath of the war—and the administration is the entire range of missions, then you could imagine that any responsible authority would need to perform for the benefit of the people of the country—that entire range of responsibilities falls to the military commander—it would fall to General Franks.

And the goal then would be, when he has those responsibilities in his hands, to do the things that I outlined and that Undersecretary Grossman outlined in our opening statements, which is make as much use of international contributions as we can so that we spread the responsibilities and burdens and help get as much international involvement and legitimacy into our work there—to work as quickly as we can to find Iraqis to whom we could transfer responsibilities so that it's clear that we are liberating and not occupying the country.

I mean, those are the kinds of missions that we would perform. There would be no question about who ultimately would be responsible if we wind up leading a coalition that takes control of the country. It would be—it would be the military commander. There would be no vacuum of authority. But there would be a process that would begin immediately to try to bring us, sector by sector, into the transition phase that Undersecretary Grossman talked about.

BIDEN:
Thank you.

BIDEN:
I want to read a quote to you that was in a joint session of Congress. "We today shall be judged in the future by the manner in which we meet the unprecedented responsibilities that rest upon us. Not alone in winning the war, but in making certain that the opportunities for future peace and security shall not be lost." That was Cordel Hall (ph). That is from a report that I am sure knowing you both, and as competent and bright as you are, you have already read.

The New York Council on Foreign Relations post (ph) conflict. What I was talking about, Mark, was not what exactly we're going to do. But I was looking for the kind of chart that exists in the back of this report that lists out specifically key economic objectives, key security objectives. I know you've done that. And if you haven't done that, you should all be fired.

But I know you've done that. We have a right to know what that is. We have a right to know what that is. And the last point I'll make, I remember, Mark, being with you and then going down and seeing the president. And the president said what do we do about Iraq. And I said, Mr. President, you have not laid out for our European friends your vision of a post Saddam Iraq.

What is your vision of a post Saddam Iraq? Lay it out in detail. What is your vision? And I think the more you flesh this out publicly for the American people and quite frankly, to our allies who you've shared some of this with, the better chance we have of avoiding the war. Because the better chance we have of getting them (inaudible) war so we don't leave General Zinni's successors high and dry two years from now sitting in Baghdad wondering why in the hell we are putting money into a tax cut or into Medi BIDEN:

Thank you very much. As they say in this business up here, I'd like to associate myself with the remarks of the chairman. Fellows, I find myself perplexed. Over the last year, roughly almost year and-a-half, the president has been generous with his time. He has been patient with me. And I suspect, I know with others. He's had us down. He's had me down alone.

He's had the senator down alone. He's had us down together. And he generally is exploring. I believe and I've been saying publicly not making me the most popular person in the Democratic caucus that I believe he has an open mind. I believe he's trying to find the right answers. I believe his instincts are basically good. I don't mean basically. His instincts are good. He's obviously a good person. I mean, his instincts on what to do in these very difficult decisions he has to make.

And I walk away and everything - I shouldn't say everything. The thrust of everything you three have said with less articulation and less a base (ph) of knowledge when the president has asked me I have said. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who has sat with him alone in the Oval Office—well, not alone, with Dr. Rice or the vice president—and gone into these things in some detail. I know I've witnessed it with Senator Lugar.

I know I'm not the only one that has raised these issues. And I walk away wondering, not did he listen, but this is obviously a group of very bright women and men. Secretary Rumsfeld is an incredibly bright, erudite fellow. And he really is. I'm not being solicitous. The vice president is a very bright, hard nosed guy. Dr. Rice, the secretary of state, the two people we heard here today, the number two people or number three and four I should say.
And I walk away, and I want to know why has none of this been done. Colonel Feil, in any other administration you are in, if you were in the administration, in the defense - not in the administration—in the defense department, I know every commander, General, has to know that these are the questions that have to be answered, whether the same 10. It may be two. There may be 14. But there's clearly - this isn't rocket science knowing what the problem is. And why has it not been done? And I think it's because - and I'd like either, if you feel free, I mean, if you wish to comment, fine. If you don't, I understand.

One of you said - I think it was you, General, is it transition or transformation. What's the goal? I think there's a fundamental debate that still exists in this administration whether it is transition or it is transformation we're committing to.

BIDEN:
Because if that debate is settled, then we clearly have with all the bright people in this administration are much clearer to use the phrase used by our newest member on this committee, a roadmap. You know, we'd know what road we were going down. Because these questions are so obvious.

And the fact that they haven't been addressed contemporaneously with the military planning - General, I was with your old boys as Senator Hagel and I were. He's a military man, Senator Hagel. I think we were both incredibly impressed, incredibly impressed with the detail of the planning and the various contingencies about how to conduct this war.
Now we're smart enough to do that. The idea, Professor, we haven't addressed these other things is beyond my comprehension. And the only answer I can come up with is not that there's not people who know what they're doing. That people haven't decided on transition or transformation. My sinking suspicion is Cheney, Rumsfeld and company it is transition. State and the president's occasional comments talk transformation. And I'll conclude by saying the only reason why were the president to ask me I'm included to give, quote, "more time," to our UN interlocutors. It has nothing to do with inspections. It has nothing to do whether or not we could put 50 times as many inspectors and whether they're going to find these weapons of mass of destruction. It has to do with we ain't ready yet.
We have all the forces there that we need, so I'm told, General. You would know better than any of us. We're fully capable of executing the first phase of this operation. How much or how little bloodshed, how much damage we politically as well as militarily have to take is a question.

But the reason why if I were the president I would be (inaudible) a little bit here in slowing up my deployment and making sure that I talked more about with the French about whether there's more inspectors or whether there's not knowing it's malarkey is that every one of you said, directly or implied, if this is not contemporaneously undertaken, if the moment the gun goes off, General, and the first missile, plane, troop flies, we don't know darn well what those things, Colonel, you talked about and, Professor, you talked about, which I won't go into detail because my time is up, unless they are decided upon at the front end, it seems to me this is a prescription for losing, losing overall, having our interests overall a year from now being more in jeopardy in the world and the region than they are now even though he may be gone.

Because I always ask the rhetorical question when the president said - and God love him. He makes these speeches. And some of them are really good. And some of them I walk away scratching my head. He makes these speeches and others do as well that somehow this is going to answer or make us any safer taking down Saddam in the near term from Al Qaida, from terrorist attacks. If the Lord Almighty came and sat right down with the photographers, he would sit and say look folks, guarantee you, this'll all be done, done quickly and done fine.

I will not go into still (ph) being orange alert in this country. And by the way, if the rationale as Mr. Feith offered in part, in fairness to him, was look, this guy you have to understand has been helping these Palestinians the road to peace in terms of the extreme Palestinian movement. The road to peace rests in getting rid of this guy. Let me tell you, the Iranians make him look like an amateur. The Syrians make him look like a bumbler. What trouble he has caused with Israel in the Middle East is infinitesimal in my view compared - and he does cause trouble - is infinitesimal compared to the trouble that the Iranians, the Syrians and others in the region have caused.

So is the prescription meaning once we do that now we've got to do Syria and Iran? I just think that we're not ready right now. We're not ready right now. And it worries the devil out of me. Unless, unless the administration knows something none of you know—I can tell by your testimony because I've heard you guys before - and something we don't know, that they do have a plan.

They are ready to go. And I didn't get any real warm feeling from the two who testified before who are fine men on short leashes who are trying to declassify. And so, I can't thank you enough for your testimony. Hopefully it'll be sobering enough to wake some people up and figure out we've got to get these decisions made contemporaneous, contemporaneous with the execution of force. I used up my more than five minutes again, not with a question, but with ...
care instead of giving them all the money they need.

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