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Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Assessing the State of Iraqi Corruption

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Assessing the State of Iraqi Corruption

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. JIM COOPER (D-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this hearing.

And I appreciate the bravery, particularly, of Judge Radhi.

As members of Congress know, and hopefully the public knows, General Jones, the Marine Corps general, issued a bipartisan report just last month. It was called The Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq. And, of course, there are two missions we've been training the Iraqi folks for: military and police. I trust all the witnesses are familiar with this report, because it says, quote, "Sectarianism and corruption are pervasive in the Ministry of Interior and cripple the ministry's ability to accomplish its mission to provide internal security of Iraqi citizens," end of quote.

Things are apparently so bad at the Interior Ministry that this report by General Jones, a Marine Corps general, recommends that the entire National Police be disbanded. Here's exactly what the report concluded. Quote, "Conclusion: The National Police have proven operationally ineffective. Sectarianism in its units undermine its ability to provide security. The force is not viable in its current form. The National Police should be disbanded and reorganized." That's a pretty damning conclusion.

Mr. Bowen, as the inspector general, what is your opinion? Have corruption and sectarianism really gotten to this point that the Jones recommendation is appropriate -- to scrap the National Police and start all over?

MR. BOWEN: I am very familiar with that issue and that report. And indeed I met with members of the Multinational Security Transmission Command - Iraq that is in charge of training the National Police, and they independently confirmed to me the problem of infiltration in the National Police, as well as other problems in the IPS and other Iraqi security forces, and the facility protection services, as well.

But the National Police is a very serious issue. It's managed quite directly from the MOI, and the corruption that grew within it -- which is really a sectarian infiltration that was condoned over several years -- has produced the situation that General Jones quite accurately addressed, and his solution, I think, is on point.

REP. COOPER: Judge Radhi knows the situation better than any of us do. One of the most disturbing elements of this conclusion of the report was that the previous minister of the interior was a man -- and forgive me if I mispronounce it -- Bayan Jabr --

MR. AL-RADHI: (Through interpreter.) Bayan Jabr.

REP. COOPER: -- Bayan Jabr -- and it was under his leadership that the ministry became so heavily politicized. The report, for example, says that Mr. Jabr gave key ministry posts to members of the Badr Brigade, and the Badr Brigade militia infiltrated Iraqi police units throughout Iraq.

Judge Radhi, to your knowledge, was Mr. Jabr a member of the Badr organization?

MR. AL-RADHI: (Through interpreter.) This issue of course I know about it from the media, because I do not have a political relationship with them. However, I can say that these security ministries are now divided among the sectarianism and sectarianism influence, and therefore you see that their performance is not a good performance.

REP. COOPER: The amazing thing to me is it's my understanding, even though Mr. Jabr was the previous minister of Interior, instead of being punished or reformed or in any way changed, now it's my understanding he's been promoted to be minister of Finance, which is truly astonishing.

Judge Radhi, given Mr. Jabr's record at the Interior Ministry, do you have any concerns about what he is doing as minister of finance?

MR. AL-RADHI: (Through interpreter.) My concern is towards the ministries themselves, because the sectarian quotas are ongoing, and therefore these ministries are not protecting the Iraqi people. And therefore you see that the security is continuously deteriorating.

REP. WAXMAN: Thank you, Mr. Cooper.

REP. COOPER: Thank you.

REP. WAXMAN: Have you completed what you wanted to say?

REP. COOPER: Yes.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. COOPER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

I think in this hearing today we've seen a pretty stark contrast. We saw in the first panel Judge Radhi, who is risking his life to tell us the truth. And here you are in the position of not being willing to risk your career to tell us the truth. Now, I'm not faulting you. Most people wouldn't want to risk their career.

But we have the responsibility of raising money from the American people to pay for this war. And Judge Radhi told us in his testimony that, quote, "the cost of corruption that my commission has uncovered so far across all the ministries in Iraq has been estimated to be as high as $18 billion." Now, maybe that's Iraqi money. My friend, Mr. Shays, tried to make that point. But money is fungible.

Now, I think total U.S. appropriations for reconstruction in Iraq has been about $20 billion. And if money is fungible and they can swap Iraqi money for dollars, we may have been party to taxing American citizens to pay for massive new levels of corruption, heretofore unseen in Iraq. We've been in the country for four or five years now. They haven't exactly pulled out of the bottom of the ratings and the corruption index.

The dispute we've had over what's an open testimony and what's classified, viewers should understand that it's not what we hear in a classified session -- and we'd like to learn as much as we possibly can -- but by hearing it in that session, then we're unable to talk about it. So the taxpayers don't get any new information. If you can't tell us here, they will not learn a thing.

And here, sir, the people rule. And after four or five years of this -- a longer engagement than World War II -- they're kind of wondering what we should do. And we need to supply them with answers. And it shouldn't be an ideological dispute.

Now, let me ask you -- I talked about the Jones Commission before -- an excellent, independent, bipartisan commission that reported last month, led by Marine Corps General James Jones. And he said, "Sectarianism and corruption are pervasive in the Ministry of Interior and cripple the ministry's ability to accomplish its mission to provide internal security to Iraqi citizens." He said it was basically so bad we've got to disband the whole thing.

What is your opinion of General Jones' view of the Ministry of Interior's behavior? Is he right or wrong?

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Congressman, in 2004 the U.N. restored sovereignty to the Iraqi government. The recommendation to what happens with the -- with the Ministry of Interior and the police forces, it would be a decision for the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the Iraqi government.

Your first comment, my job here is to protect the lives and the interests of the people that are in Baghdad and throughout the country, from Erbil down to Basra. Some of the details that have been alluded to would have the potential of compromising their relationships and operations. I'm sure you will appreciate that. This is -- military calls it operational security, OPSEC.

And the second part of it is our ability to have influence and be able to maintain trust with our interlocutors in Iraq is something which is very much covered by -- by national security information. It's a judgment call, and I have the -- I have an obligation to them, not to my career, but to the people who can't be here to -- to answer your questions but have a very hard job to do. Judge Radhi and his colleagues risked their lives. Some lost their lives. He's left his country and his homeland and done a courageous thing by coming before the committee. There are folks still there who have to finish the job, and the job will take as long as the job -- as long as the job takes.

I can't predict when it will end. I've never seen corruption entirely rooted out or defeated anywhere. But the Iraqis, because it's their country, have to develop the capacities. And your oversight is -- is more than appropriate. It's very welcome, to make sure that we in the executive branch are doing what we're supposed to do, what we can do, to support Iraq, develop the institutions and the capability to reduce corruption to the point where it doesn't affect economic development, where it doesn't fuel sectarian tension, and it helps this country become a strong and vibrant democracy.

REP. COOPER: Marine Corps General Jones is as patriotic as you are. Mr. Bowen, the SIGIR inspector general of Iraq, is as patriotic as you are. They're telling us what sounds more like the truth than what you are, at least in an open setting.

Final point -- I see my time's running out -- Secretary Rice said in October 2006, quote, "They" -- the Iraqis -- "need to do more of the kind of thing that apparently the Interior Ministry is trying to do." So here she is in a public forum complimenting the same ministry that General Jones tells us is so sectarian, so corrupt, basically the Iraqi police need to be disbanded. Why is our secretary of the -- secretary of State saying things that are so directly at odds with the Jones Commission?

MR. BUTLER: General Jones and his very distinguished panel, who spent considerable time in Iraq in August and September, did so as private citizens, with considerable extraordinary service in uniform to the country and the police service, as well. Chief Ramsey was a member of that commission. I certainly respect their professional judgments based on what they saw or heard out there, and we're looking very hard at it. The Department of Defense, as you know, has primary responsibility for the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense.

REP. COOPER: I see that my time has expired, Mr. Chairman.

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