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Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - U.S. Policy Towards Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - U.S. Policy Towards Iraq

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): The hearing will please come to order. Starting in July the committee has held a series of hearings on U.S. policy towards Iraq. We've heard from a broad range of experts and witnesses, former senior officials, on the basic questions before the country, which is what threat does Iraq pose the United States? What are our possible responses? How do our allies around the world and our friends in the region see the problem? What would be our responsibilities the day after? What's the goal that we have here?

I think the president is dead right about the danger of Saddam Hussein but I also -- the witnesses and my colleagues are tired of hearing me say this. I think no matter how well formulated a foreign policy it will not be sustained very long without the informed consent of the American people. So one of the questions I've been asking is at what point after, if it gets to this, that we, quote, "take down Saddam" at what point does the secretary of Defense and the secretary of State turn to the president and say we're done here, Mr. President. We've met our goals and we can go home. And I think we should be talking about that.

This morning we're continuing inquiry with two Americans who've had an extraordinary impact on our country's foreign policy and security problems, former secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and former secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger. This committee has heard from them on many occasions in the past and I'm pleased to welcome them both here again to help us work through a difficult challenge posed by Iraq. This afternoon we're going to hear from the current secretary of State, Colin Powell, and I will have a lengthier statement at that time.

For now, let me simply welcome our two witnesses and tell them how pleased we are they are here for this important process and yield to my very good friend from North Carolina, Senator Helms.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: Let me again thank you both, and there are a number of questions, as you can tell by the attendance here. I would like to focus on just one aspect. And I apologize for being parochial in the sense that articulating my view I arrive at the same spot that you both do, which is that it's not a question of if, it's a question of when and how we deal with this problem of Saddam Hussein. I, for one, think that the distinction made by Dr. Kissinger is a very important one and implied by the comments of Secretary Albright that we need not yield to a newly and not fully articulated doctrine of preemption to justify action against Saddam Hussein.

And I am operating on the premise that I'm likely to be faced with voting for a resolution that I think is not a good resolution because I believe that the president will not go alone. I believe there are other nations in the world, whether it's a Kosovo model or a U.N. model, that we will not be alone, and I am quite confident of that. But I do worry about a resolution that sets a precedence for future presidents, Democrat and Republican, that they'll be able to turn, assuming I'm here after November, and say, well, Biden, you voted for a resolution that said the following.

And so I have resolution -- we all have a resolution in front of us that I think is so broad and unnecessarily broad without articulating the rationale for action. And a conclusion that I've reached as a matter of policy that the president should be in a position to be able to enforce the U.N. resolutions, preferably with the U.N. stepping up to the ball, clearly with some outside help, but if need be reserving the right to enforce them alone. But we've kind of put the cart before the horse here in a sense.

The president keeps saying that he has not made a decision about war. I believe him, he said that privately, he said that publicly. And yet he's asking us for the equivalent of a declaration of war.

I can't think of any time in American history where there has been a resolution sought authorizing the use of force at the discretion of the president against an individual country before the president has come to the American people and us and said this is what I intend to do. That disturbs me. It further disturbs me that there's no clear articulation as it relates to precedent, based on the administration witnesses as to what the rationale, the legal rationale for action is.

In the Armed Services Committee, some of the testimony was, as I understand it -- I did not attend at all but just on the reading of the news excerpts, was that it fits within this doctrine of preemption. I, for one, would like to see a resolution making clear that that is not the basis upon which we were giving the president authority, adopting a non-articulated or I think poorly articulated doctrine of preemption that has been -- warrants the debate Dr. Kissinger refers to, led by the United States, as to whether or not the world should change its attitude toward -- if I'm not mistaken, you pointed out, Dr. Kissinger, it was back as far as the first half of the 1600s, that after the religious wars, we agreed on a modus operandi of how we proceed as to what constitutes a legitimate action on the part of one nation state moving against another nation state. And to change that blithely is, I think, a very dangerous precedent.

And so it leads me, believe it or not, to a question, coming from a Senator who is likely to vote for what is probably going to be an imperfect resolution, but because I think the president should be in a position to be able to enforce the U.N. resolutions. Now, here's my question. Given the sequence of events that got us to this moment, this hearing, and the primary rationale being offered by the administration at the moment for wanting us to act, the United States Congress, is that it strengthens his hand at the United Nations to get the United Nations to do the thing that they should do, and that is jointly enforce a violation of what effectively are the conditions of surrender of a country that invaded another country, lost the war, and agreed to a set of conditions in the wake of that loss, the U.N. resolutions, and that this would strengthen the president's hand.

If that is the case, and I think it's a legitimate case, then it seems to me we should be saying to the president in a resolution, Mr. President, we authorize you to act in conjunction with any U.N. -- not any, with the U.N. resolution that -- a Security Council resolution authorizing force in the absence of Saddam agreeing to unfettered inspection. And if the Security Council does not give you that or if that is granted to the Security Council and Saddam resists, then we authorize you with some further conditions to use force independently if need be.

Can either of you tell me why that's not a more rational way for us to do this in terms of making two cases: one giving the president sufficient authority, and two, not leaving the impression around the world in allowing us to be subject to the criticism that comes from many quarters of the world that we're ignoring international law, that we're ignoring the United Nations, that we are acting independently and we're acting without any serious consideration of what the rest of the world thinks, because nobody that I know suggests we can win the second war and I agree they're inseparable. Although there's no evidence that Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were united in their effort of 9/11, none that I have heard -- no matter what's implied, none that I've heard -- that we need the cooperation of the intelligence services from Beijing to Moscow to Berlin to Singapore in order to win that second fight.

So in the waning seconds of my time here, would it not be a better way to sequence, not condition, not condition, but to sequence any resolution we have rather than give a broad declaration to the president? When you have in the New York Times today, whether it's true or not, an article saying that there's a disagreement still within the administration as to whether or not we want the U.N. involved and one unnamed spokesperson saying all we need is the congressional declaration and we can go, it doesn't matter what the U.N. does.

Can you speak to that? I realize that's a long question but it's fairly basic. Does it make more sense to sequence? Not condition. Or should we just go the other way?

MS. ALBRIGHT: If I might, Mr. Chairman, I think you've asked a key question here because it goes to the relationship between the role of Congress and our participation in an international organization. I have, I think, the dubious honor of having spent more time on dealing on Iraqi resolutions both as U.N. ambassador and as secretary of State than anybody else. And when I went to New York first in 1993 we had these resolutions on the table and we worked very hard to try to get compliance with them through a variety of means which I will not go through that you all know.

I am the first one to testify to the fact that it gets harder and harder to get coordination and compliance by everybody on the Security Council. It was there initially. It's harder and harder to get. But when you get it, it is a really big deal because it does allow you to have more legitimacy behind the way you operate abroad. Obviously when you can't get it, as we didn't on Kosovo, we took another route but at least we could see whether we were trying that particular approach.

If I might just say this, when I sat at the U.N. I used to sit there and think in my political science professor mode, that this is the most fascinating thing in the world. That you actually are talking about what is going on inside another country and that you have the right to do that. That is a very different concept that came into existence and, as Secretary Kissinger said, we're in a very different phase where there are non-state actors and you have to look at things in a different way.

Nobody is denying the complication of this. But it seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that your suggestion makes a great deal of sense. I also know that when I was at the U.N. and as secretary, it helps a lot when you have the power of Congress behind you. It's a big plus in your pocket. And so I think a resolution -- I'm not going to get into the wording of it --

SEN. BIDEN: I'm not either.

MS. ALBRIGHT: -- makes sense. But the other thing I must say that bothers, if I might say this, I think we are loading too much onto this issue. There are many people within or outside the administration that had a different agenda from the very beginning and I think they are finding this in some ways a useful horse. And I think the issue of preemption is a huge issue and I would definitely agree with Secretary Kissinger that it is worth discussing. It is a huge deal. It is a totally different way of operating.

It's one thing for self-defense and I think that becomes a complicated issue when how quickly do you move when you believe you're being attacked? But I think to load this issue now with a major discussion of change in our whole strategic policy is a mistake and I think we need to deal with this issue as you have presented it and as I've heard the discussion. But we don't need to load it with ideological issues that had nothing to do with this in the first place.

SEN. BIDEN: Dr. Kissinger.

MR. KISSINGER: When the president spoke at the General Assembly he did not base the case on a general doctrine of preemption. He based the case on the violations by Iraq of a whole series of U.N. resolutions and agreements to the Gulf War.

SEN. BIDEN: I agree.

MR. KISSINGER: So, therefore, the issue of preemption is inherent in the terrorist challenge because you have non-state actors operating from the territory of states in pursuit of objectives that go beyond national borders. It is not an issue, however, that needs to be settled theoretically now in order to justify action against Iraq. It is sufficient to examine the behavior of Iraq and the violation of its undertakings and of U.N. resolutions.

Secondly, in order to establish a relationship between terrorism and violations of U.N. resolutions in Iraq, it is not necessary to prove a specific connection between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. It is sufficient to point out that the motive -- one of the motives -- of the terrorist groups is the belief that the will of the West and of the United States is flagging, that they can assert their claims by a ruthless demonstration of power. And to the extent that a country that is surrounded by the nations that are acquiescing in or helping terrorists explicitly, is getting away with the violation of the international system, to that extent its psychological support for terrorism will grow.

So the reason why I believe that the two issues cannot be separated is that psychological and geopolitical connection and why I believe that action on the violation of U.N. resolutions is a part of the war against terrorism, independent of whether Al-Qaeda had connections in Baghdad, of which I have no personal knowledge. I would also think that the newspapers tend to emphasize whatever disagreements may exist at middle and lower levels. My impression is that, and the secretary of State will undoubtedly express himself more convincingly on this than I can, that on the basic principles that we're discussing here the administration is united and that the basic principles that we're discussing are in the fundamental national interest and so perceived.

SEN. BIDEN: I thank you very much.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: I don't want to take up Senator Boxer's time. She's been so patient, but I was involved in that negotiation. I think -- I don't want to characterize anybody else -- speak for myself. The reason why I felt comfortable in voting for the amended resolution was the addition of the paragraphs that said the government of Iraq is immaterial and unacceptable breach of international obligations, there for the president to urge to take appropriate action.

In accordance with the constitution and relevant laws of the United States and the other one that we've talked about, Public Law 105338 on October 31st, added a section which, I may be mistaken, but I think I was in the room and helped draft which was section 8 'Rule of Construction' which says, "Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the issue of the United States Armed Forces except as provided in section 482 in carrying out this act" and that was giving aid and assistance. So it's a material --

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: So, again, it's not a matter of argument. At least I'm not trying to. Hopefully we can do what we've always done with these resolutions. Whether they've been sent up, this was not sent up by the administration. The resolutions sent up by the administration going all the way back to the Gulf War or as recently as 9/11 and that is when we've got cooler heads, we sit down, we work through. Administrations have cooperated. We've ended up with something we could all live with. It gave the president the necessary authority needed to meet the limited objective he's stating. And hopefully that process is still underway and we'll be able to do that. And I'm anxious to work with the senator to incorporate what degree he agrees with Senator Lugar and me or anyone else additional language.

But let me yield and apologize but yield to the senator for --

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: I apologize to Secretary Albright for this additional intervention. It will just take a second. I want to make sure the record is straight. My understanding is that the comment was made earlier on that some within the administration were engaged in irrational exuberance about war. I don't think that was said of the president. The second point --

MS. ALBRIGHT: I said that, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: No, I know that. I just want to make sure that we're talking about here so we don't -- because we are trying to all -- and the witnesses are incredibly helpful to this degree -- we're trying to work something out here. We're trying to get this cooperatively. We're not looking for disagreement. We're looking for agreement to deal with, we all agree, a bad guy and a bad situation, meaning Saddam.

Part of the reason why I think we're in this dilemma is that, as recently as today in the press -- and I can tell you from my personal experience -- there is still real disagreement within this administration about how to proceed. Now, I know secretary of state is going to tell us there's not much. But there is or has been, at least up until today. And so part of our problem relates to whether or not we pick up the paper and read a statement made by, say, Mr. Wolfowitz as opposed to a statement made by secretary of state. Sometimes, they are way apart. The president is working his way through deciding who he agrees with on each of the things. But there's guarantee there's a fundamental difference being presented to the president on these issues.

And the second point I'd make is, the senator from Indiana and I had an opportunity to meet with the Russian foreign minister, Mr. Ivanov. We asked about amendments to a new resolution in the Security Council.

His initial response to us was, there was no need for one. As we pursued this along the lines of Dr. Kissinger's comments and Secretary Albright's comments, we said that the inspection regime, as played out prior to them being removed, was not good enough.

The point Dr. Kissinger made, we could not interview potential defectors and/or collaborators because Kofi would come along and said, "You're allowed to have an Iranian military person standing in the room." That is unacceptable. We also discussed the possibility, the need for a military force to accompany the inspectors and to that -- and I'm anxious to hear what the secretary of state today has to say -- the foreign minister he was open to that, the Russians were open to that.

So I would not be so quick -- and I know neither of the witnesses suggested it -- I would not be so quick to suggest that Secretary Powell may not be able to pull of something very positive here to get us down this road we all say we want to go down. And so I just want to make those two points as it relates to how this is beginning to move and hopefully, God willing, and as my grandpop used to say, and the crick not rising, we can end up at the end of the day with the same kind of resolution agreement we had as we worked through the '98 resolution with sufficient safeguards built into it.

But any rate, and Senator, you and the senator from Florida, can take more time than anybody has had on this questioning to ask your questions because you've been so patient.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. Not that you ever need me to defend you, Dr. Kissinger, but as I listened to Senator Sarbanes and your response, am I missing something or is there -- it seems to me that your underlined premise is that if and when the president takes action he's not going to be antagonizing the rest of the world? That he's going to have a sufficient portion of the rest of the world with him. Is that part of the -- I mean because I think everybody agrees if the rest of the world --

MR. KISSINGER: But that is my underlying premise.

SEN. BIDEN: So, again, although there's a disagreement, one of the things that I find the most difficult is I try to go through this.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: That's okay. You've been here three hours. You've been incredible. I just want to conclude by (a) thanking you, but (b) also pointing out what I think is a fair statement, I hope is a fair statement. And that is that as it relates to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, as policymakers writ large the president, the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense, they're never going to have any more than 75 percent of the facts they need to know to be certain. There is no place we reach the point where there's certainty.

So where we peel off among us is a degree to which, it seems to me, is not observation, a degree to which we think certain things are going to fall in place. I happen to agree with Dr. Kissinger on this point. I can't fathom the president going alone. I just can't fathom the president going alone. If I'm wrong about that -- and I'm going to have to end up taking a chance here when I vote. If I'm wrong about that, I have made a tragic mistake because he would be making a tragic mistake if he went alone. But that comes down to a little bit of faith here. I mean, it comes down to the point where, at least for me, what I don't know I have to look at, and based on my personal conversations, public conversations, I have to take a chance. We all do at some point, we're not going to get all the facts here.

One point I would make, though, and I'd publicly urge the president. He made a very compelling case to the United Nations as to why Iraq has violated the United Nations standards. That is a different case than the case to the American people of what he is asking the American people to be prepared to do. I'll end where I began this hearing. I am absolutely convinced that no matter how well-formulated a foreign policy, it cannot be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. And at this moment, the president -- we do not have that informed consent.

You go home and -- and I'll just read from today's paper, the Washington Times. It says, "An increasing number of Republican lawmakers are saying that President Bush has not made the convincing case of using force against Iraq, although they accept the Congress to overwhelmingly approve a resolution authorizing military force." Representative Michael N. Castle of Delaware, a very good personal friend, said the same thing I've been saying at home and what I've been hearing at home. He said that, 'The administration lobbying job on Capitol Hill has been so dismal that the best arguments by far thus far have been made by Tony Blair."

He goes on to say, "'There is almost no discussion with the administration,' said Mr. Castle, a member of the House Intelligence Committee." I don't know if they think we're all glued to the Sunday talk shows, but we're not. Most of us have questions. Members of Congress are not getting the information. Quote, "No Republican mentioned the public disagreements among the Democrats.

I'm looking for more information' said Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois, a Republican member of the Intelligence Committee. They need to make a stronger case," and I could go on and on.

Now, that doesn't mean the case isn't there. That does not mean the case is not there. I have the advantage or disadvantage of having access to on a regular basis the secretary of State, the president, because of this job. But I really think it's very important, very important that the case be made in more detail and not confuse having made the case of a violation of U.N. resolutions as being synonymous with having made the case to the American people that we may be asking them, not only as my friend from Kansas says, taking a chance here, we have to be prepared. Are we prepared?

For example, we had testimony in our first -- our second set of hearings from a retired executive director of the -- Colonel Scott Feil, F-e-i-l, whose job was after conflict resolution questions and what we do. He says, "The requirements are providing a core security for the largest city, about 10 million in population and the largest eight, which is about 40 percent of the population, and humanitarian efforts. Securing WMD and associated facilities, patrolling the Iranian border areas, the Kurdish areas, protecting the Shatt el-Arab and oilfields, monitoring the region from The Tigris and the Euphrates and the Syrian border, the Tigris and Euphrates contain the bulk of the population. And then conducting the integrated disarmament and demobilization process as coordinated with the integrated efforts."

He goes on to say, "The total cost of this force, once again based on U.S. equivalents, and there's wide variation in the counting, could range up to $16 billion a year for a force of 75,000 to operate within Iraq." Now, it may not be 75,000.

But I'll conclude by saying in my last meeting with the president, along with 10 other, quote, "congressional leaders," the president turned to me in the presence of everyone, as he asked other people, and he said, "Mr. Chairman, what do you think?" and I said, "Mr. President, I'll be with you as long as you make a clear case to the American people, including telling them we're going to have to be there for a while, we're going to have to put American forces on the ground there for a while and it could cost a lot of money." His response was, "I will do that." That has not been done yet.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: I thank the senator. I'm making that point and I appreciate you allowing -- the witnesses sticking around for your intramural discussion here. But I'm making an additional point, an additional point. Not merely what the threat is, which is critically important, but what we're going to ask of the American people to meet the threat. I think they are prepared, but we have to tell them.

What I worry about after being here 30 years, I do not want to go through a process where we engage, we succeed in the military front, we lost some or many American forces in the process but we will succeed, and then find 18 months from now we don't have the same people who call for going to war refusing in a budget price to say I'm going to vote for an extra $30 billion for Iraq this year instead of -- which will have to be made -- instead of a tax cut or prescription drugs or for whatever it is. Because they're the choices we're going to have to make.

And I watched in Afghanistan, Mr. Secretary -- Mr. and Mrs. Secretary here. I asked -- I sat with the president for literally hours, over three hours on this. The president said we need a mini Marshall Plan, president said we need to have forces there to provide securities, president said this is a long-term obligation, president said we're in there for a long haul. We can't get the House and we can't get some of our colleagues to vote the money we need there. Now, I don't want to be around when my son, who just got back from Kosovo, or his friends are sitting in the middle of Baghdad and the United States Senate says, wait a minute, you didn't tell me that we had to vote for an extra 10, 20, 30, $40 billion to finish this job. I want everybody on the line.

My father, who died two weeks ago, used to say, I like to know who's in charge so I know who to hold responsible. And we -- I'm prepared to do it but I don't want to be part of an outfit that votes to send us to war or give the president that authority and then leave him hanging or be unsure he's willing to come back to us and say, "Pay the price. I promise you, if we go forget your permanent tax cut. There ain't enough money. If we go, forget the idea that we're going to have massive new health care program."

I'm prepared to make those choices, but let's not kid the American people because I ain't in for a guns and butter routine here. I'm not going down that route again. I first met the distinguished secretary of State when I got here as a 29 year old kid and the first meeting ever was on the War in Vietnam. I'm not going there again. So we've got to tell the people what the likely price even though we don't know for certain. It may be a lot less. We've got to tell them the truth.

We'll have the secretary of State, the present secretary of State at 2:30. I thank my colleagues. It's been incredibly helpful and you've been here for over three hours. We owe you.

MS. ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Adjourn)


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