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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Iraq, Panel 1

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Location: Washington, DC


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Iraq

SEN. BIDEN: The hearing will come to order. We welcome everyone here this morning to what is the beginning of, I hope, for lack of a better phrase, a national dialogue on a very important question. There are very difficult decisions that lie ahead for the president and for the Congress, and I -- we think that it's important, the members of this committee, that we begin to discuss what is being discussed all over, but not here in the Congress so far.
The attacks of 9/11 have forever transformed how Americans see the world. Through tragedy and pain, we've learned that we cannot be complacent about events abroad. We cannot be complacent about those who espouse hatred for us. We must confront clear dangers with a new sense of urgency and resolve.

Saddam Hussein's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, in my view, is one of those clear dangers, even if the right response to his pursuit is not so crystal clear. One thing is clear, these weapons must be dislodged from Saddam Hussein, or Saddam Hussein must be dislodged from power.

President Bush has stated his determination to remove Saddam from power, a view many in Congress share. If that course is pursued, in my view, it matters profoundly how we do it and what we do after we succeed.

The decision to go to war can never be taken lightly. I believe that a foreign policy, especially one that involves the use of force, cannot be sustained in America without the informed consent of the American people.

And so, just as we've done in other important junctures in our history, the Foreign Relations Committee today begins what I hope will be a national dialogue on Iraq that sheds more light than heat, and helps inform the American people so that we can have a more informed basis upon which they can draw their own conclusions.

I'm very pleased and grateful for the close cooperation of my Republican colleagues: Senator Helms in absentia and his staff in particular, Senator Lugar and Senator Hagel in putting these hearings together. This is a bipartisan effort. It reminds me of the way that things used to work on this committee when I joined it, in 1973.

I want to say a word now about what the hearings are not about, from my perspective. They are not designed to prejudice any particular course of action. They are not intended to short-circuit the debate taking place within the administration. I know I speak for all members of the committee in saying at the outset that we recognize our responsibility as we conduct these hearings to do so in a way that reflects the magnitude of the decision the administration is wrestling with and the Congress will have to deal with.

We've coordinated these hearings closely with the White House. We're honoring the administration's desire not to testify at this time. We expect at some later date to convene hearings at which the administration would send representatives to explain their thinking once it has been clarified and determined. We do not expect this week's hearings to exhaust all aspects of this issue; they are a beginning.

But over the next two days, we hope to address several fundamental questions: First, what is the threat from Iraq? Obviously, to fully answer this question will require us to have additional and closed hearings on top of the hearings in S-407 and discussions we've already had with the intelligence community. Second, depend our assessment of the threat, or depending on one's assessment of the threat, what is the appropriate response? And third, how do Iraq's neighbors, others (sic) countries in the region and our allies see the, quote, "Iraqi problem"? And fourth and maybe most important, if we participate in Saddam's departure, what are our responsibilities the day after?

In my judgment, President Bush is right to be concerned about Saddam Hussein's relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the possibility that he may use them or share them with terrorists. Other regimes hostile to the United States and our allies already have or seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. What distinguishes Saddam is that he has used them against his own people and against Iran. And for nearly four years now, Iraq has blocked the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

We want to explore Saddam's track record in acquiring, making and using weapons of mass destruction and likelihood, in the opinion of the experts that will come before us in the next two days -- the likelihood that he would share them with terrorists. We want to know what capabilities Saddam has been able to rebuild since the inspectors were forced out of Iraq and what he now has or might soon acquire. We want to understand his conventional military strength and what dangers he poses to his neighbors, as well as to our forces, should they intervene.

Once we have established a better understanding of the threat, we want to look at the possible responses. The containment strategy pursued since the end of the Gulf War -- and apparently supported by some in our military -- has kept Saddam boxed in. Some advocates for continuing this strategy believe it's exceeded their expectations, and some others advocate the continuation, coupled with tough, unfettered weapons inspection. How practical is that?

Others believe containment raises the risk Saddam will continue to play cat and mouse with the inspectors, build more weapons of mass destruction, and share them with those who wouldn't hesitate to use them against us.

In this view, if we wait for the danger to become clear and present, it could become too late. It could be too late. Acting to change the regime, in this view, may be a better course.

But a military response also raises questions. Some fear that attacking Saddam Hussein would precipitate the very thing we're trying to prevent: his last resort to weapons of mass destruction.

We also have to ask whether resources can be shifted to a major military enterprise in Iraq without compromising the war on terror in other parts of the world.

My father has an expression, God love him. He said, "If everything's equally important to you, Joe, nothing is important." How do we prioritize?

What is the relative value? What are the costs? We have to inquire about the cost of a major military campaign and the impact on our economy. As pointed out yesterday in one of the major newspapers in America, in today's dollars, the cost of the Gulf War was about $75 billion. Our allies paid 80 percent of that, including the Japanese. If we go it alone, does it matter? Will we encompass and take on the whole responsibility? What impact will that have on American security and the economy?

We have to consider what support we're likely to get from our key allies in the Middle East and Europe, and we must examine whether there are any consequences, if we move, for regional stability.

Finally, the least explored, in my view, but in many ways the most critical question relates to our responsibilities, if any, the day after Saddam is taken down, if taken down by the use of the U.S. military.

This is not a theoretical exercise. In Afghanistan, the war was prosecuted exceptionally well, in my view, but the follow-through commitment to Afghanistan's security and reconstruction has, in my judgment, fallen short. It would be a tragedy if we removed a tyrant in Iraq only to leave chaos in its wake. The long-suffering Iraqi people need to know a regime change would benefit them. So do Iraqis' neighbors. We need a better understanding of what it would take to secure Iraq and rebuild it economically and politically. Answering these questions could improve the prospects for military success by demonstrating to Iraqis that we are committed to staying for the long haul.

These are just some of the questions we hope to address today and tomorrow and in future hearings and no doubt in the fall. In short, we need to weigh the risks of action versus the risks of inaction.

To reiterate my key point: If we expect the American people to support their government over the long haul when it makes a difficult decision, if the possibility exists that we may ask hundreds of thousands of our young men and women in uniform to put themselves in harm's way, if it is the consensus or a decision reached by the administration that thousands or tens of thousands of troops would be required to remain behind for an extended period of time, if those measures are required, then we must gain, in my view, the informed consent of the American people.

I welcome our witnesses today. We have a group of extremely competent people, one of whom got on a plane in Sydney and traveled 24 hours straight to be here for this hearing, and others who've come from a long distance as well. These are men and women of stature, background, knowledge, academic and practical understanding of the region and the country. And we're anxious to hear from them.

I'd now like to ask Senator Lugar if he would like to make an opening statement. And although we usually reserve opening statements just to the ranking member and the chairman, I would, since we only have a few people here at the moment, invite my other three colleagues if they would like to make a, quote, "short" -- not as long as the chairman, short -- when you get to be chairman, you can make long statements -- "short" statements.

Senator Lugar.

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SEN. BIDEN: All right, thank you.

Let me just say, to reinforce one point, yesterday at the White House, at the signing of the corporate responsibility bill, the president came up to me in the audience and shook my hand and thanked me for holding these hearings. I want to make it clear; the administration has told me they have not made a decision yet. I take them at their word. They've indicated to me there's nothing in the near term. I take them at their word. And we have not given them a veto right on how we proceed, but we've asked for their cooperation, offered input, as we did from others, any witnesses they would like to have. And so, so far, this is as I think it should be; the beginning of an open discussion in a bipartisan way to examine the major issues we've outlined here.

Let me begin with our first panel. And as I referenced by indirection, Ambassador Richard Butler, and I sincerely thank him for literally getting on a plane in Sydney and coming. He obviously thinks these are important or he wouldn't have made that trip.

Richard Butler has served as the executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission, the so-called UNSCOM, from '97 to '99. He was also the permanent representative of Australia to the United Nations from '92 to '97. He's currently a diplomat in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, and one of the most articulate men in the world actually, on the subject of Saddam Hussein and Iraq. And we're delighted he's here.

Dr. Hamza. Dr. Hamza is a director -- am I pronouncing it correctly, Doctor? -- is director of the Council for Middle Eastern Affairs in New York. He was a top Iraqi nuclear engineer working on Iraq's nuclear weapons program until he defected in 1994. He is the author of the book, "Saddam's Bombmaker." And we appreciate him being here and look forward to his testimony.

And a man we often see on television, and who's been kind enough to share his wisdom with this committee on many occasions, Professor Anthony H. Cordesman. Professor Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He's also a national security analyst for ABC. And we thank him as well for being here.

Gentlemen, if you could proceed. And I realize -- we told you five minutes. I'm not going to hold you literally to five minutes, what you have to say is so important. But if you can keep it in the range of 10 minutes, because we want to be able to engage you. And we will -- and you've all been before -- maybe Dr. Hamza hasn't -- we're going to have to break about probably 10 after 11:00 and be gone for 40 minutes. With a little bit of luck, we will be able to get this panel finished, or if we're still engaged, we'll ask you to hang around if we can.

But with that, why don't I now yield the floor to you, Mr. Ambassador. And again, thank you for the effort and your service.

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SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. I particularly agree with your last point. I've been pushing for eight months. He should be indicted as a war criminal. Even if we cannot get him, he should be indicted as a war criminal, so the world understands.

Doctor, welcome.

MR. HAMZA: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: The floor is yours.

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SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Doctor. Professor Cordesman.

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SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much. Why don't we, in the interest of time, limit our questions in this first round, if there is a second round, to five minutes. Let me begin.

The thrust of your statement, Professor, is that if we're going to go, we should go at Saddam with a serious force; that this idea being discussed of inside-out and a relatively small number of people and decapitation, I would assess from your comments, you think would not be a prudent way to proceed. Am I misreading you?

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SEN. BIDEN: Now, Doctor, let me ask you, in your book, you discuss the merits of helping scientists working on the regime's weapons of mass destruction to escape Iraq. Based on your experience, what was the missing ingredient, if there was one, in Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, its human expertise for research, its design and production, or raw ingredients, for example highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons? What was the -- what was the weakest link?

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SEN. BIDEN: Do you have any reason to believe they have surmounted those bottlenecks?

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SEN. BIDEN: How much does Saddam rely upon the expertise of scientists, foreign scientists, such as unemployed Russian scientists and others? How much of the scientific research and development is done by non-Iraqis?

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SEN. BIDEN: In conclusion, how confident are you about your assertion you used in your statement, saying that by 2005, you believe the Iraqi government will have enough fissile material to build three nuclear weapons?

MR. HAMZA: This is the German assessment I mentioned. As I mentioned in the report, I took up parts of the statements to save time. But this is the German (BMD ?) assessment based on what it observed from Iraqi defectors and Iraq capabilities.

SEN. BIDEN: When was that assessment made?

MR. HAMZA: It was made last year. And there are reports that they repeated it this year again. It was February in 2001.

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SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.

Can I ask for a point of clarification, Professor? Without Qatar, without Bahrain, without Kuwait, is it possible to launch successfully a military action that has a high probability of success and a relatively low probability of high casualties for American forces?

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SEN. BIDEN: All right, thank you. I appreciate the indulgence of my colleagues.

Senator Hagel.

Obviously, we don't have the vote at 11:00 yet, so we're going to just keep going till we -- (bells sound indicating a vote). (Laughter.)

Well, why don't you proceed anyway, Senator, and we'll go through this round.

Will you all be able to stay? Again, they said four votes, which means it will at least be --

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SEN. BIDEN: We're going to come back. One of the things I'm sure we're going to be asking you is, to the extent that Saddam Hussein is a unique element in this picture, what is Iraq without Saddam Hussein? How dangerous is it even if it were merely -- if he dropped dead tomorrow? How would that -- that all by itself. Nothing else. Just Saddam Hussein -- how would that alter the situation, if at all?

(Sounds gavel.)

(Recess.)

SEN. BIDEN: (Sounds gavel.) The hearing will come to order. I thank our witnesses for their indulgence -- of all days to have four votes back to back it was today. I apologize for that. Let me now yield to Senator Feingold. I think he's next in line here.

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SEN. BIDEN: I am going to ask a couple of questions. Then I'll yield to my colleague. And I'll try to do this quickly. Mr. Ambassador, I share your view that Saddam at all costs will agree to no inspection that may cost him his weapons of mass destruction. But I have a different question. Is it possible to construct an inspection regime that if it were agreed to -- we both agree it is not likely to be -- but if it were that it would be efficacious, that you would have some -- how intrusive would it have to be in order to have some significant expectation that you would be able to root out the bulk of his biological, chemical and/or potential nuclear capacity?

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SEN. BIDEN: Some in our Defense Department make the argument that notwithstanding the fact you theoretically can be allowed to go anywhere anytime. And over the last four years the regime has been able to, through mobilizing if you will -- making mobile their biological weapons laboratories -- and digging deep into the ground in places where we don't know that even if we were free to roam we would still not be able to do the job.

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SEN. BIDEN: I acknowledge that -- understand that. That is able to be done by Iraq, even if Saddam is gone.

MR. CORDESMAN: Yes.

SEN. BIDEN: And so I think we should be -- look, we are looking for here -- at least I am looking for the broadest, most rational understanding of what our options are and what we can and cannot be certain of. And the truth is there's a lot of things we can't be certain of, but everything is probabilities as we move down this road.

I realize my time is up. I am going to follow up though, with the permission of my colleagues, on one question, and that relates to nuclear capability able to be married to a missile, a medium-range or longer-range missile. Both of you who have been involved in the inspections side of this in the past, and you, Doctor, who are involved in the production side, if you will, to use the phrase loosely, would be as qualified as any witnesses we are going to have to answer the following question, and that is that if Saddam were successful in building an intermediate-range missile or a missile that is much further than 160 kilometers, and if he were able to provide a nuclear warhead on that missile -- as we all know, it's a heck of a lot easier to put a chemical or biological warhead, for no other reason for the laymen out there, other than the pure weight of the object.

Would we be able to have enough notice of that, not in terms of whether they develop the capacity on the nuclear side, but on the missile side? And would we be able to preemptively move against that system, that nuclear delivery system, as others have on other occasions? Do you understand my question? Ambassador Butler or --

MR. BUTLER: Why don't you start?

SEN. BIDEN: -- Doctor?

MR. HAMZA: There are two stages, Senator, for the delivery system to be successful. One is that the nuclear weapon itself has to be hardened to withstand the missile itself, which can --

SEN. BIDEN: What you mean by that is it has to be hardened enough so the vibration and the thrust and the force can -- the warhead can sustain that to stay intact. Correct?

MR. HAMZA: Yeah. Iraq has not done that. Until I left -- now, I'm talking about eight years since I left -- we had no, as I said, high-level defector to tell us what is going on down there. In any case, I expect -- because that was defined as a defined project, and work to be done. So Iraq needed to do that at the time. I don't know if it has been done. I don't think the inspectors found anything in that direction up to 1998. They are in a better position to answer that. My impression, they did not find any trace of serious Iraqi work in that direction. Whether it happened since 1998 till now, my guess it would.

The second stage is mating that to a missile. The Iraqi missiles have a problem; that is, the payload gets much smaller with increased range, because what they are doing is not --

SEN. BIDEN: And I'm translating here -- by payload, you mean -- I know -- I mean, it's important, I think, if this is being listened to by the American people -- the payload means the actual weapon that sits on top of that missile --

MR. HAMZA: Exactly.

SEN. BIDEN: -- and that the heavier that payload, the less distance that same missile could travel.

MR. HAMZA: Exactly.

SEN. BIDEN: If it had a light payload, it can travel further; if a heavier payload, it travels less far. Correct? That's what you mean.

MR. HAMZA: Exactly. And the problem with the Iraq missile system is that Iraq did not develop a medium-range missile. It took short-range missiles and extended the range. And that meant the payload will be smaller eventually. So we had that problem; we faced it when I was there. And that was one of the things -- that wasn't -- I don't know if Iraq resolved that either.

So the problem of delivery of a nuclear warhead by a missile remains to be questionable by Iraq. So one has to look at other options that Iraq could use to deliver its missiles. But my belief right now, Iraq does not have this capability yet.

SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador.

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SEN. BIDEN: In the past -- and Professor, I'd like you to respond as well -- in the past -- I've been doing this arms control strategic doctrine issue for 30 years now -- when we were talking about Russia, we used to always say Russia would never deploy what they haven't flight-tested; Russia would never rest -- no nation would rest its security based upon a missile or a system that hadn't been tested.

I assume we're operating on a different premise relative to this fellow. But would there not -- add to your answer, if you would, whether or not there would be a requirement for some. Or is there it required for any flight testing in any way for this guy to engage in the contemplated use of that combination of a missile and a warhead that's nuclear?

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SEN. BIDEN: Again, for our listeners, we're talking about a whole system. We're talking about an intermediate or a short-range nuclear missile. We're not talking --

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SEN. BIDEN: Isn't that a difference, though, between testing a chemical agent and relying upon testing -- I mean, using, without having tested at all, a nuclear warhead on a missile?

MR. CORDESMAN: As Ambassador Butler pointed out, what makes this man different from all other proliferators is his proven history of risk-taking. And the fact that the nuclear weapon might never get near its intended target --

SEN. BIDEN: Would be irrelevant to him?

MR. CORDESMAN: -- will not always be reassuring. Let me just add one other point about biological and chemical weapons. It is extremely difficult to put useful biological and chemical weapons on a missile warhead. It requires exact fusing and a non-destructive mechanism to do it. Nothing Iraq had -- and I will defer to Ambassador Butler and Dr. Hamza -- in 1998 that was discovered by UNSCOM came close to that. They were sort of solid warheads, filled warheads with contact fuses.

The only problem I would give here is a lot of that fusing is becoming commercially available, and the best non-explosive dissemination device, unfortunately, is the air bag used in cars. So you can't rule that possibility out.

SEN. BIDEN: If I can translate what you just said, it's difficult and it's important. And I have one concluding question, and I'll yield a longer round to each of my colleagues if they have it. If we operate on the premise -- and I have been corralling men and women like you for the past year who are experts in your field and having them -- boring them to death with questions for hours on end in my office, trying to gain as much knowledge and background as I can.

And one of the things, whether people are, quote, "for moving or not moving," one consensus I seem to get from whomever I speak, wherever they are in the equation of moving sooner than later or not moving at all or containing or whatever, is that this is a different breed of cat, this fellow, and that if, in fact, he is cornered, if, in fact, his regime is about to come to an end, that's the place at which he is the most dangerous. That's the place he's most likely to use whatever it is that he has that can be the most destructive.

And they also, I am -- the thing that I hear most often stated is that the issue is whether or not he will preemptively use any weapon of mass destruction, whether he will use it only in response to an invasion, or that he will use it as a last-ditch effort to save himself by either broadening this to a regional war or whatever.

Why -- what evidence do we have that contained, and beyond what we've provoked so far, unprovoked beyond this point, is that he would offensively, without further provocation, use a weapon of mass destruction when, in fact, the rationale offered by all of you is that this is a guy whose first and foremost desire is to stay in power?

Explain that, what seems to me to be a bit of a conundrum here. Why would he offensively -- for example, the discussion now is we'd better move now, not because he'll have weapons to blackmail us, as they get more sophisticated, but that he may very well deliver these weapons into the hands of terrorists to go do his dirty work, or he would preemptively strike Israel, strike American forces in the region, strike neighbors, et cetera.

Why would he do that? What in his past would indicate he would do that, knowing that, as one of you said, he would invite an incredible response? That seems certain to me he would invite an overwhelming response. A lot of innocent people would die in the interim. But any comment on that? And then I'll yield to my friend from --

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SEN. BIDEN: I appreciate the answer, because I'm not trying to make a case; I'm trying to understand a point, because my instinct, talking to so many people, is that the real concern is his being able to leverage that capability, as opposed to him preemptively waking up one morning and saying, "You know, I'm going to take out Riyadh or I'm going to take out Tel Aviv or I'm going to take out Ankara," assuming he had the range to do that, which he doesn't at this point.

But, at any rate, do you want to conclude? I've really gone beyond my time.

MR. BUTLER: Just very quickly, Senator. I think one must acknowledge that it's extremely uncomfortable for us to know that he's there with these weapons. But one has to draw a distinction, I think, between that discomfort and a rational calculation of what he might do. And if you accept that one of his fundamental imperatives is to stay in power, then it's hard to think that he would wake up one morning and decide, "This is the day that I'm going to go and attack the United States," because he knows that that would be suicide.

So I think that's a very important distinction to draw. No one is comfortable with his weapon status. And why should we be? But one has to keep clear eyes about what he might calculate is in his interest.

SEN. BIDEN: I thank you. And I thank Senator Chafee for his indulgence. Fire away, Senator.

SEN. CHAFEE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. This panel is -- the topic is the threat, and I guess that's probably the most important place to start is the threat. And then in subsequent panels we'll talk about possible responses, regional considerations, the day after and national security perspectives. But, of course, I do think the threat is the most important one, of course.

And there was a recent story in the Washington Post, a Sunday story, which says that many senior U.S. military officers contend that President Hussein, Saddam Hussein, poses no immediate threat and that the United States should continue its policy of containment. I know Senator Lugar and Senator Hagel have talked about containment.

But some of the other quotes from the article are that this approach is held by some top generals and admirals in the military establishment, including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And some of the quotes are, "In my assessment, the whole containment and sanctions policy has worked better than it's given credit for." And another quote is, "We've bottled him up for 11 years, so we're doing okay."

And I do think that it would have been good to have that perspective on this panel for a better balance. I think we've gotten from this panel a perspective that the threat is very real, very immediate. And I maybe would ask you to comment on some of these senior military officials, including, according to the article, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their --

SEN. BIDEN: If the gentleman would yield just for a moment. I apologize.

SEN. CHAFEE: Excuse me.

SEN. BIDEN: But the senator from Florida is going to chair the hearing. I have to leave for a few minutes. And after this panel is over, we'll recess for -- how much time for lunch? -- 45 minutes for lunch when this panel -- I'm not suggesting we finish now. When the panel is finished, we'll recess for 45 minutes.

And I assure you, Senator, there are other witnesses coming along who think the policy of containment is just fine. So I hope you'll find this is extremely balanced when we finish the whole two days of hearings. But I thank you for letting me interrupt, and I'm turning the gavel over to --

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END.


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