Hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations' State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee - Assessing an Effective Diplomatic Program in Iraq
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REP. STEVEN R. ROTHMAN (D-NJ): Thank you, Madame Chairman.
First, thank you, gentlemen, for your service -- your brave service I might add.
I note the mandate for SIGIR, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, is to prevent or deter the misuse of taxpayer dollars through the prevention and detection of fraud, waste and abuse.
We've been in Iraq now for 4-1/2 years, spent over $400 billion, lost over 3,000 Americans dead, 28,000 Americans wounded, as I say over $400 billion of U.S. taxpayer money spent. We now have an all- time high there of 165,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. And according to your testimony and your analysis, so much of the reconstruction and other aspects of life in Iraq, which have resulted in 2-1/2 million Iraqi exiles, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, is that the reconstruction money, the 45 -- or over $40 billion that we have given for reconstruction projects have basically mostly been a failure.
Isn't the definition of foolish behavior to continue a failed enterprise if one's going to continue it in the same way? That's a rhetorical question, and I don't want to use up my time with that question. I have other questions for you.
But we have 165,000 troops in Iraq and we can't provide the security for this reconstruction effort to succeed, with 165,000 troops still there. And General Patraeus says he's going to withdraw 30,000 troops by July -- it couldn't happen fast enough for me -- but by July of 2008 he's going to remove 30,000 troops.
Do you think that's going to improve the ability of our -- of the Iraqis to complete the reconstruction projects, when they can't do it with the 30,000 more that we've got there, the 165,000? I don't think so.
And when Mr. Christoff said that the Iraqis are putting in -- even planning on putting in less of their own money for reconstruction out of their own pockets next year, and they are not even spending the money they put in in their budget line this year.
Wouldn't you say -- I mean is it appropriate to ask you, because you're experts in fraud, waste and abuse -- you know we just had a bill before the House to provide health insurance for 10 million American children, not illegal immigrants, 10 million American children, 35 billion (dollars) over five years. We're spending over $40 billion in Iraq unsuccessfully for their reconstruction; over 400 billion (dollars) for this war. And the president says we don't have $7 billion a year for American children, 10 million American children for their health insurance, but we've got 125 (billion dollars) or 140 billion (dollars) a year for the war.
Don't you think that's a waste of American taxpayer money? Isn't that -- can't we prevent that fraud, waste and abuse by ending this war in Iraq? Gentlemen?
Well, let me ask you this question, because that's obviously too tough. If we were -- apparently, according to your report, one of the great impediments to the successful reconstruction of Iraq is the failure of the Iraqis to reconcile or to come to some agreement on how to share power in their own country amongst themselves on how to live together, and that is, divide up the revenue from oil, and to run their own country. They're not doing it.
We're there for the fourth year, 4-1/2 years now, policing their civil war, and they still won't reconcile. Many people say that the American presence is actually a deterrent, stopping the Iraqis from realizing they have to come together, and they are just waiting for us to leave, and when they do, then they'll be forced to come together.
There already has been a tremendous amount of ethnic cleansing, which your report says that if we were to leave there'd be even more. But there's been a whole -- when you lose 2-1/2 million people in a country or 26 million people, wouldn't you call that some ethnic cleansing?
So can you comment on ethnic cleansing that has already occurred, and can you comment on -- well, do you think that Iran would take over Iraq if we were to leave over the course of a year or two? Would Iran take over Iraq?
MR. BOWEN: I'm not going to answer that one, but I can talk a little bit about ethnic cleansing, because I think that's an important consideration in even assessing the overall security situation in Iraq.
If we look at the attack data going down, but it's not taking into consideration the fact that there might be fewer attacks because you have ethnically cleansed the neighborhoods, particularly in the Baghdad area.
REP. ROTHMAN: Not you, the Iraqis themselves have ethnically cleansed themselves?
MR. BOWEN: Right, that's correct. And then the other important situation to look at is that you have to decide where is the ethnic cleansing, and what has been produced. It's produced 2.2 million refugees that have left. It's produce two million internally displaced persons, IDPs, within the country as well.
REP. ROTHMAN: So wouldn't it -- do you think that it's in America's best interest and especially since you are in charge of preventing fraud, waste and abuse, for us to continue this war without end with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops there permanently when so far the Iraqis are using us there as an excuse not to come together, not to solve their problems, and certainly not to rebuild their society?
Isn't it better for us -- General Patraeus says our military can no longer have the capability of 160,000 troops. They're exhausted. Our Army and Marines are exhausted. That's why they're reducing them.
Don't you believe -- and I'm concluding, Madame Chairman -- that since it's inevitable that we're going to have to withdraw and reduce our numbers, because our own general states our troops are exhausted, that we begin to plan now for the withdrawal of U.S. forces to encourage as best we can the Iraqis to fill the void and come together, police their own civil war, or goodness sakes, solve their own civil war. And we can rebuild our military and spend our money defending ourselves around the world and our homeland from attack?
MR. BOWEN: Yes, sir, two components of preparation that are ongoing with regard to that next July -- scheduled next July departure that you refer to. One is the transition called provincial Iraqi control of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces, that to date from the Iraqi security forces fund we've spent about seven-and-a-half billion (dollars) equipping and training.
That -- it was supposed to be next March; it's now next July that all 18 provinces will be transferred to Iraqi security control.
On the civil front, legislatively there are also important benchmarks that have to be met that have not been met. Provincial powers law that tells provincial councils what their authorities are needs to pass. Provincial elections -- what I referred to earlier that need to occur because of the imbalances as a result of the 2005 elections. And three, the hydrocarbon law that you alluded to. It defines the distribution of the vast revenues derived from Iraqi oil wealth. Those are significant hurdles that must be cleared to achieve the overall reconciliation --
REP. ROTHMAN: And none of that's happened --
REP. LOWEY: Mr. Kirk.
REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you.
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