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Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee - Defense Department Detention Operations

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service






SEN. TED KENNEDY (D-MA): Thank you very much.

And I join those in commending Secretary Schlesinger and Secretary Brown for their extraordinary service to our country. Thank them.

Just mention quickly, I'd like to put in the record that New York Times article-"General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data." "American interrogators working in Iraq have obtained as much as 50 percent more highly valued intelligence since a series of coercive practices-like hooding, stripping and sleep deprivation-were barred." And none other said Major General Miller, who has basically had it both ways.

So if we're really interested in trying to get the information, I think we have pretty good examples of how that best can be done.

Now, before the war, the Pentagon simply ignored some of the postwar planning carried out by the State Department. I was here in the Senate Armed Services Committee; we had Doug Feith gave a single presentation. I thought it was extremely weak, myself; others thought it was very adequate.

But the civilian leadership at the Defense Department was convinced the war would be fast, cheap and easy, and they ridiculed those like General Shinseki, then chief of staff of the Army; Larry Lindsey, former chairman of the White House National Economic Council, who said that a successful war would requires hundreds of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars. They put their own ideology above practical military planning. We continue to see the catastrophic results.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib are just one part of a much larger failure, and our soldiers have been paying the price since day one. They weren't adequately trained for their mission, and they didn't have adequate equipment for it either-talking about the Abu Ghraib and these reports that we've been considering today. And after the president prematurely declared the mission accomplished, the civilian leadership at DOD took him seriously and left our armed forces in Iraq, I think, under-prepared, understaffed, under-led for the mission they were really just beginning.

And our soldiers have responded to the challenges with immense courage and dedication. That doesn't excuse the incompetence of civilian leadership.

The military leadership, according to the Jones-Fay report, the leadership plans envisioned that General Sanchez would be provided the stability and support to the Coalition Provisional Authority in a relatively non-hostile environment. That's been referred here. The defense leadership did not anticipate or prepare for the robust hostilities that actually occurred-that's on page two of the Jones- Fay report. General Sanchez was missing two-thirds of the personnel he needed for his command in Iraq-that's on page eight of the report.

Of the 1,400 personnel required, the V Corps staff transitioned to 495, roughly a third of the manning requirement. The military police, military intelligence unit at Abu Ghraib, underresourced-that's on page two. Failure to distinguish between Iraq and the other theaters of operation led to confusion about what interrogation techniques were authorized in Iraq-page five. And the intelligence structure was undermanned, underequipped and inappropriately organized for counterinsurgency-page 11.

We also know from General Taguba's report that few if any of the MP soldiers who were assigned to Abu Ghraib had been trained on how to run a prison or on the requirements of the Geneva Convention. Again and again, the glaring mismanagement of the Iraq war has been, I believe, a colossal failure of leadership. No one has been held accountable.

Compare this to the way the Pentagon has handled other leadership failures. A few weeks ago the Navy fired the captain of the USS John F. Kennedy for running over a small boat in the Persian Gulf. The Navy said they had lost confidence in his ability to operate the carrier safely. He was the 11th commanding officer of the Navy to be fired this year. The Navy fired 14 CEOs in 2003. In February 2004 the commanding officer of the USS Samuel Roberts was fired for a loss of confidence after he spent a night off the ship during a port visit in Ecuador. On October 3, 2003 a commanding officer of an EA-6B Prowler aircraft squadron lost his job after one of his jets skidded off a runway. The Navy cited a loss of confidence when they made the decision to fire him. In December 2003, January 2004 respectively, the commanding officers of the submarine Jimmy Carter and USS Gary were fired, both for loss of confidence.

For the military officers in the Navy, the message is clear: if you fail, you're fired. Isn't it time the Department of Defense ran a tighter ship at all levels of command, including the civilian leadership?

Dr. Schlesinger, Dr. Brown, don't you believe that civilian leadership in the Pentagon should be held to the same standard of accountability that military officers-in the Navy, for example-have been held to? Who is accountable? Who should be fired? Should it be Sanchez? Abizaid? Myers? Wolfowitz? Rumsfeld? The president? The buck has to stop somewhere. Every naval officer knows where it stops. Why doesn't the civilian leadership that has made the grievous errors that it has made in judgment and left the soldiers/sailors holding the bag, why aren't they held accountable, too?

MR. SCHLESINGER: Well, it's more complicated than -- (laughs) --

SEN. KENNEDY: More complicated than what? Than --

MR. SCHLESINGER: It's a more complicated issue with regard to these command levels.

In the case of the Navy, if the Navy-if a naval commander runs his ship aground or fails to cover his ship, the Navy has this long tradition that you've pointed out.

But that does not mean that at higher levels, in which one is facing a determined opposition, that the same "fire immediately" is appropriate. If we had had those rules in World War II, we would have fired General Eisenhower right after --

SEN. KENNEDY: We're not in World War II.

MR. SCHLESINGER: -- right after Kasserine Pass. General MacArthur would never have landed in Inchon, simply because he would have been fired --

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, my time --

SEN. SESSIONS: Let him answer, Mr.-Senator Kennedy.

SEN. KENNEDY: Is-yeah, but my time is up. We are talking about --

MR. SCHLESINGER: But the point is that it's different standards --

SEN. KENNEDY: Different standards. We're not in World War II.

MR. BROWN: Well, let me --

SEN. KENNEDY: And we're talking about inadequate-these are the reports that are coming out. This isn't just what I'm saying. This is what's in the reports. This is what's in those reports. These are the findings.

MR. BROWN: Let me --

SEN. KENNEDY: And there hasn't been, as I know, a single member of the civilian authority that's been held accountable.

MR. BROWN: Let me answer from a perspective that may be rather different from Jim's on the question of how to deal at the highest level, the presidential level.

At each level, the question is loss of confidence. And in the Navy, a loss of confidence goes with grounding your ship. At a higher level, the loss of confidence has to be determined on a basis that's somewhat broader, the full performance, and I think that applies at the highest military levels, and it applies at the level of the secretary of Defense and his staff. The secretary of Defense has to decide whether he's lost confidence in his undersecretaries or his assistant secretaries on the basis of their performance.

And the electorate has to decide, on the basis of its confidence, at election time.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, I'm just --

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, time has expired, Senator Kennedy.

Senator Graham.

SEN. KENNEDY: Yeah, well, just-I'll just yield. I'd be --

SEN. SESSIONS: No, you're well beyond your time, Senator Kennedy.

SEN. KENNEDY: Are you going to cut-I'll be the first one that's been cut off.

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