Statement of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell
Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
*Secretary of State Colin Powell testifies before McConnell's committee*
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following statement today during the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the FY'04 budget request for the State Department. Testifying before McConnell's committee was Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"Welcome, Mr. Secretary. It is always a pleasure to have you appear before this Subcommittee.
"Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the President, his entire Cabinet, and our soldiers and sailors for the quick and decisive victory in Iraq. Once again, we have affirmed that we have the best trained, equipped and disciplined military in the world, and the best leaders on - and off - the battlefield.
"The victory in Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq, and the challenge now falls upon the coalition to repair damaged infrastructure, establish democratic institutions, and vest the principles of freedom and justice in the consciousness and lives of the Iraqi people. While Congress included $2.5 billion for these efforts in the war supplemental, the country's natural resources provide an advantage that will hopefully sustain and accelerate the reform and recovery process. The United Nations should immediately end the sanctions against Iraq so that profits from these resources can go directly to the people of Iraq.
"While some believe that political transition in Iraq alone will be a harbinger of reform throughout the region, a more effective catalyst for change comes in the form of a trinity: (1) a quick and successful democratic transition in Iraq; (2) a workable roadmap for security and peace between Palestinians and Israelis that includes new Palestinian leadership that, first and foremost, actively combats terrorism; and, (3) a bold, new approach to America's support of political and legal reforms across that region.
"If this trinity is realized, the impetus for political reforms throughout the Middle East will be inevitable and unstoppable. The Arab street will find a voice in democratic institutions and through responsive leaders chosen by ballots - not bullets, bullying, or Israel bashing.
"The state of political reform in Egypt, including adherence to the rule of law and the functioning of democratic institutions, provides a good barometer of democratic change in the region. I believe that as goes Egypt, so goes the Middle East.
"Shifting to North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom's ongoing bluster and its appalling repression of the North Korean people continue to be a grave concern to many of us. Although attention to North Korea's nuclear program may have been overshadowed by military operations in Iraq, I am hopeful the State Department will continue to focus on the myriad challenges posed by this nation. From nuclear weapons to narcotics trafficking and a potential North East Asian nuclear arms race, the North Korean regime poses a growing and dangerous threat to its neighbors and the United States.
"Negotiating with North Korea is no small or easy task. This is a country that makes France look trustworthy.
"Let me make a few comments on the fiscal year 2004 request for foreign operations. Over $2 billion is requested for four new accounts that potentially offer more rapid responses to global crises. It would be helpful to the Subcommittee if you could summarize the objectives of each of these new accounts - the Millennium Challenge Account, the U.S. Emergency Fund for Complex Foreign Crises, the Famine Fund, and the Global AIDS Initiative - and provide greater detail on the management of these funds, and overlap, if any, with existing foreign assistance programs.
"The funding request has again been reduced for the Assistance for Eastern Europe and Baltic States (SEED) and Assistance for Independent States (NIS) accounts by $86 million and $179 million, respectively, below the fiscal year 2003 enacted levels. While I fully support graduating countries that receive U.S. foreign aid, I remain concerned that too steep and rapid cuts may have unintended consequences.
"A case in point is Serbia. The recent assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindic has spurred a massive crackdown on organized crime, some of which is linked to cronies of Slobodan Milosevic. It is clear that political, legal and economic reforms are still needed in Serbia, and instead of reducing assistance by $15 million, we should be considering additional support for programs and activities that the bolster these necessary reforms.
"Let me close with a few brief comments on Burma and Cambodia. As predicted, we have not seen progress in the dialogue between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi since her release from house arrest. The news out of Burma reports no signs of reconciliation - only continued repression of the people of Burma by the SPDC, brutal rapes of ethnic girls and women, and unwillingness to meet with the NLD, the U.N. special envoy, and ethnic nationalities. I applaud the State Department's recommendation to the White House that the regime in Burma should not be certified as making progress or cooperating with the United States on counternarcotics matters. It is clear that additional sanctions against the junta in Rangoon are warranted, and I intend to introduce legislation to this effect in the very near future.
"In Cambodia, the attacks earlier this year against Thai interests in Phnom Penh - including the destruction of the Thai Embassy - and the continuing assassination of opposition activists, monks, and judges underscores the lawlessness and impunity that has become the hallmark of the ruling Cambodian People's Party. In such a climate, talk of a Khmer Rouge tribunal using Cambodian courts and judges makes no sense. As parliamentary elections are scheduled in three months time, I encourage the State Department to seize every opportunity to strengthen the hand of the democratic opposition in the run up to these polls.
"Thank you again, Mr. Secretary, for appearing before this Subcommittee and I look forward to your testimony."