Federal News Service April 29, 2004 Thursday
April 29, 2004 Thursday
HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE FOREIGN OPERATIONS, EXPORT FINANCING AND RELATED AGENCIES SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: FISCAL YEAR 2005 APPROPRIATIONS FOR SECURITY ASSISTANCE
CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE JIM KOLBE (R-AZ)
WITNESSES: DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE RICHARD ARMITAGE; AND DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PAUL WOLFOWITZ
LOCATION: 2359 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
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REP. KOLBE: Mr. Jackson.
REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have just a couple of questions, Mr. Wolfowitz, concerning Mr. Ahmed Chalabi. I'm wondering, did you place too much confidence in the Iraqi exiles before the conflict? And given Ahmed Chalabi's record and 40-year absence, I'm wondering why you found him to be a credible source?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: There are a lot of premises in that question that aren't valid.
If you're talking about his group and their role as a source for intelligence, you'd have to ask the CIA, because all of their intelligence was passed through either the DIA or other elements of the intelligence community.
I think there's quite a bit of street legend out there that somehow he is the favorite of the Defense Department and we had some idea of installing him as the leader of Iraq. He is one of many leaders of the Iraqi opposition with whom we have worked-we, the U.S. government-have worked closely over two administrations-three actually; it started with the first President Bush.
It includes the two very courageous leaders of the Kurdish groups who are sometimes bizarrely referred to as externals, even though they've spent the last -- (chuckles) -- 40 years in Iraq, much of it under Saddam Hussein. I'm referring to Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. There's the Iraqi National Accord, led by Mr. Ayad Alawi. There is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq that was led by the late Mohammad Bakir al-Hakim, who was brutally murdered in the bombing in Najaf.
Our strategy has to be to work with as many different elements of Iraqi leadership as we can find, and we've been working very hard to find leaders from inside Iraq, people who did not spend all their time in exile-although I think it's a real disservice to dismiss people who fought, sometimes inside Iraq, quite bravely against Saddam as quote, mere exiles. Charles de Gaulle was an exile.
The basic point is we don't have favorites, we shouldn't have favorites. What we want to set up is a process, and Mr. Brahimi is helping us to do this, that will produce the government that is eventually an elected government; that's the choice of the Iraqi people, not the choice of the United States or the United Nations or any foreign entity.
REP. JACKSON: Mr. Secretary, in an interview recently with the London Telegraph, Mr. Chalabi said that he and his group, and I quote, "were heroes in error." And, and I quote, "what was said before is not important." On "60 Minutes" he pinned the blame on the administration for believing the information he provided. And I quote: "Intelligence people, who are supposed to do a better job for their country and their government, did not do such a good job," end quote.
Why is the department still paying Mr. Chalabi's group $340,000 a month? And for $340,000 a month, what is he doing?
Is there any truth to that number, by the way? It's widely reported --
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Mr. Jackson, I'm not certain what is classified and what is unclassified here, but we are getting certainly into the area of very sensitive intelligence collection that's going on. We're paying many groups in Iraq for intelligence. Intelligence is a vital part of this war. I'd be happy to come up here with a classified briefing, because I think it's a very important subject. I can't answer for Mr. Chalabi's comments in the press or elsewhere. You'd have to ask him. We work very hard --
REP. JACKSON: But you can certainly answer --
MR. WOLFOWITZ: -- we work very hard to vet-excuse me-we, the-our intelligence community works very hard to vet its sources, to try to figure out who's telling us the truth and who's telling us stuff for money or telling us stuff they think we want to hear or telling us stuff they want us to hear. It's a very difficult world out there-talking to generals in the field who are on a daily basis trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the true from the false, because soldiers' lives depend on it. But we are getting some extremely valuable information from a whole range of Iraqi groups, including Mr. Chalabi's, and we need to figure out how to get the best available to us.
REP. JACKSON: Mr. Secretary, I appreciate you acknowledging that our brave men and women in the field rely upon good intelligence.
According to Knight Ridder, Mr. Chalabi may have-and I quote-violated restrictions against using taxpayer funds to lobby when it campaigned for U.S. action to oust Saddam Hussein. The White House cited (the/that ?) Chalabi's group fabricated stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in its rationale for going to war. Thus, if the allegation is true, it means that U.S. taxpayer funds paid themselves to be persuaded that it was necessary to invade Iraq, which put U.S. men and women at risk.
Would you care to comment on that?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: As to the question of lobbying, I think that's something that the State Department and IG investigated. I believe Rich might have a further comment to add.
We are looking very carefully at the whole issue of the intelligence that led up to the war. I think you're talking about one particular scrap of it. There are many other pieces. That's what the Silverman-Robb commission is going to be looking into. I'm sure this is one of those many things. But to the best of my knowledge, the one piece of information that's referred to is a single piece. And it's a much, much bigger picture, and we still haven't gotten to ground truth as to what the situation is in Iraq. We continue to learn more about what they had and what might have happened to it.
REP. J. JACKSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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REP. KOLBE: Mr. Jackson.
REP. JACKSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, once again.
Secretary Armitage, a few moments ago you were asked a question by Congresswoman Kaptur about the role that Saddam Hussein had played in 9/11, and you said that there was no role. I thought that was --
MR. ARMITAGE: I said I knew of no role.
REP. JACKSON: I thought that was clear. The stenographer clearly has the record.
But I want to ask a question of-maybe two questions of Mr. Wolfowitz. But let me premise it with some source data.
In "A World Transformed," former President Bush and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft said that, and I quote, "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in mid-stream, engaging in mission creep, and would have incurred incalculable human and political cost."
During that period, since that event, we maintained a no-fly zone and an embargo policy with respect to Iraq, and so there was already a mission, a military mission taking place in Iraq. In 1991 -- and it's a continuous mission since the first Gulf War, I might add. There's no unbroken continuity in our involvement since 1991 in Iraq. Oftentimes these committees fail to acknowledge that we've had a long military policy in Iraq since the first war.
In a 1991 speech, then-secretary of Defense, the vice president, argued, "I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think that if we're going to remove Saddam Hussein, we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have had to commit a lot of force. And once we'd done that, we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have to put another government in its place. It would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in that quagmire inside Iraq."
And then as undersecretary of Defense and policy under Mr. Cheney, Mr. Deputy Secretary was in a crucial position to influence the decision when and how to cease offensive operations as Saddam's forces fled Kuwait. It was the view of virtually all senior members of the first Bush national security team that overthrowing Saddam by force and occupying all of Iraq would be difficult, costly, and require extensive international support.
Mr. Deputy Secretary, the first Bush administration concluded that invading Baghdad in 1991 would have led to mission creep and incalculable human and political cost. And since we already had a containment policy and an embargo policy, I'm wondering, in light of what Secretary Armitage has indicated, that Saddam had no involvement in 9/11, I'm wondering why the mission changed and what made anyone in the national security team believe that it would be easier this time around.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Let me make two points.
First of all, I think the issue in 1991 wasn't whether to go to Baghdad, although you can-people are free to debate that. I think the real issue in 1991 was whether or not we should have done more to support the uprisings that took place in southern Iraq and northern Iraq. And I think the issue throughout the 1990s, as we discussed with Mr. Kirk earlier, was whether the United States should have done more to help the Iraqi people get rid of Saddam Hussein so that we wouldn't be confronted with the situation we found after September 11th.
REP. J. JACKSON: I'm sorry, Mr. Wolfowitz, I'm sorry, just a moment. Secretary Armitage a few moments ago said that the events of September 11th had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein. You just said that after September 11th we were confronted with some new events. What are the new events?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: If-you had a long question. Can I answer it?
REP. J. JACKSON: Sure.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Secondly, the containment policy which you referred to was no free lunch. It cost billions of dollars, it cost American lives. We would not have had people in Khobar except because of the containment. We would not have had the Cole in the gulf monitoring the blockade if it weren't for the containment policy. We would not have shot down our own helicopter over northern Iraq if it were not for the containment policy. But perhaps most importantly, if you go back and read bin Laden's notorious fatwa of 1998, February 1998, his main target is not Israel; his main target is the American presence in Saudi Arabia and the fact that we were on a continuous basis bombing Iraq. It is the containment policy that was the main cause of-that bin Laden cited in his grievance in that same fatwa where he called for killing Americans and Iraqis. The containment policy was very far from cost-free, and it was having real consequences.
Now, because there is no proof that Saddam was involved in September 11th misses some other points. If you go and look at Secretary-excuse me, DCI-the director of Central Intelligence, Mr. Tenet, in his public letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee in October of 2002, he lists a number of ways in which Iraq and al Qaeda were cooperating with one another. If you look at the sealed indictment of Osama bin Laden that was handed down in February of 1998 by the Southern District in New York, I believe, it says that in 1992- 93 bin Laden and Saddam made an agreement not to attack one another, and that they would cooperate. Cooperation doesn't mean they jointly planned September 11th.
But let's look at something else which, for some reason, most people don't know, but it seems to me a rather important fact. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, eight people were indicted for that bombing. Seven of them are now serving long sentences in American prisons. The only one who escaped escaped to Iraq with the assistance of Iraqi Intelligence in Jordan, and was harbored in Iraq for the last 10 years. I don't know why, I don't know whether that means Iraq was complicit. I do think there is an issue there. There are issues of Saddam's harboring terrorists, and not just al Qaeda terrorists: Mr. Abu Nidal and his organization, who are still making bombs that are killing people, at least in Iraq and maybe throughout the Middle East.
This was a regime that supported terrorism. And while Mr. Lewis is correct that I have seen some important benefits that can come from having a democratic country or at least a representative government in Iraq, I still believe Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States, and the president was fully justified in dealing with that threat.
REP. KOLBE: Thank you.
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REP. J. JACKSON: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for this 30 seconds.
I want to make it clear that pre-war intelligence, Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Armitage, is costing Americans their lives. The State Department stopped paying Mr. Al-Chalabi because of inconsistencies in his statements. And then after the State Department stopped paying Mr. Chalabi, the Defense Department picked up Mr. Chalabi's $340,000 a month tab. I plan to offer an amendment, until I get the answer to my question in the full committee, to authorize-or prohibit the Defense Department from paying Mr. Chalabi one cent until we get the answer to his questions, what was said before is not important, and that the intelligence people, who are supposed to do a better job for their country and their government, did not do such a good job. I don't think the American people should be footing his tab any longer, and I will offer that amendment before the full committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. KOLBE: Thank you very much.