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Hearing of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on the Defense Department Budget Request

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service





REP. LEWIS: (Sounds gavel.) The committee will come to order.

It's my privilege to join my colleagues in welcoming the secretary of Defense, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers, our comptroller, Dov Zakheim. Gentlemen, to say the least, you've got your work cut out for you in the weeks and months as well as the years ahead.

This morning it's our pleasure to welcome you here. And by way of doing so I want to begin by expressing to you our deepest appreciation for your ongoing service to the country, and indeed the leadership you're providing for the young men and women who are representing us so well around the world.

On behalf of the committee, I do want to express our empathy, General Myers, for your recent circumstance. Our best to your family. And, one more time, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this ongoing service you've provided, as well as your family has provided.

There's little question that there's been much talk of late about the men and women who make up our force, and the contributions they make to our country as well as to the world. Never has that contribution and the importance of it been demonstrated as well as that which is taking place in the Middle East, and specifically in Iraq. I mean, it is American troops who are making the difference there-the headlines often talking about the controversy and the difficulty that swirls around the loss of lives due to suicide bombers and circumstances that are almost uncontrollable in that triangle near Baghdad. Too seldom is there very much discussion about the other phenomenal things that are going on as a result of the work of our troops-the young people who are acting almost like civics teachers-helping establish city councils around the country; rebuilding of clinics, where medical services are being provided and the like-I mean, a phenomenal story of work by our people, along with Ambassador Bremer, are laying the foundation for future hope for the people of Iraq, and perhaps for freedom in the entire region. It is a contribution to our future that cannot be more strongly expressed or appreciated by members of Congress, but especially this committee.


REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers, thank you both for your service and many young men and women that you represent by being here at this table. That's important.

And, Mr. Secretary, I've heard you speak a number of times. I'm glad you spoke at length today to set the record straight.

May I add just a comment, which is somewhat a propos of Congressman Nethercutt? We've been in the Balkans now for about nine years and I think the figures there are that we've spent about $30 billion. All of those, to the best of my knowledge, and it wasn't a song and dance, were definitely a result of supplementals and I think we were willing, as members of Congress, irrespective of party, to step forward and analyze those and ultimately approve them I think for good purposes.

I would like to just comment a little bit. Chairman Lewis mentioned that he led a delegation. I think if the facts were to be known, and I think it's in the public realm, nearly 200 members of Congress have been to Iraq to date. We know it's a logistical nightmare but when you go, it does transform you in terms of your learning curve and experience.

And let me say what others have said: The remarkable work that our troops are doing there and our civilian DOD people are doing and our AID people are doing there and the Army Corps is doing there in a pretty dangerous environment, we absolutely salute them.

But when you were here last, I asked this question: A lot of the good work, and we recognize the tragedies that occur each and every day to our soldiers, these car bombs and assassinations, a lot of the good work that you reference, those good works and sacrifices in terms of what it means to the Iraqi people are not being told in a measurable way.

I was wondering, Mr. Secretary, if you could comment briefly on what we're doing to improve on telling that story. That war, to some extent, is being lost. Maybe it's because it's a presidential year, but I think we need to do a better job and what are we specifically doing between the CPA and the military to get that story out.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Congressman Frelinghuysen, thank you very much/

When I came before this committee and other committees of Congress and the question came up, how long will the war last, how much will it cost and how many casualties will there be, I looked at the record over the years, as you suggested, of people trying to speculate and predict. And I've concluded, and I believe in retrospect correctly concluded, that it is a bigger disservice to pretend you know the answers to those questions and give answers that prove to be off the mark by 30, 40, 50 times than it is to just confess the fact that those things are not knowable, so I thank you.

One of the best things we've done is to help inform the American people as to encourage members of the House and Senate to go over to Iraq and Afghanistan and see for themselves. You're right, it's a big logistics task. But the value for the American people to know what they see-the last time I appeared before this committee, a group of this committee had just come back and there were about six, eight, ten who had just arrived back that morning, if I'm not mistaken. And they went down the row commenting on how different it was from what they had been reading in the press and seeing in the media. And not one word of that appeared in the press or on television, to my knowledge, after that hearing.

So what's happening is those of you who take the time and trouble, and I appreciate your doing it, to go there, and it's not a pleasant trip, it's a tough trip, and then go out to your constituencies and talk about it and tell the truth about it, I think are performing an enormously fine service.

You're right, I mean, the schools are open, the newspapers are being published, the Fulbright scholars are coming around and yesterday a man came in to present me with a poster, they now are going to have people participating in the Olympics. The power is returned, the oil is being lifted and sold and to the benefit of the Iraqi people, not to anybody else.

There is a lot good happening there. Notwithstanding the fact that there continues to be a difficult security environment, the Iraqi people are losing their lives in many instances and for the most part lately the attacks have been against the Iraqi people. And there is information that you have read in the press that suggests that that's a conscious purpose of a number of the terrorists is to try to create a conflict between the ethnic groups, the Shi'a and the Sunnis and the Kurds in that country and attacks are being targeted in a way to do that.

So I think we've got a lot of good work that's been accomplished and goodness knows the military and civilian folks have done an excellent job, the coalition countries, but we have a lot of work yet to do.

With respect to the last part of your question, we're not doing as well in getting the message out as we should. All the departments of government are focused on it. We're trying to do a better job. We've got Arabic speaking television stations and programming, but it takes a while for programming to be sufficiently developed that it attracts audiences and credibility.

We are being damaged, let there be no doubt about it, by al- Jazeera and Al-Arabia in that country. They are continuously putting out information that's false, inaccurate and harmful to what the coalition is trying to accomplish there, and trying to compete against that in that part of the world is very difficult.

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