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Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Location: Washington DC





SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Thank you.

Gentlemen, I wasn't here for lack of interest. The Judiciary Committee has a very important bill on DNA testing that I'm the author of, and I had to be in that committee, and I apologize.

Mr. Gompert, you succeeded in Iraq-I know you're no longer in the government. But one of the most competent guys that I know in government, Walt Slocombe. And I want to lay out for you-and we only have a few minutes, I know, we're going to vote shortly. But in my 10 minutes, I'm going to lay out a thesis, and I'd like you to respond to it, tell me where you think it's right, wrong.

And, Ron -

MR. SCHLICHER: Yes, sir?

SEN. BIDEN: -- you can call me Joe, if you want to. You know, let's just-you jump in on this one.

But it relates to the security situation, the prospects of it getting better. I think, Mr. Gompert, you made it real clear, and I think you're dead right, that ultimately what is needed here for there to be anything beginning to approach success is the active and courageous cooperation of the Iraqi people. They can-now, those of us who do foreign policy for a-as our occupation or as a major part of our occupation, we like to make things sound really complicated all the time to people.

Well, I don't think we intentionally do that, but we tend to do that. And it seems to me-I've spent a lot of my professional life dealing with foreign policy issues, but equally as much dealing with criminal justice issues: the mob here in the United States of America, the drug cartels. And I can either take the blame or occasionally some of the credit for the major pieces of anti-crime legislation we've written. And the reason I mention this is as follows.

It seems to me the situation, whether it's Samarra, whether it's Baghdad, whether it's Basra, Mosul, wherever it is, is the same exact thing that exists in any large city in the United States of America, dealing with a major drug cartel, a mob, and/or an insurgency, if you will, within a city. And when we drafted, I spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of my career in hearings with your counterparts who are experts in criminology, in the criminal justice system, and the psychology of what makes people cooperate with authorities, and there's one basic, bottom-line rule. And I posit there is not a single difference between someone-a Baghdadi and someone living in West Philly. And that is that if they believe they can't walk outside their house without fear of something very bad happening to them, or if they believe that if they cooperate with the authorities to deal with the bad guys who own their neighborhood, they in fact will not cooperate. As a matter of fact, they will, by their acquiescence, cooperate with the bad guys. And so we went through this whole thing on a crime bill.

Now this is going to sound-this doesn't come off-I mean, you know, the foreign policy experts, others, saying, well, "what are we talking about domestic policy for here? This is big-time stuff." It's the same exact thing in my view. And we don't seem to get it. And with all due respect, Walt didn't seem to get it and I don't think that Bremer got it and I'm not sure we have it yet.

And it's this, that there has to be a credible-not certainty, but a credible prospect that if, in fact, someone in the neighborhood turns in the drug dealer on the corner to the cop that they-that person knows that once the drug dealer makes bail he's not going to come down and burn down their house and literally eliminate them, which for those of you who do only foreign policy, that happens every day in every city in the United States of America where there's a major drug problem. And so what we found out is you have to flood the zone with forces and you have to flood the zone with cops and you have to flood the zone with cops who get to know the people on the block. That's what community policing's all about.

And I'm not suggesting we have community policing overnight in Iraq, but here's my thesis. The reason why I don't have any real hope at the moment is, we have no genuine training program under way in Iraq. We have a training program for cops, and we have-and it's getting better. And we have a training program for the military. But there is no realistic prospect-if Allah, the Lord Almighty, came down and sat right there in the middle of this room between you and I, there's no reasonable prospect, if you asked him, that we are going to have a credible force-available, trained Iraqis-for months and months. I would argue for at least a year.

And so my thesis goes on, in that I believe that somehow-somehow-we've got to convince people that the government's legitimate. The government's legitimacy relates as much to security the government can provide as it does to projects it can deliver, and the projects it can deliver relate to security.

The only real projects we're getting done are the ones that are being done in Sadr City, and the 1st Cav is doing them. They're the-and there's others; don't get me wrong. But they're usually military-related. They're usually-there's notable exceptions, but in the most difficult areas of Iraq where the projects that are changing attitudes and will change attitudes are actually coming to fruition is where there's U.S. military around, available and/or doing it.

So here's my question. How is it that-because I think you're the first person to testify before us to state what is obvious: there's no shot of this working without the active cooperation and courage of average Iraqis.

Samarra today. News account: The town is empty now. Three hundred thousand people. Several tribes in there, one of them vowing revenge for the wedding killings, whether it was a wedding or whether it was, you know, whatever, but vowing that anyone who cooperates with not only us but even with the new government --

So what is it we do now, or how long will it take to be-to level with the American people? How long is it going to take before we're in a position or the government's in a position to be able to provide to a neighborhood in any town in the triangle-stick there for a moment-the probability that if they cooperate, they will be safe?

Because in my experience in the total of three trips I've made into the region, two since the war, they believe that the Iraqi people signing up to be cops and signing up to be military are good people. They'd much rather them be them than us. But they don't believe they possess the capacity at this point or even the capability at this point.

So what is it we do? What is it we do, in concrete terms? And what time frame-and I know you don't have exact time frames, but what do you think, as a very informed guy, what do you think are the time frames we're talking about before we get to the point that when Mohammed walks out his door and he knows that there's an al Qaeda cell across the street or he knows that there is in fact part of an insurgency that's planning an attack, and he sees them backing up a pickup truck with 17 rocket-held grenade launchers-because we didn't confiscate them, because we didn't have the troops there to be able to take care of the ammunition dumps-and he sees them backing them into the garage or backing them into the backyard and burying them-what does it take, what do we have to do to get to the point that there's some probability, other than him being a totally courageous, democratic patriot, for his going to get on his motor scooter, his bicycle, his car or his cell phone and contact somebody and say, "By the way, across the street." What's it going to take, and what's the time frame?

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: I absolutely, positively agree.

MR. GOMPERT: The second problem we have-and this is-this is peculiar if not unique to Iraq-is that in some of these cities, the security situation is so bad an the fighters, some foreign fighters, most of them from the old Saddam security organizations, so numerous, so professional that the police either can't get in or won't stay in or can't stand up to them, even if those police are well trained and well led. And for that, all we've had so far is the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marines. And when it's really bad, as it was in Fallujah, you bring in the Marines, who of all of our forces are probably the best at urban warfare, and you saw the results and you saw what we had to do as a consequence.

So what you don't want to do is end up in urban warfare because the police are inadequate, you don't want our forces in urban warfare, and you don't-and so far we haven't had any Iraqi military forces that can move into that environment. So the second part of the problem is placing equally sharp focus and high priority on what I call the well-led, specialized, high-performance, quick-response Iraqi army forces --

SEN. BIDEN: I agree.

MR. GOMPERT: -- who can then come in to support those well-led, well-trained policemen.

How long will it take before it all comes together? Six months at a minimum.

SEN. BIDEN: I really appreciate your candor. I absolutely agree. I'm not being solicitous; I agree exactly with what you just said. I am just baffled why it is not so self-evident-so self- evident-to the administration now.

I just got back from visiting, along with two of my colleagues, the-just-now it's a month-the training center in Jordan. Our trainers, our U.S. person in charge of all the training, the Canadian who's number two-a fairly tough mounted policeman from Canada-and the head of the Jordanian police force said this is not worth it, this is not anything. Eight weeks of training, don't know what happens with them, no vetting before they come.

And so I think unless we get there, unless we make this the greatest priority, I don't know how-I really-I'm an optimistic guy, but my optimism fades very rapidly. And I don't get a sense-Mr. Secretary, I don't get a sense from my friends-our friends at Defense, our friends in the White House, that this is viewed as honestly and as urgently as I think it is, and based on what you say maybe you think it is. But maybe you have something really good to tell me to make me feel better as we go vote, but I don't get a sense it's there yet.

We had an opportunity to push very hard on our European friends 10 months ago on this. We had an opportunity to press hard again now. Again, I just don't-I don't see it happening. And now I see the Europeans backing away, being irresponsible in my view, not stepping up to the ball when they should.

They have all reasons to say why it's our fault and why they-but they've got to get over it. Even if every bit of it's true, they've got to get over it. They've got to get over it.

So, I thank you for your candor.

And, Ron, if you have anything you want to say, fine. I think I'm well out of my time. But --

SEN. BIDEN: If I can use a football analogy, this is block and tackling. I go out and I try to get one squad, a second squad, a third squad, place them in one city, move-I mean, just build the blocks here. Because I think, David, you're right, it's got to be serious people who can shoot straight, who are as well equipped.

If I can end with a little story-just so you know it just doesn't happen here. We're in the middle of the crime bill, we're trying to pass it. I got picked up by the fourth-ranking member of the Chicago Police Department. I'm riding along-he has a captain in the car with him. I'm saying, what's it like out here? This was about how out-gunned our police are.

And he said, "Well, let me give you an example, Senator." He said, "Captain, tell him."

The captain's driving the car taking me to this event. And he said, "Well, last night I was coming home, I had my colleague with me." And then he went through this thing. And he said, "I got a call there was a major drug deal apparently going down on one of the piers in Lake Michigan. So we drove in, got into this ally, came through, opened up, got out of our cars in the usual form"-like, you know, in Starsky and-you know, the doors open, the cops get out. He said-literally, this is a true-give you my word.

He said, "All of a sudden we said 'Everybody freeze!' We shine the lights on them. They popped open their trunk, took out high- caliber weapons that could literally," he said, "blow our car away. We went, 'No, no problem.' Got in the car and we backed out."

You got to have the same firepower. You got to have the same capability.

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