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Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Location: Washington DC

September 15, 2004 Wednesday





SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, welcome.

As you indicated, Mr. Chairman, we have two very bright, informed and dedicated public servants before us today, and dealing in an area which I think, unless we get a much better handle on, we are going to, quote, "lose Iraq."

I am at the point where I have-there's such a disconnect between what I hear stated about how well things are going and the reality of the situation on the ground. And I think both of you, because you've testified before, and we've talked before, know that I've tried to find the positive sides about the things we're doing. I am-I think we're-to use a phrase that former Assistant Secretary Hamre used a year ago, the window's closing, the window of opportunity. I think it's about ready to slam shut.

And so the two witnesses we have today, Mr. Chairman, are the guys who have been given the dubious distinction and responsibility of actually making the policy that the administration, and with the support or lack thereof of the Congress, has said should be implemented. I think this is our single highest foreign policy priority right now, in the next weeks. And I hope we have an opportunity, Mr. Chairman, before we go out, to hear from-and they won't know as much as you guys know, but from senior administration officials at the secretary level to get a sense of whether or not-how much of a priority this is, how urgent they see the responsibilities you're exercising are.

The president has frequently described Iraq as, quote, "the central front of the war on terror." Well, by that definition, success in Iraq is a key standard by which to measure the war on terror. And by that measure, I think the war on terror is in trouble if that's the measure.

We're all glad that Saddam sits in jail. We're all glad that Saddam is awaiting justice, the justice he deserves. But 16 months, after all this talk and banter and the political "to and fro" about mission accomplished and making fun of the phrase "mission accomplished," Iraq remains a very active, an increasingly active war zone. Increasingly active war zone, not diminishing. Increasingly active war zone.

And the insurgency is growing. It is more lethal. I will not mention, because it was in a closed hearing, a senior official not many months ago briefing us all, said this is just a bunch of thugs out there. And I remember our friend John McCain going ballistic and saying, don't say that, this is much broader-we have a much broader problem here than the way it was characterized eight months ago.

And it's clear that it is. We're yielding control. And I'm not second-guessing the military judgment. I don't know enough to know whether or not they have the capacity to do something other than that. But the number of attacks on our forces have increased from 700 in March to nearly 2,700 in August.

This turning over of sovereignty, we turned over sovereignty without capacity. Allawi has sovereignty and very little capacity. The Defense secretary, God love him, says-last Thursday-we trained up 90,000 Iraqi forces. Give me a break! Not one single, solitary Iraqi policeman has gone through the totality of training, including the four weeks on-the- ground training. Not one, to the best of my knowledge.

Maybe something happened in the last five days.

My frustration is not directed against you guys. It's time we level here, we level with the American people. We recently passed the ominous milestone of a thousand dead. The part that goes unnoticed-and it's real, a real horrific impact-is in the month of August there were 900 casualties of American troops beyond the dead.

And you know, we can go back, and I'm not going to do it, and argue about-because some of the stuff you guys even said should be done didn't get done. We can argue whether or not the miscalculations that were referenced by the chief executive were-the way you say "miscalculations," it reminds me of people talking about domestic violence. You say "domestic violence," it sounds like of domesticated, like a cat. It's the most vicious, ugly kind of violence there is. (Chuckles.) These miscalculations were incredibly consequential. And it's time to correct the miscalculations, but I don't think there is much time.

Virtually every problem we've encountered was predicted before the war by this committee, by outside experts, by some of you inside the administration, but the part that I don't see is is a learning curve. I don't see any learning curve from the repeated mistakes in judgment we've been making from the civilian side. And I'm not going to go through the litany because it's almost piling on these days about-you know, we all know, greeted as liberators, Chalabi was the guy, you know, the expatriates would bring legitimacy, there would be plenty of oil, we would-and I mean, you know, we go through the whole thing. It's not worth going back over it. That's passed; we were wrong. The administration was dead wrong in its assumptions. But now what do we do?

And I think that we're going to be judged from this point on not by our miscalculations, but the squandered opportunities, which gets me to the last trip with Senator Lindsey Graham and Daschle, now I guess it's eight weeks ago-six, eight weeks ago, I don't remember-sitting there on a Sunday, talking to our flag officers. There were seven in a room, private. And they're the first to tell you they don't have the right mix of forces. They're the first to tell you that they need desperately this money spent.

General Chiarelli-I hope I'm pronouncing the name correct -- 1st Cavalry; you know, a guy who can shoot straight and kill people. Tough guy. Serious player.

Brings us into the 1st Cav headquarters. He has Sadr City. And he does something -- (aside) -- What's the name of the outfit that does the overlays, you know, that -- (Returning) -- There's an outfit in California, a very first-rate outfit, hired by the Defense Department, and they did something, Mr. Chairman, I'd not seen before, you know, in a classic military presentation, PowerPoint presentation like you and I saw in (Amman ?), Chuck, and all that-first-rate.

They laid out and they said let me show you the piles of garbage in Sadr City, and they actually showed you pictures. And then they put a hot point where in Sadr City 12-feet piles of garbage, raw garbage. Then they showed humvees-they had a picture of a humvee going through sewage in Sadr City past homes that was up to above the hubcaps, and they showed kids sitting there. And they went through this and I wondered, "Where's all this going?" And this is being plotted simultaneously on a map.

And then Chiarelli says to me-to us-"While I have been able to spend"-don't hold me to the number; I'll get it for the record-"30 million, 20 million, 50 million, whatever number dollars. That's all I've been able to spend. And here's where I spent it." And he showed where he spent it and what he did. Case in point. How long will it take to build a sewage system? Well, you ask the engineers that, and they say, well, two-and-a-half years we can have a system for Baghdad. And this guy is saying, hey, I don't need a system for Baghdad, I need PCV coming out of this home going into the Tigris River temporarily so that kids in this family don't have to swim in feces as they walk out the front door.

So he does this overlay and he shows us concretely the number of attacks, the discontent coming from the area he spent the $30 million or $40 million, or whatever it was, drop off like it's dropped off a cliff.

And then I find out we spent-I don't know what the number is now, but as of a couple of weeks ago, out of the $18.4 billion that Kerry and Bush are beating each other up about, $500 million has been spent so far. How long ago has that been?

And so, folks, you know, the supplemental was presented to us; it said this is-I'm quoting Bremer, "This is urgent. The urgency of military operations is self-evident. The funds for non-military action in Iraq are equally urgent. Unless this supplemental passes quickly, Iraqis face an indefinite period of blackouts eight hours a day, and the link to the safety of our troops is indirect but real." He also said, "There's no part of the supplement is dispensable, and no part is more important than any other. This is a carefully considered request."

How many months ago was that? And one of my first questions is, hey, guys, how much money have we spent, this urgent supplemental? It's incompetence, from my perspective, looking at this. You know, I know you're going to present us the details of the plan to restructure the aid program, and I hope there's a specific plan to use the money more effectively and more quickly.

And there are other critical questions. What is the administration's plan on how to deal with the no-go zones in the Sunni triangle, which seem to get bigger and bigger and bigger? How much more-what's the plan? Are we just going to cede the triangle? That may be the right thing to do. But what's the plan? Don't tell me we're doing better when you're ceding more and more and more cities within the triangle to the control of the old Ba'athists and insurgents.

What's the administration going to do to secure the commitment from NATO for a meaningful contribution to the training program of our military-of the Iraqi military? What's the administration going-where is it going to get additional police trainers from countries that have expertise? What's the plan?

I sat with the president of the Bundestag yesterday. I think you may have met with him as well. I was very blunt with him. I said, "Mr. President, you Germans don't like, especially the SPD, you don't like the fact that we're in Iraq. Well, you got to get over it. You got to get over it. This administration, in my view-just me speaking-has from the civilian side of this been one blunder after another since Saddam Hussein's statue has fallen. But don't wait for a Kerry administration. A, it may not come; and B, if it comes, it may be too late."

And he looked at me, and I quoted President Chirac's comments to me from Christmas. He said, "The worst mistake you all made was sending in 150,000 American forces. The only mistake that could be worse than that would be pulling them out."

And I looked at him and I said, "Get ready. If this becomes Lebanon, somebody, this president, the next president, whoever the president is, is (going to be turning ?) around and saying, "Okay, guys. You didn't want to help? No problem. It's your problem."

You know, guys, so my question is, what's the administration doing? What are you doing to get these people trained? You could tomorrow take a thousand Iraqis, 500, 250, we're trying to do this potential leadership corps, put them on a plane and send them to Germany. They know how to train a gendarmerie. They know how to train cops who are paramilitary. Where is the sense of urgency?

What's the administration's plan to recruit a dedicated force called for by Resolution 1546? This is above your pay grade, and mine, to answer this question. (Scattered laughter.) But seriously, all kidding aside, what's our exit strategy?

I'll finish in just a second, Mr. Chairman. My frustration, I apologize for letting it show. I've been trying to be good he last two years here and not let this frustration show, but I think we're at the end of our rope. I think we're at the end of our rope here, unless we get smart real quick.

The president says yes-in The Post today-we're going to have elections. Tell me how we're going to have elections. Tell me how you're going to set up 2,5(00) to 3,500 polling places by January when we haven't gotten the commitment from the Security Council that they made to get roughly 3,500 forces to protect the U.N.-a U.N. force to go in there and set up these polling places.

The expectation, honestly, by everyone when that passed was that Kofi would be able to put somewhere between 2,000 and 3,500 people in there. He's now talking 35, 3-5. And there's going to be elections?

As an old joke used to go, "What's the plan, Stan?" What's the plan? There is a deafening silence from the administration-incredible rhetoric, deafening silence. How are you going to get the force that the Security Council said would be provided for the U.N. to set up these elections? Or as some would tell me, we don't need the force.

And by the way, I'm not suggesting that you're going to get the French to send in troops, or the Germans. But a little imagination-maybe we say to the French and the Germans, "Okay, let's make a side deal. Put even more troops in Afghanistan, allowing us to take troops out of Afghanistan to put in Iraq," to protect the security-this force.

So what's the plan? What's the plan to convince our allies to make good on their pledges, including financial assistance, debt relief? I mean, my colleagues here, the three gentlemen I'm with, they've forgotten more about this than most people know. But just read the U.N. resolution. It's very specific. It is not a generic commitment the Security Council made. It's a specific commitment. To the best of my knowledge, not one single, solitary commitment made in that resolution has been met by a single, solitary member of the Security Council.

Well, I apologize for my frustration. But I tell you what, Mr. Chairman. It's going to sound melodramatic, but it's reality. You know, as I said once before, I'm from Delaware. Dover Air Force Base is the place that every single coffin out of Afghanistan and Iraq sets on U.S. soil first. We owe it to those young women and men to get this right. We owe it to get it right. We owe it to them to have a plan.

And so I hope today, on one piece of that plan, how we are going to or why we can't distribute after-what is it, how many months -- 12 months, 13 months, nine months, whatever the number is-when we urgently responded to the urgent request of the administration to urgently pass this supplemental to urgently get 18-plus billion dollars to Iraq because, as the former director of the CPA said, there is an indirect but real connection between whether or not the lights go on, the sewage gets cleaned up, the school gets built, and whether or not an Iraqi is there shooting, or aiding and abetting, or hiding, or being a non-feasor (sp) and allowing someone else to shoot and kill an American soldier-I believe Bremer was right when he said there's a direct connection.

So what are we going to do about it? That's the purpose, from my perspective; the reason why I'm here, to try to find out some answers to those questions.

I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman; I've trespassed on the time. You've been a gentleman, allowing me to speak. And I apologize to my colleagues for my-my frustration. In different ways, I'm sure you all share it; you're just better at being able to articulate it than I am. But I am-I am really frustrated because I think we're at the last piece of that rope. We're hanging on, right? We can still climb that rope, but, man, there's not many more handholds on that rope, and we'd better get it right.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership.

You know, it's one thing for me to express my frustration, but your integrity has dictated that you, as chairman of this committee, in a more difficult circumstance, express your frustration as well. You know, it's that old, bad joke, you know: We're from the federal government; we're here to help. And there's a disconnect in the logic of this request that you're making to me. That goes to the essence of the issue of the sense of urgency.

I think our mutual frustration-and the president-at least, I haven't requested any time-but the president has been available in the past. We've gone down and we've individually talked to him. We've talked to him together. I mean, the idea that probably one of the most honorable non-political guys in all the Senate used the phrase walking-around money-seriously-I mean, I know it sounds funny, but it reflects the intensity of our frustration of the failure to do things we know would be done.

As the mayor of Indianapolis three decades ago-if the city's burning, he doesn't-he didn't wait. He didn't wait-no mayor does-for a commission to finish its report, long-term efforts, how we're going to change the environment in the neighborhoods of the most discontent. You go in and you hire the people or the people who are the most trouble, and you hire them right away.

You have to do something, you make work, you do something so they're not shooting the cops that are coming in there. There seems to be no sense of that except with our military. I have now, how many times, three times, in three visits to Iraq, the only guys who seem to get it are the military guys.

I mean right from the beginning, right even when the CPA was screwing everything up, and they were by the way, they were, in my view, right from the beginning. Why did Petraeus become a star? He's a first rate guy. He became a star because he's in the north and he was improvising. He wasn't going through the process. He was improvising on the spot, bing, bing, bing, bing. It's like we talk about-anyway, here's the disconnect as I see it. The amount involved we're talking about right now is $3.5 billion. I mean, there's $18, roughly, billion out there, $17.5; $3.5 billion. Of this, as I understand it from the testimony, $286 million is specifically targeted for job creation. And this is supposed to create, as I understand it, roughly generate 800,000 jobs. In a country where the official unemployment rate is 29 percent, and unofficially state guys tell me it's 50 to 60 percent, jobs are key to ending the insurgency here, relieving, as we found out in other experiences, why we need to relearn this, if you want to disband a militia, you're going to take their gun and what they get paid by the warlords, and/or the insurgency, or what they can loot and take, you've got to give them something. You don't say, give me your AK-47 and go home and have a nice day.

And, it begs the question of why more of the remaining $18.4 billion is not being reoriented? Why only $3.5 billion? And why the disconnect between, as I see it, the smallest portion here, $286, to create jobs? I know it may be, not with you guys, ideologically inconsistent to have a giant WPA program. I'll never forget, the three of us were sitting with Mr. Bremer the day we arrived well over a year ago in Iraq, and it was a day-and I welcome being corrected by my colleagues if I'm wrong because I may be off by a click here, Bremer was about to or had just announced the day before, or two days before, that he was: a) disbanding the army, and he initially was going to shut down all government subsidized businesses. Do you remember that guys? And I forget which of us asked the question but, okay, are you Jeffrey Sachs, and is this Poland? I mean, tell me this now, what's the immediate objective here? What are all those people going to do?

And so, it seems like we're back without any-I don't know in these 800,000 jobs we're talking we're going to average a month or so at a time, so they're going to have jobs, I mean they're jobs, important, don't get me wrong, big deal, big deal, but I have two questions. I have a lot of questions, but I'll try to stick to two.

Sir, you indicated that debt relief is important. The three of us at our peril, politically, led the effort here, and I think maybe my friend from Florida as well, against what was a perfect, a perfect populist argument that was available through our conservative and liberal friends alike on the floor, that we wanted to forgive debt, this money of the $87 billion, and the $18-some billion, we were going to forgive it. We weren't going to tie it to oil revenues. We weren't going to tie it to anything. And some of us, all of us, have scars on our back to demonstrate how hard it is to explain to your constituency at home why we believe that's so important.

But the president was able to, through the leadership of the Secretary of State, I assume, to get in the resolution, the most recent on, was it 1574, what was the number, 1546, debt relief as well on the part of others. So my question to you is this, in addition to us coming up with spending a quarter of a billion dollars to forgive $4 billion, roughly, and it's really a bookkeeping, consequential, but it's a bookkeeping measure, what is any other country doing? What are the French doing? What are the European Union countries doing? What are the members of the Security Council who voted for this resolution, what are they doing on debt relief? It doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. I'm not doing this counter-budget stuff, if they don't, we won't. But, you've put your finger on it, you're the first guys who have been straight up about it. In order for this government to survive, they've got to be able to borrow. Unless they can deal with the debt overhang, and the IMF says you need to forgive 95 percent in order for the World Bank to come in and say, okay, now we'll get in the deal so we'll lend money to what we all know is ultimately the solution, and that is private entrepreneurs, private businesses, private enterprise, a private economy, not a government economy, that's an important choice of terms, you get the World Bank in.

a) What are others doing? What prospects do we have? And, by the way, if I'm not mistaken, this meeting takes place at the end of this month. I think at the meeting of the World Bank these decisions are going to be made at the end of the month, like in weeks. What are others doing? And if they do nothing, is our debt forgiveness of an additional $4 billion, roughly, is that enough to get the World Bank and the IMF to step up to the ball and open up the lending spigot here? And does that have any impact on confidence of investors to come and open up anything from the dress shop to the porcelain factory? That's my first question.

MR. SCHLICHER: Thank you, Senator, for the question. In my testimony, I mentioned that the G8 leaders at Sea Island committed themselves to provide deep debt relief for Iraq. You mentioned the upcoming World Bank meetings where this is going to be a subject. The Paris Club is also going to be a forum where this is all going to have to be done. There have been a lot of diplomatic discussions building up to --

SEN. BIDEN: Let me cut right to it, has a single nation in the G8, a single nation, stepped up to the ball and formally said or request of their parliaments to forgive Iraqi debt?

MR. SCHLICHER: Not yet, no, sir. We have some understandings with some governments that that's exactly what they intend to do.

SEN. BIDEN: When, do we know? I mean, what time frame?

MR. SCHLICHER: I think we are aiming to have an agreement on Iraqi debt still by the end of the year. So, it's going to be a very active three months on the debt relief front.

SEN. BIDEN: With all due respect, by the end of the year is the time in which the first election is going to have to have taken place. All of this goes to confidence. I respectfully suggest, that's too late, number one.

Number two, I will conclude with this, Mr. Chairman, the happy talk about progress, and there is progress in some areas-let me put it this way, there is the potential for real progress to mine those parts of the country where there is a desire to actually have an independent government that is not fueled by an insurgency. The administration set goals in 2003, and it's important we just state it so that we know what we're talking about, we were told by 6/04, June of this year, there would be 6,000 megawatts. We were told there would be three million barrels of oil per day by October. We were told there would be a minimum of 38,000 trained police officers, 40,000 army trained. And now we're told, and the fact electricity we have 4,500 megawatts, 10 hours of blackouts. We have two million barrels of oil. We say we have 32,000 cops, I would argue we don't have a single trained police officer. I would like you to dispute that if you will. And at maximum, we have 5,000 trained, 5,000 trained military forces.

And if you look at the testimony of a guy who is a real-I mean, he is so-it's like ice water runs in his veins, that's why he has so much credibility among Democrats and Republican, Anthony Cordesman, Anthony Cordesman's testimony before-which committee now-he says that, I beg your pardon, Mr. Chairman, and get the first page here, anyway, he says that badly planned elections-Cordesman says, the new U.S. approach essentially defers most key actions to the military risk units after U.S. elections, while it raises growing issues about the timing of long-term goals. It essentially defers any decisive U.S. military action unless it is forced on the U.S. Everything will consist of limited operations and strikes until a new Iraqi force is ready.

Now, to me, I know my time is up so I'll just leave the question hanging here, and hopefully maybe we can get to it, it seems to me there's a race, fellows, on security. There's a race between the growing impact of the insurgency, which diminishes the optimism and the willingness of the Iraqi people to participate in the prospect of a democratic society, and the training of an Iraqi military force, national guard, army, or police. And I respectfully suggest we are losing that race badly. And, for the record, I would like to know, what constitutes a trained Iraqi police officer from the administration's standpoint? What constitutes a trained Iraqi guardsman? What constitutes a trained Iraqi army personnel? And how many do you expect to have in place?

General Petraeus does not use the figure in the field, our staffs were just there not long ago, two weeks, three weeks ago, does not use the figure the Secretary of Defense uses. We have to be honest and figure out what it is and what's being done to increase that training.

I'm well over my time, I apologize. I'll submit some additional questions in writing for you, but if you could be as precise as you can and just answer yes or no, do we have 32,000 trained Iraqi cops on the street, trained, not cops on the street, trained Iraqi cops?

MR. BOWAB: No, sir.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.

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