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Iraq Watch

Location: Washington, DC

IRAQ WATCH -- (House of Representatives - November 17, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Beauprez). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Hoeffel) is recognized for 60 minutes.

Mr. HOEFFEL. Mr. Speaker, we are here to have another week of the Iraq Watch.

Before I start, I want to add my words of congratulations to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Crane) for his outstanding career and what we just witnessed on the floor, a very warm and rare moment of emotion and friendship between two colleagues. I wish we had more of those moments here, but I want to salute the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Crane) for his years of service and his dedication to this House.

A year and a half ago, Mr. Speaker, a number of us started what we call Iraq Watch. We began to come to this floor once a week to talk about Iraq, to talk about the problems that we saw with our policy there, to ask questions and to suggest changes in our national policy. Now, a year and a half later, like the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Crane), I will be leaving this House, and yet the questions regarding our policy in Iraq remain.

Things have changed in Iraq over the last year and a half, but some of the fundamental problems that were apparent at the beginning of our involvement remain today and plague us today and challenge our best national interest today.

A number of us involved in Iraq Watch, some like me who voted for the military power that the President sought in October of 2002 and some in Iraq Watch who opposed the President's request for military power, all of us were alarmed in the spring of 2003 when the fighting actually began in Iraq, that the President had used what we thought was such an arrogant approach to this challenge, to the diplomacy, to the need to move forward with as many allies as possible to confront what was surely a murderous tyrant, Saddam Hussein.

We saw an arrogant approach. We saw a go-it-alone foreign policy, what many of us thought was a cowboy diplomacy, where we pushed aside our allies, where we told our international institutions, such as the United Nations and NATO and others, that we did not need their help, that we were happy to go alone into the challenge that faced us in Iraq. A lot of us were raising questions about that a year and a half ago.

Unfortunately, that approach has not changed. The President talks about having the coalition of the willing supporting us in Iraq, but it is not the kind of strong international coalition that we truly need to share the burdens and share the costs and share the sacrifices that we have faced in Iraq and not the kind of strong international coalition that his father put together in the early 1990s for the Persian Gulf War.

What the President is now doing since his reelection this November is making changes in his Cabinet and promoting loyal members of his staff to higher positions and to Cabinet positions in a way that, in my judgment, will limit the options brought to the President for his consideration; that he will begin to hear just what he wants to hear from his Cabinet and top officials; that the advice they give him will be the advice they know he already provides to himself; and that he has, instead of turning in a second term to an independent and vigorous Cabinet of obviously loyal Republicans, which is the President's due, instead of building that kind of working relationship, he has decided to build an echo chamber, to create a foreign policy advice and support system in the State Department and in the CIA and in the National Security Adviser that will tell him what he wants to hear.

Well, what he ought to hear, Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the President and with due respect to his victory and the tough decisions he has to make every day, what he ought to hear is that he still needs international support in Iraq. He still needs to internationalize the challenges, the financial challenges, the security challenges, the military challenges in Iraq, and he still needs to Iraq-tize Iraq. We still need to train up the Iraqis so that they can fight for their own future, so they can provide their own security, so that they can be the tip of the spear.

Currently, we are using American forces, brave American forces, courageously led, and brave troops to battle the insurgency in Iraq, door to door, in Fallujah and other urban settings, and our troops are behaving magnificently, performing magnificently.

But it is my view, and I think shared by my colleagues here in Iraq Watch, that we are doing ourselves more harm than good with the reality that it is American troops fighting the insurgency, instead of Iraqi troops, Arab troops, multinational troops with American support; that the fact that we are having to fight door to door, facing the true horrors of urban warfare. That we are doing this virtually alone, without international help, without very much help from the Iraqis, is generating such ill-will in the Muslim world that while Iraq is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power and Iraq has some hope of moving toward a tolerant and pluralistic society with some version of self-government, hopefully a flourishing democracy sooner rather than later, while Iraq is better off, the way we have gone about this has actually done more harm than good to America; that we have created more terrorists than we have killed; that we have created more ill-will than goodwill in the Muslim world; and that the arrogant and go-it-alone policies that we have pursued, the cowboy diplomacy that we pursue to this day, has set back the relations between this country and the Muslim world, while at the same time we do offer clearly hope to the Iraqi people that they can have a flourishing country, free from the abuses of the tyrant and murderer Saddam Hussein.

There is a lot more I would like to say tonight, but I am joined by two of the stalwarts of Iraq Watch, the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Strickland) who have been here week after week for a year and a half. So let me turn to the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) as he was the first on the floor, and I am happy to yield to him.


Mr. HOEFFEL. Well, Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues, and I am very concerned about the problems we are seeing at the CIA. The reality is that this administration, over the last couple of years, has a very sorry record of spinning the information that the CIA has given them. So we have got a problem with the CIA intelligence not being as accurate as it needs to be for a number of reasons, I guess, listening to each other parroting back what other agencies have said. Not enough human intelligence agencies in Iraq during the Hussein regime. There are a variety of reasons.

The intelligence that they did produce about weapons of mass destruction was incorrect. It was filled with caveats and uncertainties. The reports that were being issued to the White House in the fall of 2002 said we think he has these weapons, we believe he has got these weapons, we have been told he has these weapons. But none of that uncertainty was passed on to the Congress or to the American people.

In fact, I was briefed at the White House with 20 of our colleagues, a bipartisan group, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on October 2, 2002, by George Tenet, then Director of the CIA, and Condoleezza Rice, then the National Security Adviser to the President, and they spoke with complete certainty: we know that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, they said to us. We know how many he has got. We know where they are. We know how much those weapons weigh.

It turns out that 7 or 8 months later, when the reports that George Tenet's CIA was giving to him and to Condoleezza Rice in the fall of 2002 finally became public, or actually became available for rank-and-file members to review, those reports were filled with caveats, filled with uncertainties, filled with hesitance; and yet none of that was passed on.

So I would say to the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) that there has been spinning at the White House for quite a while. And as my colleague says, the Deputy National Security Adviser has now been promoted and the National Security Adviser is now going to be the Secretary of State. I must say, based upon her intentional misleading of the 20 Members of the Congress who were briefed by her and by George Tenet on October 2, 2002, I do not have confidence in Condoleezza Rice. I am afraid she is going to tell the President what he wants to hear and will not tell the Congress and the American people what we need to hear and will not face up to the President when she needs to.

I yield to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Strickland).


Mr. HOEFFEL. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Ohio. That is a very human account of what is happening in Iraq.

There is no question that this President knows how to use American power, but what I fear is that he is not aware or willing to use the totality of American power, which certainly starts with military power but is much more than that. We are certainly the strongest military in the world, and we need to stay that way. It is a dangerous world. The war on terror is going to be a challenge for years to come, and we must maintain our military strength. But there is more to American power than the military power that we possess, and this President does not seem to appreciate or understand or value the totality of our power, which includes diplomatic power and economic power, our cultural ties, the powers of moral persuasion.

We are the only superpower left in the world, and I am thankful we are. It gives us an opportunity to lead, inspire, cajole, push, advocate, and pressure. We have the ability through diplomacy and trade and economic ties and cultural ties to bend people to our will, up to a point, if we have a good argument and we are right on the facts and it is in their interest too. Obviously, every situation is different from the prior. But this President does not seem to put any value in the totality of American power.

The military strength we have needs to be maintained and nurtured, but it has to be used as a last resort, not a first resort.

As strong as we are, we cannot be the world's policemen. We cannot impose our will through military strength alone, and yet that is the circumstance that we face in Iraq. We are trying to do very good things there, and we all share the President's goals of creating a pluralistic society, a tolerant, democratic society. And yet the unilateral, go-it-alone, arrogant strategy, the cowboy diplomacy, the failure to admit mistakes, the inability to train up the Iraqis for them to do their own fighting and provide their own security, and the mistakes that were made. The first thing we did was dismiss the Iraqi Army and the border patrol, and the second thing was dismiss the Iraqi civil service, and there was nobody left to run the country but Americans.

This President does not seem capable of acknowledging error and fixing it. The people he has been promoting in this echo chamber seem unwilling or incapable of standing up and saying, Mr. President, you have to change these policies.


Mr. HOEFFEL. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I would yield with one observation, though, as has been stated by our colleagues here tonight. The thing that I most regret about coming back this evening is that shortly we will be taking leave of the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Hoeffel). He is the founder of this opportunity that the rest of us have seized upon week after week. He has been the guiding light and the inspiration for this. I deeply regret that he will not be here next year because, unfortunately, I am afraid we are going to have to be here next year. But I can tell him that the fire that he has lit in us and in others who have come here will not go out, and we will try to carry on the legacy that he has established for us to live up to.

Mr. HOEFFEL. Mr. Speaker, that is very kind of the gentleman from Hawaii, a bit overblown and exaggerated, but very kind of him.

Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Not a bit.

Mr. HOEFFEL. Next year I am going to be watching. I am going to be tuning in. I know my colleagues will be fighting the good fight as they have been for the last year and a half.

I wanted to comment upon your views, that what is virtually a purely military approach to our challenge in Iraq is not working, cannot work in the face of a guerilla opposition that melts away when we attack en masse and comes up and attacks us where we least expect it a few days later in another location. It is consistent with my earlier statement that as strong as our military is and as strong as we have to keep it, we have got to use more than just our military power in our dealings with the rest of the world. We have to use the totality of our power, which includes diplomatic power, economic power, cultural ties, the powers of moral suasion.

One of the things I wish this President would talk about and I hope the next Congress will talk about is the need for economic revitalization in the Middle East and in Eurasia. We need a modern day Marshall Plan. We need to address the challenges in Iraq and the rest of that part of the world not just with a military strategy but we have got to give to those young men and women, mostly young men, although there are now suicide bombers who are women, who are so desperate, who are so hopeless that they would believe it is in their best interests to strap a bomb on and kill innocent civilians rather than have some hope that they can build a better life, that they can find a job, they can improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. We have got to address the economic needs. I do not mean by handing out money. I mean by making the kinds of investments, along with Western Europe and other industrialized societies, the kinds of investments that will build some economic strength.

In the Marshall Plan after World War II, over a period of 4 years we invested $13 billion in 14 countries. That in today's dollars would be $100 billion over 4 years, $25 billion a year. Our total foreign aid now is about $20 billion a year. So if we a little bit more than doubled our foreign aid, we could create a similar economic revitalization plan as we did so successfully in the late 1940s.

It is a different challenge. The countries we are trying to help here are frankly much worse off than the Western European countries were after World War II. Those countries had a labor force that was trained. They had been industrial countries. The Afghanistans, all the Stans, Iraq, Iran, those are countries with much greater needs. But if we try to solve the problems of the world with military solutions only, if we try to keep ourselves safe with military solutions only, if we try to win the war on terror with only a military response, we will not succeed. Our military will perform well, as they always do; but there is not a military solution, a purely military solution, to the challenges that face us.

We have got to pay attention to the hopes and aspirations. It is more than just the poverty these people face. It is the grinding helplessness and hopelessness they must feel. We have got to create a sense of opportunity in this part of the world.


Mr. HOEFFEL. I yield to the gentleman from Washington.


Mr. HOEFFEL. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his comments. I believe we are out of time this evening.

Iraq Watch will be back in January, in February and March, as long as these challenges continue, as long as there is a need for debate and for questions to be asked.

Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Would the gentleman yield?

Mr. HOEFFEL. I yield to the gentleman from Hawaii.

Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Mr. Speaker, we may be here a few more days than we expected, and I for one am quite concerned about what is taking place and would be interested in coming back if the time is available to us before we leave.

Mr. HOEFFEL. Excellent. Mr. Speaker, let me just say it has been a long time coming, but change is going to come.

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