September 18, 1998
Statement on U.S. Policy Toward Iraq
Wednesday, Paul Wolfowitz, dean of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University, and former under secretary of defense for policy, testified before the House National Security Committee on Iraq. In his testimony Wolfowitz takes the administration to task for the muddle of confusion and pretense that defines its current policy and offers an alternative policy which goes to the heart of the problem, the continuing rule of Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq. An abbreviated version of his statement before the committee follows.
before the House National Security Committee
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate
the invitation to testify before this distinguished committee on the important
subject of U.S. policy toward Iraq.
It is an honor to
appear as part of a hearing in which Scott Ritter testifies. Scott Ritter
is a public servant of exceptional integrity and moral courage, one of
those individuals who is not afraid to speak the truth. Now he is speaking
the truth about the failures of the UN inspection regime in Iraq, even
though those truths are embarrassing to senior officials in the Clinton
Administration. And the pressures he is being subjected to are far worse.
After first trying to smear his character with anonymous leaks, the administration
then took to charging that Mr. Ritter doesnt have a clue
about U.S. policy toward Iraq and saying that his criticisms were playing
into Saddam Husseins hands by impugning UNSCOMs independence.
In fact, it is hard
to know what U.S. policy is toward Iraq because it is such a muddle of
confusion and pretense. Apparently, the administration makes a distinction
between telling Amb. Butler not to conduct an inspection and telling him
that the time is inopportune for a confrontation with Iraq and that the
U.S. is not in a position to back up UNSCOM. That kind of hair-splitting
only further convinces both our friends and adversaries in the Middle
East that we are not serious and that our policy is collapsing. It is
only reinforced when they see us going through semantic contortions to
explain that North Korea is not in violation of the Framework Agreement
or when they see us failing to act on the warnings that we have given
to North Korea or to Milosevic or to Saddam Hussein.
The problem with U.S.
policy toward Iraq is that the administration is engaged in a game of
pretending that everything is fine, that Saddam Hussein remains within
a strategic box and if he tries to break out our response
will be swift and strong. The fact is that it has now been 42 days
since there have been any weapons inspections in Iraq and the swift and
strong response that the Administration threatened at the time of the
Kofi Annan agreement earlier this year is nowhere to be seen.
Recently a senior
official in a friendly Arab government complained to me that the U.S.
attaches great store to symbolic votes by the Non-Aligned Movement on
the no fly zone in Southern Iraq, while doing nothing to deal
with the heart of the problem which is Saddam himself.
The United States
is unable or unwilling to pursue a serious policy in Iraq, one that would
aim at liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam's tyrannical grasp and
free Iraqs neighbors from Saddams murderous threats. Such
a policy, but only such a policy, would gain real support from our friends
in the region. And it might eventually even gain the respect of many of
our critics who are able to see that Saddam inflicts horrendous suffering
on the Iraqi people, but who see U.S. policy making that suffering worse
through sanctions while doing nothing about Saddam.
continue to claim that the only alternative to maintaining the unity of
the UN Security Council is to send U.S. forces to Baghdad. That is wrong.
As has been said repeatedly in letters and testimony to the President
and the Congress by myself and other former defense officials, including
two former secretaries of defense, and a former director of central intelligence,
the key lies not in marching U.S. soldiers to Baghdad, but in helping
the Iraqi people to liberate themselves from Saddam.
strength -- his ability to control his people though extreme terror --
is also his greatest vulnerability. The overwhelming majority of people,
including some of his closest associates, would like to be free of his
grasp if only they could safely do so.
A strategy for supporting
this enormous latent opposition to Saddam requires political and economic
as well as military components. It is eminently possible for a country
that possesses the overwhelming power that the United States has in the
Gulf. The heart of such action would be to create a liberated zone in
Southern Iraq comparable to what the United States and its partners did
so successfully in the North in 1991. Establishing a safe protected zone
in the South, where opposition to Saddam could rally and organize, would
make it possible:
This would be a formidable
undertaking, and certainly not one which will work if we insist on maintaining
the unity of the UN Security Council. But once it began it would begin
to change the calculations of Saddams opponents and supporters --
both inside and outside the country -- in decisive ways. One Arab official
in the Gulf told me that the effect inside Iraq of such a strategy would
be devastating to Saddam. But the effect outside would be
powerful as well. Our friends in the Gulf, who fear Saddam but who also
fear ineffective American action against him, would see that this is a
very different U.S. policy. And Saddams supporters in the Security
Council -- in particular France and Russia -- would suddenly see a different
prospect before them. Instead of lucrative oil production contracts with
the Saddam Hussein regime, they would now have to calculate the economic
and commercial opportunities that would come from ingratiating themselves
with the future government of Iraq.
The Clinton Administration repeatedly makes excuses for its own weakness by arguing that the coalition against Saddam is not what it was seven years ago. But in fact, that coalition didnt exist at all when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The United States, under George Bushs leadership, put that coalition together by demonstrating that we had the strength and the seriousness of purpose to carry through to an effective conclusion. President Bush made good on those commitments despite powerful opposition in the U.S. Congress. The situation today is easier in many respects: Iraq is far weaker; American strength is much more evident to everyone, including ourselves; and the Congress would be far more supportive of decisive action. If this Administration could muster the necessary strength of purpose, it would be possible to liberate ourselves, our friends and allies in the region, and the Iraqi people themselves, from the menace of Saddam Hussein.