legislators urge support for opposition forces inside Iraq
December 5, 2001
Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The events of September 11 have highlighted the vulnerability of the United
States to determined terrorists. As we work to clean up Afghanistan and
destroy al Qaeda, it is imperative that we plan to eliminate the threat
This December will mark three years since United Nations inspectors last
visited Iraq. There is no doubt that since that time, Saddam Hussein has
reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological,
chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf
war status. In addition, Saddam continues to refine delivery systems and
is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range
missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.
For much of the last year, the Administration has struggled to plug loopholes
in the international sanctions against Iraq. Unfortunately, efforts to
coopt Saddam's illegal trading partners — particularly Syria — have failed.
In the meantime, the illegal oil trade from Iraq has flourished, and Saddam
now earns an estimated $2 billion annually, much of which he has devoted
to his military and his illegal weapons programs.
If we have learned one thing from the ongoing battle in Afghanistan, it
is that working effectively in coordination with locals on the ground
can significantly leverage our own use of military farce. While we have
no doubt that in the long run, the United States will always prevail in
battle with the likes of the Taliban (not to speak of Saddam Hussein),
we also know that we can minimize casualties and shorten conflict by cooperating
with opposition forces. That has been a key element of U.S. strategy for
Since the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act three years ago, we have
fought to provide support for Iraqis inside Iraq. The Iraqi National Congress
(INC), an umbrella group of all the significant anti-Saddam forces inside
Iraq, has consistently requested Administration assistance for operations
on the ground in Iraq ranging from the delivery of humanitarian assistance
and information-gathering to military and technical training and lethal
Despite the express wishes of the Congress, the INC has been denied U.S.
assistance for any operations inside any part of Iraq, including liberated
Kurdish areas. Instead, successive Administrations have funded conferences,
offices and other intellectual exercises that have done little more than
expose the INC to accusations of being "limousine insurgents" and "armchair
guerillas". We note the troubling similarity of these accusations to charges
made against the Afghan guerillas now helping us win the war against the
The threat from Iraq is real, and it cannot be permanently contained.
For as long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Baghdad, he will seek to
acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. We
have no doubt that these deadly weapons are intended for use against the
United States and its allies. Consequently, we believe we must directly
confront Saddam, sooner rather than later. Without allies on the ground
inside Iraq, we will be handicapping our own efforts. Each day that passes
costs us an opportunity to unite and professionalize the Iraqi opposition,
thus ensuring it will be less capable when the conflict begins.
Again, we can learn from our experience in Afghanistan. We cannot be drawn
into the ethnic politics of any particular nation, but should find a way
to work with all the opposition in a unified framework. The Iraqi National
Congress is the only umbrella organization comprising all elements of
the Iraqi opposition. No one group is excluded, no one group is favored.
Mr. President, all indications are that in the interest of our own national
security, Saddam Hussein must be removed from power. Let us maximize the
likelihood of a rapid victory by beginning immediately to assist the Iraqi
opposition on the ground inside Iraq by providing them money and assistance
already authorized and appropriated.
We look forward to working with you on this most important matter.
(signed) John McCain
(signed) Jesse Helms
(signed) Henry Hyde
(signed) Richard Shelby
(signed) Harold Ford, Jr.
(signed) Joe Lieberman
(signed) Trend Lott
(signed) Ben Gilman
(signed) Sam Brownback