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(RETIRED) WESLEY K. CLARK
House Armed Services Committee
September 26, 2002
Mr. Chairman, Representative Skelton, Distinguished Members of this Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. This is a Committee that has been strongly supportive of the men and women in uniform, and I want to thank you personally for the assistance and support that you gave me, and have given so many others.
In October 1994, Saddam Hussein moved several Republican Guards divisions back into the attack positions just north of the Kuwaiti border, the same attack positions that had been occupied just prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It was a foolish and to our minds unexpected and threatening move. We quickly deployed additional military forces to the region, preparing to enter a full-fledged battle against Iraq to defend Kuwait, and we also went to the United Nations. After a few tense days Saddam backed off, the divisions were removed, and we acted through the United Nations to further tighten the no-fly zone and regulate Iraqi troop movements.
But it was a signal warning about Saddam Hussein: he is not only malevolent and violent, but also unpredictable. He retains his chemical and biological warfare capabilities and is actively pursuing nuclear capabilities. Were he to acquire such capabilities, we and our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks. Saddam might use such weapons as a deterrent while launching attacks against Israel or his neighbors, he might threaten American forces in the region, he might strike directly against Israel, or Israel, weighing the possibilities of nuclear blackmail or aggression, might feel compelled to strike Iraq first.
Saddam has been pursuing nuclear weapons for over twenty years. According to all estimates made available he does not now have these weapons. The best public assessment is that if he were to acquire fissionable material he might field some type of weapon within two years. If he has to enrich the uranium ore itself, then a period of perhaps five years might be required. But what makes the situation relatively more dangerous today is that the UN weapons inspectors, who provided some assistance in impeding his development programs, have been absent from Iraq for over four years. And the sanctions regime, designed to restrict his access to weapons materials and the resources needed to procure them, has continuously eroded. At some point, it may become possible for Saddam to acquire the fissionable materials or uranium ore that he needs. And therefore, Iraq is not a problem that can be indefinitely postponed.
In addition, Saddam Hussein’s current retention of chemical and biological weapons and their respective delivery systems violates the UN resolutions themselves, which carry the weight of international law.
Our President has emphasized the urgency of eliminating these weapons and weapons programs. I strongly support his efforts to encourage the United Nations to act on this problem. And in taking this to the United Nations, the President’s clear determination to act if the United Nations can’t provides strong leverage undergirding further diplomatic efforts.
But the problem of Iraq is only an element of the broader security challenges facing our country. We have an unfinished, world-wide war against Al Qaeda, a war that has to be won in conjunction with friends and allies, and that ultimately be won by persuasion as much as by force, when we turn off the Al Qaeda recruiting machine. Some three thousand deaths on September 11th testify to the real danger from Al Qaeda, and as all acknowledge, Al Qaeda has not yet been defeated. Thus far, substantial evidence has not been made available to link Saddam’s regime to the Al Qaeda network. And while such linkages may emerge, winning the war against Al Qaeda may well require different actions than ending the weapons programs in Iraq.
The critical issue facing the Unites States now is how to force action against Saddam Hussein and his weapons programs without detracting from our focus on Al Qaeda or efforts to deal with other immediate, mid and long-term security problems. In this regard, I would offer the following considerations:
- The United States diplomacy in the United Nations will be further strengthened if the Congress can adopt a resolution expressing US determination to act if the United Nations will not. The use of force must remain a US option under active consideration. The resolution need not at this point authorize the use of force, but simply agree on the intent to authorize the use of force, if other measures fail. The more focused the resolution on Iraq and the problem of weapons of mass destruction, the greater its utility in the United Nations. The more nearly unanimous the resolution, the greater its impact in the diplomatic efforts underway.
- The President and his national security team must deploy imagination, leverage, and patience in crafting UN engagement. In the near term, time is on our side, and we should endeavor to use the UN if at all possible. This may require a period of time for inspections or even the development of a more intrusive inspection program, if necessary backed by force. This is foremost an effort to gain world-wide legitimacy for US concerns and possible later action, but it may also impede Saddam’s weapons programs and further constrain his freedom of action. Yes, there is a risk that inspections would fail to provide the evidence of his weapons programs, but the difficulties of dealing with this outcome are more than offset by opportunity to gain allies and support in the campaign against Saddam.
If efforts to resolve the problem by using the United Nations fail, either initially or ultimately, the US should form the broadest possible coalition, including its NATO allies and the North Atlantic Council if possible, to bring force to bear. Force should not be used until the personnel and organizations to be involved in post-conflict Iraq are identified and readied to assume their responsibilities. This includes requirements for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance, and preparations for a transitional governing body and eventual elections, perhaps including a new constitution. Ideally, international and multinational organizations will participate in the readying of such post-conflict operations, including the UN, NATO, and other regional and Islamic organizations.
Force should be used as the last resort; after all diplomatic means have been exhausted, unless information indicates that further delay would present an immediate risk to the assembled forces and organizations. This action should not be categorized as “preemptive.”
Once initiated, any military operation should aim for the most rapid accomplishment of its operational aims and prompt turnover to follow-on organizations and agencies.
If we proceed as outlined above, we may be able to minimize the disruption to the ongoing campaign against Al Qaeda, reduce the impact on friendly governments in the region, and even contribute to the resolution of other regional issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iranian efforts to develop nuclear capabilities, and Saudi funding for terrorism. But there are no guarantees. The war is unpredictable and could be difficult and costly. And what is at risk in the aftermath is an open-ended American ground commitment in Iraq and an even deeper sense of humiliation in the Arab world, which could intensify our problems in the region and elsewhere.
I look forward to answering questions and helping the Committee assess the costs and risks of the alternatives before us.
As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated. Click here for more information.
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