Friday, October 21, 2005

Wonk Alert! Wonk Alert!

Below you will find Sen. Kerry's portion of the Condi Rice hearing, in it's entirety. Why the hell did I do that, you may be asking yourself. Three reasons:

1. I have great respect for Kerry's knowledge of foreign policy and his perspective on world events, even if I don't always agree. Hence, hearings like this one can often be quite instructive.

2. I sense that The Winter Soldier approacheth, based on what he told Cindy Sheehan and some of his questions in this hearing. I do believe he's losing patience with the administration ever getting it right in Iraq. (We shall see if I'm right)

3. I want folks to see some of what I see in this man. To that end, I will occasionally be posting articles I found during the election that helped to change me from ABB to full-blown Kerrycrat. And if some of what I post here can be a resource for folks, all the better.

SFRC hearing 10/19/05 Some testimony excerpts

Let me call now on Senator Kerry.

Now I'll ask members to please observe, as Senator Allen did, the 10-minute situation so that we are able to get to all of our senators.

Senator Kerry?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Madame Secretary, I apologize for not being here for your testimony. I was up in Massachusetts looking at our dam that, for the moment, is holding together, and we hope will.

The president has repeatedly summarized his Iraq plan in the following way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And in a speech to the nation two weeks ago, he again didn't lay out any kind of specific political or new diplomatic initiative. Certainly what he really said was, quote, " sacrifice, time, resolve." He went on to describe those who questioned his handling of the war as self-defeating pessimists.

Now, writing in next month's Foreign Affairs, Melvin Laird, the former secretary of Defense under Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, says, quote: "Recent polls showing waning support for the war are a sign to the president that he needs to level with the American people."

Quote, "His West-Texas cowboy approach -- shoot first and ask questions later, or do the job and the let results speak for themselves -- is not working." As we learned in Vietnam, Laird writes, quote, "When troops are dying, the commander in chief cannot be coy, vague or secretive." He goes on to suggest that you, Madame Secretary, are in the best position to perhaps help set the record straight.

So let me ask you, do you think the president needs to do a better job to address -- what I don't think anybody would agree is a self-defeating pessimist in Melvin Laird and in his suggestion as well as those and many other observers, Republican, Democrat alike -- about the level of support and understanding of the American people, and the specificity of how you are going to deal with the political solution to Iraq?

SEC. RICE: Well, Senator, I'm quite certain that we can all -- and I count myself first and foremost among them -- be out and do to address concerns or to address any ambiguities that people may feel that there are about how we're going to proceed to victory in this war. That's what I've tried to lay out today in talking about --

SEN. KERRY: Victory? How do you define victory? What is victory?

SEC. RICE: I think that, Senator, when we have laid the foundation for an Iraqi government that is clearly moving along its political path -- and they are well along that political path -- that now a permanent government that has begun to really deal with its sectarian differences as they are trying to do through this constitution and their process. When we see that there is an insurgency -- and I'm a firm believer that this insurgency may be able for quite a long time to commit -- let me call them cowardly, violent acts against innocent people; that is, to blow up children standing at a school bus --

SEN. KERRY: We all understand what it is, and they will do that for a long time.

SEC. RICE: And so -- and they will do that. But if I could look at the way other insurgencies have died, if you will, it is when they are clearly no longer a threat to the political path and the political stability of the country. I think that you could suggest, for instance, that in Colombia there was a time when the insurgency there -- people questioned whether or not the Colombian government would survive. Nobody questions that today, even though there's still an insurgency that from time to time has kidnappings and the like. The Algerian is another case.

And so when there is clearly a political path that has been followed to a stable political system, even with its problems -- I mean, Senator, you'd be the first to agree, I'm sure, with me that we continued for a long time in our own history to have political tensions and political problems in --

SEN. KERRY: I understand, Madame Secretary, but let me -- let's get to this definition within the context of what you're saying for this government.


SEN. KERRY: What you're saying begs a political solution, not a military solution.

SEC. RICE: That's correct.

SEN. KERRY: But mostly, what we've been pursuing up until recently has been, until, perhaps, Ambassador Khalilzad -- who, I think most of us would agree, is doing an outstanding job under difficult circumstances, but with limited ability, because he's basically trying to resolve a fundamental difference between Shi'a and Sunni -- Shi'a, who are dominant in numbers and will dominate the government; Sunni, who want to return to power.

Now there's nothing in the political equation and nothing in the constitution that resolves that fundamental divide. How do you do that? What are your plans to do that?

SEC. RICE: Senator, I actually don't agree that that there's nothing in the constitution that addresses that fundamental divide. What addresses that fundamental divide is that it allows people, first of all, to have the vote as individuals, not as groups. And we have seen, in the time that really started to the referendum until -- as people are getting ready for December, cross-cutting coalitions now developing in Iraq between some Kurds and some Shi'a who -- I'll use the terms in quotes -- " secular" Shi'a; some Sunnis who -- for instance, the Iraqi Islamic Party that supported the constitution.

I think you're starting to see cross-cutting cleavages, and that's a very good thing, because what it will mean is that within those institutions, the National Assembly, the presidency, they will have to use compromise and politics to reconcile their differences.

SEN. KERRY: But the fundamental differences, by any acknowledgment, were postponed. They came together, they agreed to have a committee that had the right to raise the fundamental issues, but they haven't resolved the fundamental issues.

SEC. RICE: Senator, to ask them to resolve it within a -- within several months, I think, would have been superhuman. Ask them --

SEN. KERRY: Well, you're the ones that set the date for the constitution with them.

SEC. RICE: No, but to ask them to get to a framework in which they can work in an evolutionary way to the resolution of differences that are centuries old, I think, is completely --

SEN. KERRY: Well, that is exactly the problem, that -- well, let me get to that with a question. I see the light's already on. It's incredible how fast it goes.

But many of our military leaders, Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi people themselves are now saying, in effect, that our military presence is as much a part of the problem as it is the solution.

General Casey, our top commander, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that our military presence, quote, "feeds the notion of occupation" and, quote, "extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant."

The Iraq Sovereignty Committee, made up of elected members of the Iraqi National Assembly, released a report in September stating that the presence of U.S. troops prevents Iraq from becoming fully sovereign.

A recent summary of numerous Iraqi public opinion surveys concluded that a majority of Iraqis, quote, "oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq and those who strongly oppose it greatly outnumber those who strongly support it."

So what do you say to this growing sense in our military leaders, who've told it to us when we visit Iraq, to the general sort of input of people who have spent a lifetime studying the region, that the presence is adding to the numbers of terrorists, adding to the perception of occupation, adding to the problem, and that it doesn't deal with the real problem, which is the political solution needed between Shi'a and Sunni?

SEC. RICE: Well, first of all, Senator, when you come to the political solution, I think you have to see that these people have come a long way in two and a half years.


SEC. RICE: But it is very important because -- you ask about a political solution. A political solution was not going to be born overnight in Iraq.

SEN. KERRY: That's not what you told America and that's not what you told this committee.

SEC. RICE: Senator, as I've said before, we've had a long political evolution in the United States. We didn't even have it easy in Birmingham, let alone in Iraq. And so I really do ask --

SEN. KERRY: It's not what you told America, Madame Secretary.

SEC. RICE: -- I ask us to focus on the political process that was laid out in the -- as a matter of fact, it was laid out as a two- year political process in the Transitional Administrative Law, and they have been walking along in that political process.

Now, is there a fundamental difference between Shi'a and Sunni? The Iraqis -- many Iraqis will tell you that there is, in fact, not a fundamental difference; what there is is that there are different interests that have to be reconciled and that have to be dealt with, both about the past and about the future.

You're right, they have left to a national assembly that will be representative the writing of certain rules about how certain aspects of the constitution will be carried out. That's a political process. There's nothing wrong with carrying out a political process in that way.

As to our military presence, our military presence there is requested under U.N. mandate now by the Iraqi government itself. And it requests it because it knows that, whatever people's views of our military presence there, our military presence is needed until Iraqi forces are able to be responsible for their own security. It is --

SEN. KERRY: Madame Secretary, if I can just say to you, President Talabani when he was here in Washington had an interview with The Washington Post in which he said we could withdraw 45(000) to 50,000 troops the end of the year. He visited the White House, and he changed his tune. General Casey went to the Armed Services Committee and said we could withdraw troops by Christmas. Then the president said, well, I think that's rumor or speculation.

So it seems as if you and the administration have a point of view about withdrawing that is quite different from Iraqis and quite different from our own military.

SEC. RICE: Senator, we have a joint process with the Iraqis to determine specifically what conditions can be met by what forces. We want to be out of Iraq with our forces as soon as possible. We have no desire to stay in Iraq. But we also don't want to create a condition, a situation in which we withdraw prematurely and leave Iraqi forces incapable of dealing with the insurgency that is made up of terrorists and Ba'athists, essentially, who would try and overthrow their government.

Now, I laid out today earlier a set of steps that we're trying to take that demonstrate that political stability, political control rests with the Iraqi government. It means that you go into areas, it means that you establish -- first of all, you kick the insurgents out and you create a secure environment, and then you create political and civil and economic development in that region so that that area can be held.

SEN. KERRY: Well, my --

SEC. RICE: That is the political-military strategy, and -- by the way, most of the country is, of course, stable. We're talking largely about the Sunni area.

SEN. KERRY: You're talking largely about Sunni. I understand that.

Mr. Chairman, I know my time is up.

If -- you know, I just think that realistically, when you assess what you've just said, it really doesn't deal with that fundamental difference that I just described, which is -- from every leader and every person you talk to in the region, they are all worried about Iran and Iran's influence with respect to the Shi'a. And the Shi'a have been adamant about the Islamic component of the state and about the federalization. The Sunni are adamant about the strong center and not being fundamentally defined in Islamic terms. That is the fundamental difference here. And it seems to me that no amount of troops and no amount of talk about the insurgency --

And the insurgency, every expert we -- all of our CIA briefings and everything tell us, is fundamentally Sunni. Fundamentally. Maybe 2 percent, slightly larger, foreign fighters. The Iraqis don't want foreign fighters in there. In the end, the Shi'a and the Kurds will never tolerate them being there. So if you can resolve the Sunni- Shi'a issue, which I think most people feel has not been addressed significantly, that's the way you're going to end violence.

SEC. RICE: Senator, it's going to be -- it's not conceivable that the Sunnis and the Shi'as are going to overcome hundreds of years of differences within a matter of a couple of years. But we believe -- and I would hope we all believe enough in democratic processes -- to believe that that is really the only way that people resolve their ethnic and other differences. It has certainly been the case in much of the world that democratic institutions allow people to resolve their differences.

By the way, the only other answer is that you repress one or the other. The only other answer to don't let them work it out through a democratic process is that the Sunni continue to repress the Shi'a. I think that's not acceptable to American values --

SEN. KERRY: Of course it's not.

SEC. RICE: -- and it's ultimately not acceptable to stability in the Middle East. So -- so there are really only two --

SEN. KERRY: I would suggest to you that's not the only other answer. With all due respect, that's not the only other answer. The other answer is that you, the administration, and the Sunni neighbors -- they're mostly Sunni -- get together.

Why are they so absent? The Sunni neighbors ought to be involved in getting a compromise which the Kurds and Shi'a give up than they've been willing to give up. And if you don't do that, this insurgency is not going to end.

SEC. RICE: Senator, that's precisely what's happening. That's what Ambassador Khalilzad was in Saudi Arabia --

SEN. KERRY: It's stunningly late in the happening, Madame Secretary.

SEC. RICE: Well, it is -- Senator, for something that's been going on a couple hundred years, they are actually doing pretty well. But again, they have never --

SEN. KERRY: Our presence there has not been for a couple hundred years.

SEC. RICE: But -- but, Senator, if I may just say, what it is we're replacing, we're replacing a situation in which this was done by repression, so that the Sunnis repressed the Shi'a majority and the Kurdish minority.

SEN. KERRY: Correct.

SEC. RICE: That's not an acceptable outcome. And so, the placement of political institutions, a constitution, an assembly that will be elected with better Sunni representation in December is the way to give these people a framework in which to resolve their differences.

I agree with you. Their neighbors need to be fundamentally involved in helping to close that divide. And that's why we're reaching out to the Saudis and reaching out to the UAE and to others to ask their support -- and they were very supportive in helping on the referendum -- to do precisely that. But it's not as if Iraq and the Middle East was stable along the Shi'a-Sunni divide before the liberation of Iraq.

SEN. KERRY: Of course not. I realize that. (Pause.)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your indulgence. Thank you.

SEN. LUGAR: All right. I did not interrupt the dialogue. It was important. But it was 15 minutes --

SEC. RICE: Sorry. (Laughs.)

SEN. LUGAR: And let me just say, please, if we're to have fairness to all of our senators, we need to try to stay within the 10 minutes.

SEN. KERRY: Mr. Chairman, could I just say something about that, quickly?

SEN. LUGAR: Yes, of course.

SEN. KERRY: The reason it's so difficult is, this is the first hearing we've had since, I think, March.

SEN. LUGAR: I appreciate that. Point has been made now several times, and we are having a hearing, and we're trying to stay within the rules.


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