Skip to comments.FLASHBACK, 1999: Congressional Leaders Tell White House They Are At Iraq Policy
Posted on 09/25/2003 8:13:05 PM PDT by TheDon
Congressional Leaders Tell White House They Are Dismayed At Iraq Policy
(August 12, 1999)
Congressional leaders Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, Richard Shelby, Benjamin A. Gilman, Joseph I. Lieberman, J. Robert Kerrey, Sam Brownback and Howard L. Berman submitted the following letter to the White House on August 11, 1999:
Congress of the United States Washington DC 20515 August 11, 1999
The President The White House Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President: As the principal proponents of last year's Iraq Liberation Act, we are writing to express our dismay over the continued drift in U.S. policy toward Iraq. We were greatly encouraged by your decision last October to sign the Iraq Liberation Act which established as an objective of U.S. foreign policy the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime, and we welcomed your pledge last November 15th to work with Congress to implement the Act. We were also p1eased with the execution of Operation Desert Fox 1ast December, and the continued commitment of your Administration following the conclusion of that Operation to fully enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. Since the beginning of this year, however, we have noted signs of a reduced priority in U.S. policy toward Iraq. The last six months have been notable more for what has not happened rather than for what has been achieved. In particular, we are dismayed by the following:
*International Inspections no longer constrain Saddam's Weapons of Mass destruction (WMD) programs. Up to and during Operation Desert Fox, Administration officials expended considerable energy explaining to the international community, Congress, and the American people why it was necessary to use force to compel Saddam to submit to comprehensive international inspections. Without inspections, we were told, Saddam could begin to reconstitute his WMD capabi1ity within a matter of weeks. Operation Desert Fox was necessary to compel him to stop obstructing inspections. Since Operation Desert Fox, however, there have been no inspections at all. Now, rather than emphasize the danger that Iraq's WMD programs may be reconstituted, Administration officials apparently claim that they have "no evidence" that Saddam is reconstituting his capabilities. In fact, there is considerable evidence that Iraq continues to seek to develop and acquire weapons of mass destruction. The whole point of Operation Desert Fox was that we could not afford to wait until Saddam reconstituted his WMD capabilities. If international security could be assured by waiting until we find evidence that Saddam has developed weapons of mass destruction and responding to the threat at that time, there wou1d have been no need for Operation Desert Fox.
The President August 11, 1999 Page Two
*The Administration is not giving the Iraqi opposition the political support it needs to seriously challenge Saddam. While Administration spokesmen sometimes have expressed support for the Iraq Liberation Act, all too often they distanced themselves from, if not ridiculed, the policy you endorsed last November 15th. In this regard, the views of General Zinni, Commander-in-Chief of the Centra1 Command, are well-known. More recently, a senior State Department officia1 was quoted in the Washington Post saying of the opposition "these are the day-after guys. These are not the guys who are going to put a bullet in the head of Saddam Hussein." In fact, the members of the democratic opposition need to be supported as the "today" guys--unless it is the intention of the Clinton Administration to send U.S. ground troops in to achieve the U.S. policy objective of removing the Saddam Hussein regime from power. Instead of permitting senior officials to denigrate the opposition, the Administration should be seeking to enhance the opposition's political legitimacy by receiving its officials at the highest level and supporting its efforts to convene meetings inside Iraq, in the United States and elsewhere.
* The Administration is not giving the Iraqi opposition the material support it needs to seriously challenge Saddam. To achieve the objective of removing Saddam, the opposition will require not only more political support from the United States than it has received so far, but also more material support. To date, of the $8 million appropriated in last year's omnibus appropriations act to assist the opposition, less than $500,00 has been used to support activities carried out by the opposition. Most of the rest of this money is being spent on such things as academic conferences, community outreach projects, and conflict management programs that will do little or nothing to expedite the demise of Saddam's regime. Notwithstanding these expenditures, we understand that as much US $1 million of this aid may be returned to the Treasury at the end of the fiscal year. Further, the opposition has received no assistance whatsoever from the $97 million in military assistance made available under the Iraq Liberation Act. The Administration has begun to plan an initial drawdown under the Iraq Liberation Act, but has signaled Saddam that he has nothing to fear by emphasizing that the drawdown will be "non-lethal" in nature. Reportedly it will in include photocopiers, computers, and fax machines, as well as training in such areas as accounting and flood management. In providing authority for military drawdown, it was our intention to train and equip a force dedicated to bringing democracy to Iraq.
*The Administration is not willing to deliver assistance to the opposition inside Iraq. In addition to withholding from the opposition the most useful forms of assistance, the Administration has ruled out delivering assistance to the opposition inside Iraq. Delivering such assistance inside Iraq might violate U.N. sanctions, we are told. U.N. sanctions cannot present a legal problem under U.S. law, inasmuch as the Iraq Liberation Act authorizes the provision of assistance under the act notwithstanding any other
The President August 11, 1999 Page Three provision of law." To find a legal problem under international law, it is necessary to overlook the fact that the purpose of U.N. sanctions is to weaken Saddam. It is further necessary to ignore the U.N. Security Council resolutions, including 688 and 949, that authorize action to protect the Kurdish and other minorities in Iraq and provide the foundation under international law for our continued enforcement of no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. If it does not violate U.N. sanctions for coalition aircraft to bomb targets inside Iraq, it should not violate sanctions to deliver munitions and other assistance to the opposition for use against targets inside Iraq. And certainly the delivery of non-lethal forms of assistance inside Iraq, especially humanitarian assistance, should not violate U.N. sanctions.
*The Administration is not willing to give appropriate security assurances to anti-Saddam Iraqis, including the Kurds and Shi'a. The Kurdish and Shi'a population of Iraq has paid a horrible price for resisting Saddam's rule. To provide a measure of protection to these groups, the northern and southern no-fly zones were established in l991 and 1992. More recently, Secretary Albright extended U.S. security assurances to the Kurds last September in order to facilitate the reconciliation agreement between Kurdish groups. On July 7th of this year, the Executive Council of the Iraqi National Congress asked the Administration for additional security assurances in order to make possible an Iraqi National Assembly meeting in northern Iraq. The opposition did not ask for a commitment of U.S. ground forces or other specific guarantees. Nevertheless, in a letter dated July 29th, Acting Secretary of State Strobe Talbott rejected this request. We be1ieve this decision should be reconsidered. The United States already is committed to providing security for the Kurds and Shi'a of Iraq. To specifically deny a request from the opposition for assurances that would, in their words, "show that the United States is committed to a change of government in Iraq" sends a dangerous signal. This sign of irresolution can only tempt Saddam to once again move against the Kurds and Shi'a.
We are dismayed by these developments. We do not believe, however, that it is too late to reverse the drift in U.S. policy and regain the momentum that our nation had last year. We respectfully propose an action plan consisting of the following four key elements:
1. Set a deadline for the reinstitution of meaningful international inspections of Saddam's WMD programs in the near future, while ensuring that Saddam is not rewarded for complying with his international obligations. Make clear that serious consequences will ensue if the deadline is not met. This could mean, among other things, further military action against WMD-related facilities and other targets central to Saddam's hold on power, or expansion of the existing no-fly zones into no-drive zones.
The President August 11, 1999 Page Four
2. Provide enhanced security assurances to anti-Saddam Iraqis along the lines proposed in the letter of July 7, 1999, from the Executive Council of the Iraqi National Congress. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will reverse the dangerous signal that was sent by the Administration's initial response to the July 7th letter from the opposition.
3. Support the effort of the Iraqi National Congress to hold a National Assembly meeting in the near future at the location of their choice, including northern Iraq or Washington D.C. Urge other countries to send observers as a sign of support, and facilitate their attendance.
4. Immediately begin a program of meaningful assistance to the designated opposition groups. This must include both material assistance and training under the Iraq Liberation Act. The opposition has an immediate need for such items as communications equipment, uniforms, boots, and bivouac gear. In addition, the necessary equipment should be provided for direct broadcasting into Baghdad of FM radio and television signals from opposition-controlled sites in northern Iraq. Training may best be provided outside Iraq, but there is no reason not to deliver material assistance inside Iraq. Over time, we must be prepared to deliver both lethal military training and lethal material assistance.
With these steps, we believe that our nation can begin to recover the ground that has been lost since last year. We stand prepared to offer whatever legislative support you require in order to achieve our shared objective of promoting the emergence of a peaceful, democratic government in Iraq.
TRENT LOTT JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN [signed] [signed]
JESSE HELMS J. ROBERT KERREY [signed] [signed]
RICHARD C. SHELBY SAM BROWNBACK [signed] [signed]
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN HOWARD L. BERMAN [signed] [signed]
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