David Sirota, Christy Harvey, Judd Legum and Jonathan Baskin – 2004-06-23 12:46:35
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is scheduled to testify this week before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and he should have some tough questions to answer. With the June 30 transition to the new Iraqi government less than 10 days away, reports suggest the security situation is getting worse (http://www.iht.com/articles/525682.html) .
Attacks against Iraqis working with the US occupation authorities “seem increasingly frequent and audacious,” and the New York Times argues “without a turnaround in the security situation, significant progress toward a self-governing, let alone democratic, Iraq is unlikely.” Nevertheless, the Bush administration still lacks a clear strategy for progress in Iraq.
The hearings this week provide Congress with an opportunity to question Wolfowitz on his previous statements and predictions about post-war Iraq, as well as the path forward from here. The following are some of the outstanding questions Wolfowitz should answer. ( Ror the full list of questions we’ve compiled for Secretary Wolfowitz click here:
Questions for Wolfowitz
TROOP LEVELS: Does Wolfowitz still believe Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki’s estimates were “wildly off the mark?” In the march to war, Wolfowitz publicly rebuked Shinseki for his estimate that ” several hundred thousand troops (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-02-25-iraq-us_x.htm) ” would be necessary to provide security in post-war Iraq.
At the time, Wolfowitz dismissed Shinseki’s estimate as “wildly off the mark” and said “the notion that it would take several hundred thousand American troops just seems outlandish (http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2004/01/fallows.htm) .”
There are now 138,000 American troops deployed in Iraq, including 20,000 soldiers who have had their tours extended — and many believe this is still not enough. Former Army Secretary Thomas White admitted as early as last summer the Pentagon’s civilian leadership had “underestimated the number of troops needed to occupy Iraq,” and said, “the facts bear out that [Shinseki] was pretty accurate (http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/06/03/sprj.irq.white.iraq.troops/) in his estimate.”
IRAQI SECURITY: Will Wolfowitz specify when Iraqi security forces will be ready to take over? On June 9, Wolfowitz suggested that “over the next few months,” coalition forces would “prepare Iraqi security forces to assume greater responsibilities (http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=10239) from coalition forces — allowing Iraqis to take local control of the cities.” One day later, the man in charge of armed forces training, Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, told reporters, ” It hasn’t gone well. We’ve had almost one year of no progress.”
The Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) goal of training a 40,000 man Iraqi army has fallen dismally short — as of May 2004, they had trained only 2,808 soldiers.
Last week, Wolfowitz admitted “Iraqi security forces are not ready to assume their job” (http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=5447645) For a look at other problems CPA Administrator Paul Bremer must deal with in the run-up to the transition, Click here:
FALLUJAH: Does Wolfowitz think it was a mistake to abdicate responsibility for the security in Fallujah to unprepared Iraqi security forces?
On April 26, 2004, Wolfowitz told the House Armed Services Committee, “Fallujah is unquestionably the hardest place in the country, there is no Iraqi force that can handle Fallujah today, we know that.” The United States turned Fallujah over to the Iraqis just days later, and today “insurgents still operate openly in parts of the city (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/20/magazine/20FALLUJA.html?ex=1088308800&en=8299c68c5a1880bd&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE) , even enforcing their own harsh brand of Islamic law.”
RECONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS: Why has Wolfowitz done nothing as the Pentagon awards lucrative contracts to companies under investigation? AP reports, “ten companies with billions of dollars in US contracts for Iraq reconstruction have paid more than $300 million in penalties since 2000 to resolve allegations of bid rigging, fraud, delivery of faulty military parts and environmental damage.”
The contracts are only legal because the Bush administration “repealed regulations put in place by the Clinton administration that would have allowed officials to bar new government work for companies convicted or penalized during the previous three years.”
Play Contractopoly and see how much money you can win in sweetheart deals from the Bush administration as you rebuild Iraq.
MONEY: Will Wolfowitz answer how much money will be needed in the FY05 supplemental request? Wolfowitz has made an art out of hiding how much Iraq operations will cost. On the eve of war in 2003, he refused to answer questions from lawmakers about cost estimates, saying “it’s necessary to preserve some ambiguity of exactly where the numbers are.” And this year, the administration is playing games again.
The president failed to include any funding for Iraq in his original FY05 budget request, then asked Congress to approve a $25 billion “contingency fund” for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wolfowitz, who testified before the war that Iraq could ” really finance its own reconstruction,” told the House Appropriations Committee, “there will be a request for a full year supplemental early next year. It will sure be much larger than $25 billion.” (http://www.occupationwatch.org/article.php?id=4791)
Two numbers are now known : the United States is spending $4 billion to $4.6 billion a month in Iraq, and $700 million a month in Afghanistan.