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been for several days, and that the other witnesses were coming for consultation to the DOD. Therefore, the Secretary made you available here this morning. That is, plain and simple, how it happened.
As to the conduct of this hearing, the buck stops right here on this desk, and I am the chairman, and I consult with my members, as my distinguished ranking member consults with his, and I am very proud in the manner in which this committee has pursued its responsibilities under the Constitution. We are trying to search for the facts and put together a record so that we here in Congress, and, indeed, the American public can better understand these problems.
This story has been unfolding in many ways. First, a very brave enlisted man sought to bring to the attention of his superiors a problem which, frankly, in his gut he knew was wrong. He is to be commended for that. Thereafter, the military very quickly took action, and the rest is history. The press has been diligent. The victims have actually gone on to tell their story. The lawyers are trying to interpret it. Really, the distressing thing is watching the families of the soldiers who are under the UCMJ now being examined, as well as the families of other soldiers. I felt it was imperative that, at some point in time-and the Pentagon basically selected when that time would be: this morning-you would face the American public and then face the world and give your own personal accounts of how this situation happened and, most importantly, what we are going to do to see that it never happens again. That is the executive and legislative branches working together.
We are proud of the democracy here in America. It is an open process, and we are going to show the world how we fairly, firmly, and calmly deal with this situation.
STATEMENT OF SENATOR CARL LEVIN
Senator LEVIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First I want to join you in welcoming our witnesses this morning. I want to join you in thanking each one of them for their service to our Nation. Most importantly of all, I join you, Mr. Chairman, in asking our witnesses to pass along to the troops under their command the gratitude of every member of this committee and of our Nation for their service.
The allegations of abuses of Iraqi detainees have shocked our country and shocked our justifiably proud Armed Forces and their families. The committee's hearing this morning is part of our continuing effort to investigate and find out the full extent of these abuses and how they could have happened. Insisting on accountability will help prevent future abuses, and hopefully help restore the credibility of our Nation within Iraq, the region, and throughout the world.
The inquiry is not just about the behavior of a few soldiers at a detention facility. We, of course, must do whatever we can to ensure that the perpetrators of the abuses are held accountable. But those who were responsible for encouraging, condoning, or tolerating such behavior, or who established or created an atmosphere or climate for such abusive behavior, must also be held accountable.
The February 2004 report of the ICRC presents an overview of documented abuses that extend beyond the conduct of interrogations at one cell block in one detention facility. The report sets forth an extensive list of methods of ill treatment used "in a systematic way" by MI at Abu Ghraib and a number of other facilities. The abuses that are alleged apparently are not limited to detention facilities. Many of the alleged violations are reported to have occurred at the time of arrest. This is particularly disturbing, given the statement in the ICRC report that "certain military intelligence officers" told the ICRC that, in their estimate, between 70 and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake.
In addition, according to their report, the ICRC, in May 2003, handed over to CENTCOM, in Doha, a memorandum based on "over 200 allegations of ill treatment of prisoners of war during capture and interrogation." I know that General Abizaid and General Sanchez will inform us today about when the ICRC report and other reports of abuse were brought to their attention and what actions were ordered to address those concerns.
In addition to reports that were made in the field, ICRC President Kellenberger stated that he briefed administration officials, including Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Administrator Paul Bremer, Secretary Powell, National Security Advisor Rice, and Pentagon officials, concerning allegations of abuse on a number of occasions, including in early- and mid-2003 and January 2004. We would be interested in hearing from our witnesses about what word, if any, was received from Washington or Ambassador Bremer as a result of those allegations of abuse being brought to the attention of administration officials.
Finally, I want to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for your determination to carry out the oversight responsibility of this committee. Committees of jurisdiction have an obligation to understand these events, to deter future abuses, and to help assure proper accountability. Mr. Chairman, you are leading this committee in a responsible way to do just that, and the Nation is in your debt for carrying out your duty as you see it.
Chairman WARNER. Senator Levin, the committee is acting as a whole. All members, and most especially yourself, have been responsible for conducting ourselves, I think, in strict accordance with the institution of the Senate and in the best interest of the Constitution.
Gentlemen, I ask you to rise. [Witnesses sworn.]
STATEMENT OF GEN JOHN P. ABIZAID, USA, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
General ABIZAID. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Warner, Senator Levin, and members of the committee: A few days ago I had the honor to talk to the class of 2004 at West Point, a group of young men and women who have dedicated themselves to service to the Nation, and who clearly understand that within the first year of their duties they will likely find themselves in combat, probably in the CENTCOM theater of operations. I could have just as easily been talking to young cadets at the Air
Force or Naval Academies, or at countless other colleges or places where our young people are about to be commissioned as officers in our Armed Forces. One of the most important messages I had for them is my deep belief in the principle that officers of the United States military are responsible; that, when in charge, we must be in charge. This is as true for the lowest second lieutenant in the chain of command as it is for me. Every officer is responsible for what his or her unit does or fails to do. I accept that responsibility for CENTCOM.
I come before you as a senior regional commander to address the Abu Ghraib prison case, and, at the same time, I hope you will allow me to discuss the conduct of the war, not only in Iraq, but throughout the region.
As all of you understand, both General Sanchez and I, as members of the chain of command, have yet to examine all the facts about the incidents at Abu Ghraib and have made no judgement as to the guilt or innocence of any person associated with events there, nor have we precluded further action against others that additional testimony or evidence may indicate acted inappropriately or failed in their duties.
From evidence already gathered, we believe that systemic problems existed at the prison that may have contributed to events there. Other investigations are currently underway, and we will consider their findings carefully once they become available. We will follow the trail of evidence wherever it leads. We will continue to correct systemic problems. We will hold people accountable. In accordance with the UCMJ, we will take appropriate action.
On my way back to the States, I stopped and talked to many of the region's top military and political leaders to discuss Abu Ghraib and the situation in Iraq to assess the damage that this incident has done to our reputation. They, like us, and like the many Iraqis who talked to me before I last left Iraq, were shocked, disgusted, and disappointed at the images of abuse. Yet all of them expressed confidence that our system could and would produce answers and hold people accountable.
If we endanger our ability to see that justice is served, through failure to thoroughly investigate allegations, by inadvertently exerting inappropriate command influence, or through the inappropriate handling of evidence, we will do ourselves, the region, and Iraqis, in particular, a great disservice.
As concerned as the good people of the region are about what happened at Abu Ghraib, they are more concerned about our willingness to stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are more worried that we will lose our patience with the difficult task of stabilizing those places, and we will walk away, come home, and bring up the drawbridges and defend "Fortress America." For some of the nations in the region, our departure could be fatal. I reassured our friends that we are tough, that we cannot be defeated militarily, and that we will stay the course.
We know that we must move quickly from occupation to partnership in Iraq. We know that we must help the Afghan Government of President Karzai extend its influence throughout its own land. We must find and destroy al Qaeda and its ideological partners wherever we find them, and we must help the nations of the Mid
dle East help themselves in fighting this desperate war against terror and extremism. We have given much blood and treasure since September 11, and we will give more.
Allowing moderation to succeed in a region where talented people seek prosperity and hope for their children is as an important victory as were our struggles against totalitarian regimes in World War II. Our enemies are in a unique position, and they are a unique brand of ideological extremists, whose vision of the world is best summed up by how the Taliban ran Afghanistan. If they can outlast us in Afghanistan and undermine the legitimate government there, they will once again fill up the seats at the soccer stadiums and force people to watch executions. If, in Iraq, the culture of intimidation practiced by our enemies is allowed to win, the mass graves will fill again.
Our enemies kill without remorse, they challenge our will through the careful manipulation of propaganda and information, and they seek safe havens in order to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that they will use against us when they are ready. Their targets are not Kabul and Baghdad, but places like Madrid and London and New York. They are a patient and despicable enemy who seek to break our will, to terrorize us in such a manner as to cause us to leave the fight, to isolate us from our allies, to destroy those who seek a better future, and to wreck the patient work required to build reliable infrastructure and sophisticated economic structures. Unlike us, they will not hold themselves accountable for their outrages.
Our enemies believe they have scored a great victory in Madrid. They believe they changed a government and forced a valued ally off the battlefield. They see before them elections in Iraq, elections in Afghanistan, and, indeed, elections here at home and elsewhere. They see us mired in scandal and preoccupied with failure.
We should not kid ourselves about the violent times ahead. Yet we should also understand that despite the images of Abu Ghraib and burning High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles that constantly play on our media screens, we are winning the battle against extremism. Our troops are confident. They win tactical battle after tactical battle. They work with Iraqis and Afghanis to build viable security forces. One day these viable security forces will allow us to come home. They know that the enemy is elusive and dangerous, and they know that they need to fight this war with balanced ferocity and compassion.
As we fight this most unconventional war of this new century, we must be patient and courageous. It will require a great amount of intelligence work. We must focus all of our national power, and recognize that this war requires as much political, economic, diplomatic, and national willpower to win as it does the courage to fight and to sacrifice with our young people in harm's way.
There are more people in the region who value peace over terrorism, who know that moderation brings prosperity and hope for their children. They also know that if they cannot stand alone, they certainly cannot expect that the United States of America will walk away from them.
Our gift to them has to be to give them a chance to win. Our great gift to ourselves will be to show a great and open demonstra
tion that the rule of law applies in time of war, that despite the great demands of the day-to-day battles, we will fix what is broken, and we will let justice be served.
No doubt, we have made mistakes in Abu Ghraib. We have suffered a setback. I accept responsibility for that setback. But the failures of a few will not keep the many courageous young men and women of ours from accomplishing their dangerous and important work to defend the Nation abroad.
I thank the committee.
Chairman WARNER. Thank you, General, for a very good state
STATEMENT OF LTG RICARDO S. SANCHEZ, USA, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ
General SANCHEZ. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee and talk to you about events in Iraq, and specifically the events at Abu Ghraib.
Before I talk about these events, I am proud to report that over 150,000 coalition military personnel are doing great work in Iraq under very difficult circumstances. They are fighting an insurgency, rebuilding and protecting infrastructure, and setting the conditions for the inevitable turnover to an interim government on the June 30. Those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines of America, and the people who support them, are stunned, disappointed, and embarrassed by the events that transpired at Abu Ghraib prison. However, like me, these great service members also understand that we must continue with our mission.
Regarding the events at Abu Ghraib, we must fully investigate and fix responsibility as well as accountability. I am fully committed to thorough and impartial investigations that examine the role, commissions, and omissions of the entire chain of command, and that includes me. As a senior commander in Iraq, I accept responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib, and I accept, as a solemn obligation, the responsibility to ensure that it does not happen again.
We have already initiated courts-martial in seven cases, and there may very well be more prosecutions. The Army Criminal Investigative Division's (CID) investigation is not final, and the investigation of MI procedures by Major General Fay is also ongoing. We may find that the evidence produced in these investigations not only leads to more courts-martials, but cause us to revisit actions previously taken to determine whether to initiate judicial or nonjudicial action in cases which may have been handled to date by adverse administrative action.
In this regard, I must be very circumspect in what I say. We must let our military justice process work. It is a process in which the American people can and should have confidence, and one in which I take great pride.
I cannot say anything that might compromise the fairness or integrity of the process, or in any way suggest the result in a particular case. I have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that includes ensuring that all per