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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld Speaks at Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing

Aired September 24, 2003 - 10:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go ahead and go back inside the Senate Appropriations Committee room and listen to Secretary Rumsfeld's testimony this morning.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECY.: ... very real sense a critical element of the coalition's exit strategy. The sooner Iraq can defend its own people, the sooner the U.S. and the coalition forces can turn over the security responsibility to the Iraqis.

But reaching our goal requires some investments now to restore critical infrastructure and basic services necessary to jump start the economy. Iraq cannot make those improvements today without assistance from the U.S. and the international community. But the purpose of this assistance is to help the Iraqis get on a path where they can rebuild their own country.

The president has requested a $20 billion investment in the future of Iraq. To put that in context, the Marshall Plan after World War II cost roughly $90 billion in today's dollars. Those investments helped transform a region that has since been a source of -- that had been a source of violent war and instability for centuries and turned it into a place of peace, prosperity and mutually beneficial trade.

I recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, as did Secretary Powell, and I know a number of you have been there very recently as well. I am convinced that progress is being achieved in both countries.

Afghanistan is on the road to a more stable, democratic self- government. After two years of training, the Afghan national army has recently been fighting side by side with coalition forces in our most recent anti-terrorist campaigns, Operations Mountain Viper and Warrior Sweep. The central government is working to extend authority to these provinces. Together with the Afghan authorities, the coalition is deployed what we call provincial reconstruction teams, or PRTs, to four provinces with four more on the way.

Afghanistan faces challenges to be sure, but the progress has been measurable. The terrorist training camps are gone, al Qaeda is on the run, the Afghan people are liberated and the country is on a path to democracy.

In Iraq, the coalition forces also face difficulties and dangers, let there be no doubt, including the threat from regime remnants, criminals and foreign fighters who have come into the country to oppose the coalition forces. What's remarkable is that, despite the significant dangers they face, the coalition's civil and military staff in Iraq has in less than five months racked up a series of achievements in both security and civil reconstruction that may very well be without precedent.

Consider a few of their accomplishments. In less than five months, virtually all major Iraqi hospitals and universities have been reopened, hundred of secondary schools -- until a few months ago, those schools were used often as weapon caches for the Baath Party. They've been rebuilt and they were ready for the start of the fall semester.

Fifty-six thousand Iraqis have been armed and trained in just a few months and they are contributing to the security and defense of their country. Another 14,000 have been recruited and are currently in training for a total of 70,000.

Today a new Iraqi army is being trained and more than 40,000 Iraqi police are conducting joint patrols with coalition forces. By contrast, it took 14 months to establish a police force in postwar Germany and 10 years to begin training a new German army.

As security improves, so does commerce. And some 5,000 Iraqi small businesses opened since liberation on May 1st. The independent central bank of Iraq was established and a new currency announced in just two months, accomplishments that took three years in postwar Germany. The Iraqi Governing Council has appointed an Iraqi cabinet of ministers, something that took 14 months in Germany. And all of this was is less than five months.

In all major cities in most towns and villages, Iraqi municipal councils have been formed, something that took eight months in Germany. To date, the coalition has completed 8,000 civil affairs projects with many more under way.

All of this has taken place in less than five months. The speed and breadth of what Ambassador Bremer, General Abizaid, General Sanchez and the coalition military and civilian teams has accomplished is impressive. It may, in fact, be without parallel, whether compared to postwar Japan, postwar Germany, or postwar Bosnia or Kosovo.

I keep hearing that the United States should not go it alone. Well, the U.S. is not going it alone. There are, at this moment, some 17 nations represented in Ambassador Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority. They're participating in that authority.

Moreover, there are currently 32 countries with troops in Iraq today. They include Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine and the U.K. Portugal is at this moment preparing to deploy forces in Iraq, as well.

Of the 19 NATO nations, 11 have already committed troops to Iraq. We're currently in discussions with 14 other countries.

Now, do they equal our forces or do their financial contributions equal ours? No, they don't. But do they represent a significant, military commitment and do they represent a significant political commitment of those nations? Yes, they do. And we are, and we should be equally grateful for their contributions, for their political courage as well as for their friendship.

A great many of the forces of those countries, I should add, are also volunteers, as are all of ours.

In Afghanistan, NATO has just taken over command of ISAF, the alliance's first mission outside of Europe in its entire history. I met with the new German commander of ISAF forces in Kabul. What they're doing is important for Afghanistan and for the NATO alliance as well.

So between Iraq and Afghanistan, there are now 49 countries with forces on the ground, with many others making important contributions in other ways. So this business that America is going it alone, it seems to me, is not factual at all.

Let me conclude by recalling why we're spending this money, why we are proposing it, why the president is requesting it. The Wall Street Journal recently tallied the cost to our country and the economy after the September 11th attacks: $7.8 billion in lost income for the families of more than 3,000 victims; $21 billion sent to New York City for direct damage costs; $4 billion for the victims' fund; $18 billion to clean up the World Trade Center site; $700 million to repair the Pentagon; $6.4 billion in reduced lost wages or salaries for workers in New York industries; $1.3 million net job loss nationwide; $50 billion in costs to the insurance industry; $11 billion in lost business to the airline industry; the bankruptcy of two airlines even after a $15 billion federal bailout; $38 billion in costs for new border security, protection against biological threats, and emergency preparedness; $1.3 billion in costs to state governments for homeland security; $33 billion in spending by the private sector for new protective services.

So even assuming some overlap, which there undoubtedly is, the 9/11 attack very likely cost the American people hundreds of billions of dollars. And that's not counting the price paid in lives and the immense suffering of their families and their loved ones.

I believe our nation can afford whatever it needs to defend our people, to defend our way of life, and to defend our vital interests. At the height of the Cold War, in the Eisenhower and Kennedy years, we spent roughly 10 percent of GDP on defense. The last time I was secretary of defense, in the 1970s, we spent something in the neighborhood of 5 percent. Today, we spend a little over 3 percent. That's a great deal of money, let there be no doubt, but it's a modest fraction of our nation's wealth.

To defend freedom in the 21st century, we need to root out terrorists. We need to take the battle to the terrorists. And we need to help the now free people in Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild from the rubble of tyranny and claim their places as responsible members of the community of nations.

A British author wrote, quote, "If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom. And the irony is, that if it is comfort or money that it values more it will lose that too."

Is $87 billion a great deal of money? The answer is yes. Can our country afford it? The answer is also yes. We believe it is necessary for the security of our country and the stability of the world, and that the price of sending terrorists a message that we're not willing to spend what it takes, that we value comfort or money more than freedom, would be far greater.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AK), CHMN., APPROPRIATIONS CMTE.: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

This hearing is particularly related to the $66 billion, the request for the defense activities. The full amount of $87 billion, of course, is subject to questions...

HARRIS: We're going to step away now from this hearing at the Senate Appropriations Committee that we were listening to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld there, talking to the committee in his opening comments there, and drawing parallels between what is happening right now with the rebuilding process in Iraq with the Marshall Plan, a plan that was about rebuilding Europe. And he said that the progress that's been made in Iraq in the past five months may be unparalleled, without parallel, in his words, making comparisons there about the amount of money that this administration is asking for Congress to pony up in regards to how much -- in comparison to how much we spent of the Marshall plan.

He basically also came out and sort of echoed the words that we heard from President Bush at the U.N. yesterday, saying that U.S. now is not going it alone, there is a coalition of other countries that are making significant political and military commitments to getting the job done in Iraq, but the U.S. does not want to go it alone and does need help. We'll be going back and forth throughout the day here for more comments.

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