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Oversight Hearing on Iraq with Secretary Rice

The Oversight Committee is currently holding a hearing, “The State Department and the Iraq War.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will testify on the State Department's performance on several significant issues relating to the Iraq war, including the impact of the activities of Blackwater USA and corruption within the Iraqi ministries on the prospects of political reconciliation in Iraq.

Watch the hearing live via committee webcast or on C Span 3.

Chairman Henry Waxman discusses his objections to Secretary Rice’s offer of closed hearings on Iraqi corruption:

Chairman Waxman: “I did want to respond to the Secretary’s offer that we have a closed door session to receive testimony from witnesses and to see documents. The problem with that offer is that you will give us information that we cannot make public, because it’s then confidential. I think there are a lot of things that ought to be made public, and one question I would want to know, and I think it ought to be answered publicly. Is money that’s being taken through corruption from the Iraqi government funding the terrorists that are killing our troops? You don’t have to name a source; you don’t have to identify anybody that’s confidential. But we ought to know that information, and I hope you’d answer that question, as we go into a debate about whether we’re going to give another $196 billion dollars to this war.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03) questions Secretary Rice on her department’s lack of candor:

Rep. Yarmuth: “It’s very frustrating, I think, to those of us who sit here, that when we ask for assessments of the situation from the leadership of the State Department that we don’t get candid answers. And I would submit to you that I and many others sitting on this panel are in our positions today because the American people were convinced that we weren’t being leveled with about the conduct of this war. And that if we had been more candid, if the Administration had been more candid, then maybe the approval rating for what we’re doing over there would be at reasonable levels. And unfortunately this total stonewalling and lack of candor is what’s contributing to a lack of confidence from the American people.”

Rep. Bruce Braley questions Secretary Rice on the lack of legal accountability for Blackwater and other contractors:

Secretary Rice: “I’ve testified here that there is a lacuna in the law and we… would like to get appropriate legislation that speaks to the prosecution of civilian contract personnel working in circumstances like Iraq. That was one of the findings of the panel that I sent out and in fact we would very much like to see that, because you’re right, the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides a context for our soldiers and there is protection inside the United States. We believe there is a lacuna and it needs to be filled.”
Rep. Braley: “When we had the CEO of Blackwater, Erik Prince, sitting in the exact chair that you’re sitting in right now, I went through this with him and he told the Committee under oath that in his opinion all Blackwater employees were already subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the War Crimes Act, and other international accountabilities that our current military is subject to. And then I went through the individual statutes with him and he seemed to admit that if you look at the language of those statutes, they don’t in fact apply unless they’re accompanying military personnel.”
Secretary Rice:“I agree and that’s why we’re seeking, and working for legislation, and we’re happy to work with anyone who would like to get that legislation… we believe that there is a hole.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney questions Secretary Rice on the lack of accountability for funds paid to contractors:

Rep. Maloney: “My question, Madam Secretary, is for you to put yourself in my shoes. I’m home in my district, I’m standing in front of a townhall meeting of hardworking American men and women who are paying their taxes, many of them punch a clock for their time, they’re accountable for their time and for their money, and how do I explain that the IG says that $1.2 billion is missing that was supposed to train the police, the most critical of our missions to help stand up — and how do I explain $4.2 million for a swimming pool that has never been used? What do I say to my constituents when they say ‘why are American young men and women being killed when the American government cannot even account for the money for the Iraqi police that is supposed to help them bring stability?’”
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