Hearings to identify changes necessary to move forward in Iraq
Washington, DC—In three years of war in Iraq, the Congress has failed to exercise its historical responsibility to oversee the conduct of the war. With the current Congress seemingly unwilling to change this course, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Charles Schumer, and Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan today announced a major new national effort to conduct the needed oversight of America’s Iraq policy. Beginning Monday, September 25, and continuing throughout the year, the Senators announced today, Democrats will bring retired military officers, veterans, and outside experts to give the Congress honest answers on Iraq. A letter from Senators Reid and Dorgan to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Jon Kyl inviting members of the Republican Caucus to participate follows this release.
Oversight of military operations has long been the duty of Congress. Traditionally, when the nation goes to war, the Congress—acting under its Constitutional obligations—examines the policies that led us to war, determines how we conduct the war, and oversee how tax dollars are being spent. Sadly, the current Congress has failed to provide our troops and the American people the answers to these important questions.
“Three years into war, the American people still don’t have a clear picture of what’s gone wrong in Iraq—or how to set it right,” said Senator Reid. “Starting next Monday, we hope to change that fact. We aren’t interested in holding hearings for hearings sake. We will not use these venues to launch political attacks. We want to find what happened in Iraq, so we can find a policy that gives our troops and the Iraqi people the best chance for success.”
“Like the majority of the American people, we are concerned about the course of the war in Iraq,” said Senator Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, which will conduct the hearings. “Our goal is to examine the conduct of the war, learn from errors that have been made, and help develop new policies to enhance our prospects for success in Iraq.”
“This Congress has been AWOL on Iraq,” said Senator Durbin. “It has refused to ask the hard questions about troop strength, protective armor and contractor profiteering. Our soldiers and their families deserve better.”
“Everyone asks what went wrong in Iraq; A total lack of congressional oversight and accountability is big part of the answer,” said Senator Schumer. “The problem is the Administration’s foreign policy is like a bull-in-a-china shop approach and nobody is minding the store. Iraq is now spiraling out of control and it appears that had the Administration hired experienced, intelligent, and dedicated professionals to control the nation after the invasion instead of party loyalists and ideologues, Iraq might be in a lot better shape today.”
The new oversight effort will not be partisan in nature. Instead, it represents a serious effort to carry out a bipartisan inquiry on the conduct of the war, both to learn from errors that have been committed and to develop new policies to safeguard our troops and ensure the security of the American people.
The American people are looking to their leaders for a change in direction. These new hearings will provide an opportunity to ask the tough questions about this nation’s Iraq policy and put forward the changes necessary to give our troops and the Iraqi people the best chance for success.
September 20, 2006
Senator William H. Frist
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Jon Kyl
Chairman, Senate Republican Policy Committee
347 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader Frist and Senator Kyl,
Beginning next Monday, September 25, and continuing through December, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee will convene a series of oversight hearings on the conduct of the war in Iraq. We write today to extend an invitation to you and members of the Senate Republican Caucus to join us at these hearings, which we will announce as they are scheduled.
In Federalist No. 51, our nation’s founding fathers wrote that, “In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own.”
Unfortunately, we believe that the Congress has, in recent years, lost its will to perform effective oversight of the Executive Branch. At no time is congressional oversight more important than when the men and women of our armed forces are engaged in combat to defend our freedom.
From its earliest days, the Congress has recognized its responsibility to conduct oversight during times of conflict. In 1792, for example, the House of Representatives formed a special committee to investigate the defeat of an Army expeditionary force by Native American tribes in the Ohio Territory. After consulting with his cabinet, President Washington acknowledged the committee’s authority and chose to cooperate with the investigation.
That tradition of congressional oversight has continued in our more recent history. During World War II, the Truman Commission saved millions of taxpayer dollars by investigating war profiteering. During the war in Vietnam, Congress held 328 days of hearings relating to that conflict.
With that history in mind, and in light of the many challenges that our troops face in Iraq, we will schedule a series of oversight hearings on the conduct of the war. At the first hearing, which will be held on Monday, September 25, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, we will hear testimony from retired officers who have played a significant role in the prosecution of the war in Iraq. We hope that members of your Caucus will be able to attend.
Very Truly Yours,
Senator Harry Reid
Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Chairman, Senate Democratic Policy Committee