Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s Full Committee hearing on the Comptroller General’s assessment of the Iraqi Government’s record of performance:

    “Today the committee meets to receive the testimony of the Comptroller General, David Walker, on the status of the government of Iraq’s efforts to meet the benchmarks put in place in the supplemental appropriations act passed earlier this year. This is the first of several critical hearings on the current status of political and security efforts in Iraq.  Today’s hearing is particularly important as we rely on the Government Accountability Office to bring an objective analysis of these issues to the committee.

    “I don’t think it will surprise anyone who reads the paper to learn that the government of Iraq has not met most of the benchmarks.  In particular, the government of Iraq has met only one of eight legislative benchmarks, which does not send the signal that the national government in Iraq is working hard at reconciliation. These legislative benchmarks address core political issues that must be resolved for there to be real political progress.
    “When we look at the benchmarks and where we are on them, it is important to remember that these 18 measures of progress in Iraq did not originate with Congress.  In almost all cases, it was Prime Minister Maliki and his government who designated them as important steps to take.  If they had been able to follow the time line they first proposed, most of the political benchmarks would have been completed by March of this year.  Instead, they have only completed one by September.

    “This is the fundamental dilemma we face in Iraq—our soldiers fight hard and they are showing some results, and we should take every opportunity we get to thank them for their sacrifices and work on behalf of our nation.  But their efforts do not seem to be matched by the government of Iraq.  When the President announced the surge, it was intended to improve security to create space for political progress. 

    “By some measures, the heroic efforts of our troops have created some space.  But there has not been any great political progress.  We are left asking ourselves why we should expect this record to be different in the future and whether further American efforts will be of any effect.  It is not clear to me why we should continue to move ahead with this strategy at the cost of American lives and dollars if the Iraqis are not stepping forward.

    “Over the next week, this committee will hold four hearings, of which this is the first, to look at Iraq policy, and to hopefully help members come to some agreement on how we should proceed. This hearing is appropriate to go first, to create a baseline for our future discussions.  I thank Mr. Walker greatly for his testimony. 

    “Before I turn to the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Saxton, for any remarks he would like to make, let me make one administrative comment.  If it becomes clear during the course of the hearing that some of this discussion should occur in a closed session, I am prepared to adjourn the hearing early at 12:30 so we can meet for a classified briefing with the GAO at that time in 2212.  I would prefer to keep this discussion in the open if we can, but we will adjourn later if members feel that we must.”