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The State Department and the Iraq War

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Opening Remarks Before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Washington, DC
October 25, 2007

As Delivered

(10:10 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY RICE: Chairman Waxman, Representative Davis, members of the Committee, thank you very much. And I hope, Chairman Waxman, I won't need the entire five minutes because I am really here to answer your questions. I want to just make a few opening contextual points nonetheless, and that is to underscore the importance of success in Iraq for American foreign policy and indeed for our security and for that of the world as a whole.

I also want to associate myself with something that you have said, which is that the success of our political efforts in Iraq, the success of what civilians bring to the fight, is absolutely crucial. And I want to acknowledge the hard work of men and women of the State Department, our Foreign Service, our Civil Service, our Foreign Service Nationals and our contractors for playing an essential role in carrying out our policies in Iraq -- and people who, frankly, are in great danger. They are away from home, they are away from friends, they are away from families, as our military is as well. And yet, they serve shoulder to shoulder with our military, some of them actually embedded with brigade command teams, dodging IEDs, just as our military people do. They serve in an embassy in which they are subject to indirect fire. They are operating in perhaps the most complex circumstances that we have faced as a Department of State, and they do it with valor, they do it with dedication, they do it with great patriotism. And everything that we say today should remember that because these are people for whom we want to give the very best support because they are giving it all to their nation.

I want to note, too, that it is a complex and difficult operating environment in Iraq. This is a country that is returning -- that is recovering from decades of tyranny. It is recovering from United Nations sanctions under the Oil-for-Food program that, frankly, warped the economy and warped the society. It is a country that didn't even have a functioning banking system, something that we are still trying to help them establish.

We are trying through our programs to help them find skilled labor, skilled personnel, so that they can establish the institutions of governance, the institutions of management that, frankly, after our long experience we simply take for granted.

These are difficult tasks in the best of circumstances. I think if you read World Bank reports or other reports about trying to bring governance and management capability to young states, you will find that it is always hard. It is extremely hard when you are working in what is essentially a wartime environment.

And so I just want to acknowledge the very hard work and the dedication of our people. And I am now prepared to take your questions, Mr. Chairman.


Released on October 25, 2007

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