May 1, 2003
The Honorable Colin Powell
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I write to indicate my great concern with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Iraq. I understand and appreciate that the Department of Defense has been making efforts to confront this problem. However, I urge you to make sure the requisite resources to address this issue are allocated. If we fail to act comprehensively, we risk undermining the return of order and stability in Iraq, the rebuilding process, and the safety of U.S. troops tasked with maintaining the peace. Furthermore, the problem could escalate if these weapons migrate elsewhere in the region, contributing to the rise of instability in neighboring states, as well as supplying terrorist groups access to new arms.
On April 26, the Washington Post ran an article, "Weapons Proliferate in Baghdad Bazaar; Guns Sold With Little U.S. Interference." The article detailed the sale of automatic weapons, such as AK-47s and M-16s, in the public marketplace. Most of the weapons being sold were plundered from abandoned military posts. One of the dealers interviewed stated, "If you want something you don't see here, just ask and we'll bring it. You can buy any weapon here."
The way in which these arms come to the market was made clear, when, on the morning of April 27, the Al Qadisiyah State Establishment - an arms factory supposedly protected by U.S. forces, was looted and thousands of small arms that can easily be secreted and sold, were taken. That same day, a U.S.-guarded munitions depot in a populated area was attacked by men with small arms and flares, and a number of rockets and missiles went off, killing a dozen Iraqi civilians. This attack is emblematic of the need to bring this problem under control.
I am concerned for the safety of Iraqi civilians and our troops in this environment. After twenty-five years of dictatorial rule and almost continuous war and violence, most Iraqis desire a peaceful transformation to a government and society based on democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Unfortunately, there are some who do not. Iraqi civilians interviewed for the Washington Post article stated their belief that the proliferation of weapons heightens the possibility of civil war. We cannot allow this situation to remain out of hand.
As you are aware, the Fiscal Year 2003 Supplemental Appropriations Bill allocated $15 million in the Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR), $12 million for de-mining and $3 million to contain and destroy small arms. I strongly believe that the amount of $3 million may not be enough for the substantial task of controlling the proliferation of weapons and the sale of light arms in Iraq. Please provide me details on how these funds have been allocated, as well as the unmet needs for this effort and your recommendation as to the necessity to earmark additional funds.
I appreciate the problematic nature of stemming the tide of small arms in Iraq and I am interested in working with you to develop an effective campaign to thwart this proliferation. I look forward to your thoughts on this issue and would appreciate a speedy response.