A top U.S. counter-terrorism official said that he expects insurgents and terrorists in Iraq will do everything they can to attack U.S. forces in the weeks leading up to the scheduled transfer of sovereignty on June 30.
State Department counter-terrorism official, Cofer Black, faced questions not only about recent attacks on U.S. forces, but Iraq's place in the war on terrorism.
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell asked him about criticism that by taking the offense against terrorist groups, the United States is actually creating more terrorists:
"I am profoundly against that argument," he replied. "There is no opportunity to negotiate. One cannot appease. There are a number of these people that are very set in their ways, that are absolutely determined to do us harm, to kill as many people as they possibly could, and our determination to engage these people and our will to continue I think is vitally important."
Senator McConnell agreed. Calling present-day terrorists, in his words, as ruthless as the Nazis, he had this to say in his statement opening the hearing:
"From trains in Spain to nightclubs in Bali and Tel Aviv, the terrorist hydra (multi-headed monster) indiscriminately targets innocent men, women and children in mis-guided jihad that pits fanaticism against freedom," he said. "To be sure there can be no armistice or peace treaty with terrorists. With the continued participation of other world democracies, this scourge must be managed and controlled like the disease that it is."
Cofer Black, the State Department's Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, said that he fully expects terrorists operating in Iraq will attempt to throw the country off the course to democracy.
"I think the terrorists fear the emergence of a society where there is equitable representation," he stated. "They fear what a democracy or a like or affiliated kind of a government does to their cause, and they are intensifying their operational activity to do as much as they can to de-rail it."
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, used the hearing as an opportunity to launch additional criticisms of Bush administration policies in Iraq.
"In Iraq, after squandering the goodwill afforded us throughout the world after the September 11th (2001) attacks, we're floundering," he said. "The failure to find weapons of mass destruction has damaged our credibility. The commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, General Sanchez, has said the country is becoming a magnet for terrorists foreign to Iraq, while other reports indicate terrorist organizations around the world are using Iraq as a rallying cry for gaining new recruits."
Another Democrat, Senator Richard Durbin, amplified on that, accusing Mr. Black and other administration officials of downplaying the seriousness of the situation in Iraq.