The Iraqi Threat
October 7, 2002
Thank you all. Thank you
for that very gracious and warm Cincinnati welcome. I'm
honored to be here tonight; I appreciate you all coming.
Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave
threat to peace, and America's determination to lead the
world in confronting that threat.
The threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from the
Iraqi regime's own actions -- its history of aggression,
and its drive toward an arsenal of terror. Eleven years
ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the
Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass
destruction, to cease all development of such weapons,
and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi
regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses
and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking
nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism,
and practices terror against its own people. The entire
world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance,
deception and bad faith.
We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent
history. On September the 11th, 2001, America felt its
vulnerability -- even to threats that gather on the other
side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved
today, to confront every threat, from any source, that
could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.
Members of the Congress of both political parties, and
members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that
Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. We
agree that the Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to
threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and
diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Since we all agree
on this goal, the issues is : how can we best achieve it?
Many Americans have raised legitimate questions: about
the nature of the threat; about the urgency of action --
why be concerned now; about the link between Iraq developing
weapons of terror, and the wider war on terror. These are
all issues we've discussed broadly and fully within my
administration. And tonight, I want to share those discussions
First, some ask why Iraq is different from other countries
or regimes that also have terrible weapons. While there
are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands
alone -- because it gathers the most serious dangers of
our age in one place. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used
chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same
tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded
and brutally occupied a small neighbor, has struck other
nations without warning, and holds an unrelenting hostility
toward the United States.
By its past and present actions, by its technological
capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq
is unique. As a former chief weapons inspector of the U.N.
has said, "The fundamental problem with Iraq remains
the nature of the regime, itself. Saddam Hussein is a homicidal
dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction."
Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the
world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows
worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous
weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for
the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger
and develops even more dangerous weapons?
In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime,
the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was
then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced
more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological
agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had
likely produced two to four times that amount. This is
a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never
been accounted for, and capable of killing millions.
We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons
of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve
gas, VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in
using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks
on Iran, and on more than forty villages in his own country.
These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people,
more than six times the number of people who died in the
attacks of September the 11th.
And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding
facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological
weapons. Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq
has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended
the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen
to build and keep these weapons despite international sanctions,
U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world.
Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range
of hundreds of miles -- far enough to strike Saudi Arabia,
Israel, Turkey, and other nations -- in a region where
more than 135,000 American civilians and service members
live and work. We've also discovered through intelligence
that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial
vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological
weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is
exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting
the United States. And, of course, sophisticated delivery
systems aren't required for a chemical or biological attack;
all that might be required are a small container and one
terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it.
And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam
Hussein's links to international terrorist groups. Over
the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such
as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more
than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or
injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans. Iraq
has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who was responsible
for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger.
And we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror and
gives assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine
Middle East peace.
We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share
a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know
that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that
go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan
went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader
who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and
who has been associated with planning for chemical and
biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained
al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly
gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam
Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks
Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological
or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.
Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to
attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq
could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary;
confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning
the war on terror. When I spoke to Congress more than a
year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as
guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is
harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the
instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot
be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use
them, or provide them to a terror network.
Terror cells and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass
destruction are different faces of the same evil. Our security
requires that we confront both. And the United States military
is capable of confronting both.
Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to
developing a nuclear weapon. Well, we don't know exactly,
and that's the problem. Before the Gulf War, the best intelligence
indicated that Iraq was eight to ten years away from developing
a nuclear weapon. After the war, international inspectors
learned that the regime has been much closer -- the regime
in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no
later than 1993. The inspectors discovered that Iraq had
an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a
design for a workable nuclear weapon, and was pursuing
several different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.
Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International
Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related
facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites. That
same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear
engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public
promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program
The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its
nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous
meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls
his "nuclear mujahideen" -- his nuclear holy
warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding
facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear
program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength
aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges,
which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal
an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than
a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less
than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible
line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position
to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would
be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would
be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein
would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.
Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this
problem, why do we need to confront it now? And there's
a reason. We've experienced the horror of September the
11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing
to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people.
Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would
be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.
Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat
gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we
cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that
could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. As President
Kennedy said in October of 1962, "Neither the United
States of America, nor the world community of nations can
tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on
the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live
in a world," he said, "where only the actual
firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to
a nations security to constitute maximum peril."
Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs
and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason
to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent
the worst from occurring.
Some believe we can address this danger by simply resuming
the old approach to inspections, and applying diplomatic
and economic pressure. Yet this is precisely what the world
has tried to do since 1991. The U.N. inspections program
was met with systematic deception. The Iraqi regime bugged
hotel rooms and offices of inspectors to find where they
were going next; they forged documents, destroyed evidence,
and developed mobile weapons facilities to keep a step
ahead of inspectors. Eight so-called presidential palaces
were declared off-limits to unfettered inspections. These
sites actually encompass twelve square miles, with hundreds
of structures, both above and below the ground, where sensitive
materials could be hidden.
The world has also tried economic sanctions -- and watched
Iraq use billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues to
fund more weapons purchases, rather than providing for
the needs of the Iraqi people.
The world has tried limited military strikes to destroy
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities -- only
to see them openly rebuilt, while the regime again denies
they even exist.
The world has tried no-fly zones to keep Saddam from terrorizing
his own people -- and in the last year alone, the Iraqi
military has fired upon American and British pilots more
than 750 times.
After eleven years during which we have tried containment,
sanctions, inspections, even selected military action,
the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical
and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities
to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing
a nuclear weapon.
Clearly, to actually work, any new inspections, sanctions
or enforcement mechanisms will have to be very different.
America wants the U.N. to be an effective organization
that helps keep the peace. And that is why we are urging
the Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting
out tough, immediate requirements. Among those requirements:
the Iraqi regime must reveal and destroy, under U.N. supervision,
all existing weapons of mass destruction. To ensure that
we learn the truth, the regime must allow witnesses to
its illegal activities to be interviewed outside the country
-- and these witnesses must be free to bring their families
with them so they all beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein's
terror and murder. And inspectors must have access to any
site, at any time, without pre-clearance, without delay,
The time for denying, deceiving, and delaying has come
to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself -- or, for
the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.
Many nations are joining us in insisting that Saddam Hussein's
regime be held accountable. They are committed to defending
the international security that protects the lives of both
our citizens and theirs. And that's why America is challenging
all nations to take the resolutions of the U.N. Security
And these resolutions are clear. In addition to declaring
and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction,
Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease
the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop
all illicit trade outside the Oil For Food program. It
must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including
an American pilot, whose fate is still unknown.
By taking these steps, and by only taking these steps,
the Iraqi regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict.
Taking these steps would also change the nature of the
Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make
that choice. Unfortunately, at least so far, we have little
reason to expect it. And that's why two administrations
-- mine and President Clinton's -- have stated that regime
change in Iraq is the only certain means of removing a
great danger to our nation.
I hope this will not require military action, but it may.
And military conflict could be difficult. An Iraqi regime
faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate
measures. If Saddam Hussein orders such measures, his generals
would be well advised to refuse those orders. If they do
not refuse, they must understand that all war criminals
will be pursued and punished. If we have to act, we will
take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully;
we will act with the full power of the United States military;
we will act with allies at our side, and we will prevail.
There is no easy or risk-free course of action. Some have
argued we should wait -- and that's an option. In my view,
it's the riskiest of all options, because the longer we
wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become.
We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons
to terrorists, or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail
the world. But I'm convinced that is a hope against all
evidence. As Americans, we want peace -- we work and sacrifice
for peace. But there can be no peace if our security depends
on the will and whims of a ruthless and aggressive dictator.
I'm not willing to stake one American life on trusting
Failure to act would embolden other tyrants, allow terrorists
access to new weapons and new resources, and make blackmail
a permanent feature of world events. The United Nations
would betray the purpose of its founding, and prove irrelevant
to the problems of our time. And through its inaction,
the United States would resign itself to a future of fear.
That is not the America I know. That is not the America
I serve. We refuse to live in fear. (Applause.) This nation,
in world war and in Cold War, has never permitted the brutal
and lawless to set history's course. Now, as before, we
will secure our nation, protect our freedom, and help others
to find freedom of their own.
Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create
instability and make the situation worse. The situation
could hardly get worse, for world security and for the
people of Iraq. The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve
dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power,
just as the lives of Afghanistan's citizens improved after
the Taliban. The dictator of Iraq is a student of Stalin,
using murder as a tool of terror and control, within his
own cabinet, within his own army, and even within his own
On Saddam Hussein's orders, opponents have been decapitated,
wives and mothers of political opponents have been systematically
raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners
have been forced to watch their own children being tortured.
America believes that all people are entitled to hope
and human rights, to the non-negotiable demands of human
dignity. People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery; prosperity
to squalor; self-government to the rule of terror and torture.
America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands
are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and
threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and
greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children.
The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis
and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will
end, and an era of new hope will begin.
Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent.
Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq's people will
be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our
time. If military action is necessary, the United States
and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their
economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified
Iraq at peace with its neighbors.
Later this week, the United States Congress will vote
on this matter. I have asked Congress to authorize the
use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce
U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution
does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.
The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations,
that America speaks with one voice and is determined to
make the demands of the civilized world mean something.
Congress will also be sending a message to the dictator
in Iraq: that his only chance -- his only choice is full
compliance, and the time remaining for that choice is limited.
Members of Congress are nearing an historic vote. I'm
confident they will fully consider the facts, and their
The attacks of September the 11th showed our country that
vast oceans no longer protect us from danger. Before that
tragic date, we had only hints of al Qaeda's plans and
designs. Today in Iraq, we see a threat whose outlines
are far more clearly defined, and whose consequences could
be far more deadly. Saddam Hussein's actions have put us
on notice, and there is no refuge from our responsibilities.
We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept
it. Like other generations of Americans, we will meet the
responsibility of defending human liberty against violence
and aggression. By our resolve, we will give strength to
others. By our courage, we will give hope to others. And
by our actions, we will secure the peace, and lead the
world to a better day.
May God bless America. (Applause.)
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