President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat
Remarks by the President on Iraq Cincinnati Museum
Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal Cincinnati, Ohio
8:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: 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
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 with you.
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
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
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
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 on America.
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 to continue.
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
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
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
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, without exceptions.
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 Council seriously.
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 Saddam
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 family.
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 duties.
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.