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Feith Defends U.S. Decision to Take Down Saddam

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2003 – Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime presented a clear and present danger to the United States and to the world and had to be removed, DoD's top policy official told members of a think tank here Nov. 13.

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith defended the actions taken to remove Saddam, which occurred with the fall of Baghdad in early April.

Saddam's Iraq, Feith maintained, was a genuine world threat because of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, its refusal to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to do their jobs, Iraq's use of WMDs in the past and Saddam's ties with terrorist organizations.

"The nexus of terrorist groups, state sponsors of terrorism, and WMD is the security nightmare of the 21st century," he pointed out. "It remains our focus."

The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Feith noted, proved that America was vulnerable. Consequently, he continued, the United States went on the offensive against global terrorists, first in Afghanistan and then Iraq.

The possibility that terrorists, or states that sponsor terrorists, such as Iraq under Hussein, could acquire WMDs, Feith asserted, "is a compelling danger in the near term."

Therefore, he said, the United States and its allies cannot wait for complete, flawless intelligence before such threats become imminent. "We cannot expect to receive unambiguous warnings of, for example, a terrorist group's acquisition of biological weapons agents," Feith pointed out.

Feith said Saddam's defeat has reduced the list of terrorist-sponsoring states with WMD programs by one. That list still includes Iran, Syria, Libya, and North Korea. "Iraq used to be in that category; it no longer is," he noted.

Saddam's regime, Feith pointed out, "was a sadistic tyranny" that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, warred against its neighbors, and assisted terrorists "by providing them with safe harbor, funds, training and other help."

Under Saddam, Iraq refused to abide by several U.N. Security Council resolutions, Feith pointed out, and "undid the U.N. (WMD) inspection regime of the 1990s."

Saddam also bypassed economic sanctions imposed by the world community, Feith noted, and his military routinely shot at U.S. and coalition aircraft patrolling the northern and southern "no-fly" zones instituted at the end of the Gulf War.

"In sum, containment of Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a hollow hope," Feith pointed out, noting the best intelligence confirmed that Hussein "had chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear weapons."

According to intelligence reports, Hussein could have had a nuclear weapon within a year, Feith maintained, if the dictator had pursued available technology that could be acquired outside of Iraq.

Available intelligence illuminating Saddam's quest for WMDs was consistent, had been corroborated with other, foreign intelligence-gathering sources, and had been known for years, he pointed out.

It's true that stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons haven't yet turned up in Iraq, Feith acknowledged. However, David Kay's Iraq Survey Group, he noted, "has obtained corroborative evidence of Saddam's nuclear, chemical and biological programs; covert laboratories; advanced missile programs; and Iraq's program active right up until the start of the war to conceal WMD-related developments from the U.N. inspectors."

In light of all of this, "it would have been risky in the extreme," Feith said, to have allowed Hussein to remain in power "for the indefinite future."

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