Removing Hussein a Key to Regional. World Peace, Bush Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2003 The safety of the American people depends on ending the direct and growing threat of Iraq, President Bush said here tonight in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute. But beyond that, removing Saddam Hussein's regime from power "will contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world."
"We're opposing the greatest danger in the war on terror: outlaw regimes arming with weapons of mass destruction," the president said. "In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world -- and we will not allow it."
And other nations of the region and world have as much to gain from toppling Hussein as the United States, Bush said. A liberated Iraq with democratic processes in place, he said, could serve as an example to the other countries of the region. The Iraqi people would be the first to benefit from freedom.
"Today they live in scarcity and fear under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war and misery and torture," he said. "Their lives and freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein, but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us."
In the event force becomes necessary, the United States will work with coalition partners to ensure the Iraqi people do not suffer unnecessarily. The United States is stockpiling food and has contracted with international organizations for relief supplies.
Beyond that, the United States will lead the effort to dismantle Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and will ensure the territorial integrity of the country. The United States and coalition allies will also work to ensure Saddam Hussein does not sabotage the oil wells of the country, he said.
Finally, while the United States has no intention of determining the ultimate form of the government in Iraq, "We will ensure one brutal dictator is not replaced by another," Bush remarked. "All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government and all citizens must have their rights protected.
"Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy, but it is no excuse to leave Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation," he said. "Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them."
Bush pointed to history as he replied to criticism that Iraq is not ready for democracy. Democracies in Germany and Japan are a legacy of America's post-war occupation, he said. "There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. They were wrong," Bush continued. "Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken."
He vowed the United States would "remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more."
If these changes are possible in Iraq, then the entire region could be affected. "Success in Iraq could also lead to a new stage in Middle Eastern peace and set in motion progress toward a truly democratic Palestinian state," he said. Iraq sponsors suicide bombers and their families. The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime would deprive terror regimes of a wealthy patron and would send a clear warning to other states that the sponsorship of terrorism will not be tolerated, he said.
Without Iraq roiling the waters, the Palestinians could apply to choosing a democratic and peaceful government that renounces terrorism, he supposed. As the situation improves, Israel must support the Palestinians and work quickly toward a final status agreement and must halt all settlements in the occupied territories. Arab states must clearly state they will live in peace with Israel, Bush said.
"Old patterns of conflict in the Middle East can be broken if all concerned let go of bitterness and hatred and violence and get on with the serious work of economic development and political reform and reconciliation," the president said.
The world can also benefit from this crisis. Bush said that by confronting Iraq the United States is also showing its commitment to effective international institutions. "We believe in the (United Nations) Security Council so much that we want its words to have meaning," the president said.
The world needs international bodies with the will to stop the spread of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. "A threat to all must be answered by all," he said. "High-minded pronouncements against proliferation mean little unless the strongest nations are willing to stand behind them and use force if necessary."
The president said the United Nations has another chance before it to prove itself. "Another resolution (on Iraq) is now before the Security Council," Bush said. "If the council responds to Iraq's defiance with more excuses and delays, if all its authority proves to be empty, then the United Nations will be severely weakened as a source of stability and order.
"If the members rise to this moment, then the council will fulfill its founding purpose."
Bush also aimed words at peace demonstrators. "The threat to peace does not come from those who seek to enforce the just demands of the civilized world," he said. "The threat to peace comes from those who flout those demands. We will act to defend the cause of peace, and by acting we will signal to outlaw regimes that in this new century the boundaries of civilized behavior will be respected."
U.S. service members understand that the dangers posed by Iraq are real, the president said. "Members of our armed forces also understand why we fight," he remarked. "They know that retreat before a dictator guarantees even greater sacrifices in the future. They know that America's cause is right and just -- liberty for an oppressed people and security for the American people. And I know something about these men and women who wear our uniform: They will complete every mission we give them with skill and honor and courage."
Given the Middle East's history, cultivating liberty and peace will be difficult, the president said. "Yet, the security of our nation and the hope of millions depend on us, and Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard," he said. "We have met great tests in other times, and we will meet the tests of our time."