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Clinton States U.S. Objectives, Goals in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 1998 – U.S. forces will act unless Iraq's Saddam Hussein allows U.N. inspectors free and unfettered access to suspected weapons sites, President Clinton said during a Pentagon speech Feb. 17.

Clinton also said any U.S. attack can be blamed on Saddam Hussein. "Saddam Hussein could end this tomorrow simply by letting the weapons inspectors complete their mission," he said.

Clinton said he still prefers a diplomatic solution. "But to be a genuine solution, ... a diplomatic solution must include or meet a clear, immutable, reasonable, simple standard: Iraq must agree -- and soon -- to free, full, unfettered access to these sites anywhere in the country," he said.

U.S. objectives are to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and to reduce Hussein's capacity to threaten his neighbors. "I am quite confident,... that we can achieve the objective and secure our vital security interests," Clinton said.

He said U.S. forces are ready and that he has complete confidence in service members who would be called upon to make any attack. Clinton called U.S. service members the best-led, best-equipped, best-prepared armed force in the world.

"Should it prove necessary for me to exercise the option of force, your commanders will do everything they can to protect the safety of all the men and women under their commands," Clinton said. "No military action, however, is risk free. I know that the people we may call upon in uniform are ready. The American people have to be ready as well."

Clinton detailed Hussein's lies and evasions since the end of the Gulf War. Under the agreement ending the war, Hussein had 15 days to report about his nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal. "Iraq has repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession after the Gulf War," Clinton said.

U.N. inspectors have found proof time and again that Iraq lied about its nuclear program, Clinton said. The Iraqis simply amended their declaration to incorporate the discoveries.

"[Iraq] has submitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by [the U.N. Special Commission]," he said.

Clinton said Hussein has the means and the will to use these weapons and proved it many times in Iraq's decade-long war with Iran. "He used chemical weapons against combatants, against civilians, against a foreign adversary and even against his own people," Clinton said.

The Iraqi dictator also has the means to deliver these weapons in Scud missiles, which he previously launched against Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Saddam's son-in-law defected to Jordan in 1995 and, Clinton said, revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build more. After the defection, Iraq admitted to having an offensive biological warfare capability, including 5,000 gallons of botulinum, 2,000 gallons of anthrax, 25 Scud warheads filled with biological agents and 157 aerial bombs.

"I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production," the president said.

Clinton praised the inspectors for their work in the face of Iraqi lies, deceptions and actions. "[The inspectors], the eyes and ears of the civilized world, have uncovered and destroyed more weapons of mass destruction capacity than was destroyed during the Gulf War," he said.

Clinton said the biggest failure would be to do nothing. "If we fail to respond today, Saddam, and all those who would follow in his footsteps, will be emboldened tomorrow.

"But if we act as one, we can safeguard our interests and send a clear message to every would-be tyrant and terrorist, that the international community does have the wisdom and the will and the way to protect peace and security in a new era."

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