Rumsfeld: Measure Iraq by Its Actions, Not Its Words
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 30, 2002 Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has proven time and again he can't be trusted. And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took to the podium today to point that out.
In the most recent flaunting of United Nations' intentions, Iraq sent a letter to that body Sept. 16 claiming it was ready to allow weapons inspectors to Iraq "without conditions." Iraq cited a desire to complete implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and "remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction," according to Rumsfeld.
"Hopeful people around the world found solace in those words," Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon press briefing. "Unfortunately Iraq's behavior over the past decade requires that thoughtful people measure Iraq by its actions as opposed to its words."
Within hours of the arrival of that letter, Iraq was again firing at U.S. and coalition aircraft in the northern and southern no-fly zones, Rumsfeld said.
Since that letter, Iraq has fired upon coalition aircraft 67 times, including 14 times over the past weekend. "That ought to tell reasonable people something," Rumsfeld said.
Three days after the letter, Iraq's foreign minister spoke to the United Nations to place conditions on any future inspections, saying Iraq's security and sovereignty were at risk.
Iraq has violated numerous U.N. resolutions since the end of the Persian Gulf War. Rumsfeld highlighted three examples today: U.N. Resolution 688, which in April 1991 stipulated Iraq must stop repressing its own people, including minorities, Rumsfeld said. Soon after agreeing with the resolution, Iraq began to "systematically attack" minorities in both the northern and southern portions of the country.
Coalition nations, including Britain and the United States established the northern and southern no-fly zones in August 1992 "to halt that outrage and to protect Iraqi citizens from further bombings and helicopter attacks," Rumsfeld said.
Almost immediately, Iraq began using surface-to-air missiles and air-defense artillery to fire on coalition pilots enforcing those zones. "That Iraqi aggression continues to this day," Rumsfeld said, noting this is the only place in the world where U.S. and British pilots are routinely fired upon.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers added that over the past three years, Iraqi air-defense artillery has fired at coalition aircraft more than 1,000 times, launched 600 rockets, and fired nearly 60 surface- to-air missiles.
Myers showed a map highlighting the areas of concentrated firing from within the northern and southern no-fly zones. He noted Iraqi aircraft have violated the no-fly zones at least seven times this year.
Myers also showed newly declassified video of four instances in which Iraqi air defenses fired upon coalition aircraft. U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 established cease-fire conditions that included ending Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and providing for U.N. inspections to verify disarmament.
In December 1998, international inspectors in Iraq informed the United Nations that they were unable to perform their mission because of "eight years of Iraqi threats and broken promises," Rumsfeld said. This ended ground inspections.
Aerial surveillance, however, continued and still helps determine compliance, Rumsfeld noted. In October 1994, Iraq defied terms of the ceasefire that ended the Gulf War by moving armored divisions from its elite Republican Guard near the country's border with Kuwait. "U.S. troops moved into the area to turn back the aggression, and the U.N. Security Council passed resolution 949 ordering Iraq to stop threatening its neighbors," Rumsfeld said.
This resolution also established "no-drive zones," which Iraqi ground forces aren't allowed to enter.
The secretary noted the United States is interested primarily in compliance with the United Nations resolutions and Iraq's disarmament. "With each missile launched at our aircrews, Iraq expresses its contempt for the U.N. resolutions, a fact that must be kept in mind as their latest inspections offers are evaluated," Rumsfeld said.
He refuted claims the United States has stepped up its armed responses to Iraqi attacks on coalition planes, saying coalition aircrews have typically responded when fired upon.
Rumsfeld said such claims from other countries merely play into Iraq's wishes that America be seen as the aggressor. In truth, Rumsfeld said, American responses to repeated acts of aggression aren't the problem; Iraq firing on coalition aircrews enforcing U.N. sanctions is.
"Over the years, the Iraqi regime has shown a great deal of cleverness in playing the international community and the world's media," Rumsfeld said.