Cheney Says Grave Threats Require Pre-emptive Action
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2002 The United States will take pre-emptive action when facing the threat of weapons of mass destruction, Vice President Dick Cheney said today in Nashville, Tenn.
"Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitute as grave a threat as can be imagined," he said. "The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action."
In an address at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, the vice president said wars are never won on the defensive -- the battle must be taken to the enemy. "We will take every step necessary to make sure our country is secure and we will prevail," he said.
Cheney outlined the administration's case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and countered critics' arguments against pre-emptive action.
He pointed out that following the Gulf War, Iraq consistently failed to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions to cease all development of weapons of mass destruction. Instead, the Iraqi regime enhanced its chemical and biological weapons capabilities and continued to pursue their nuclear program.
"Saddam has perfected the game of cheat and retreat and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception," Cheney said. "A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with the U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there's a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box."
Saddam wants more time to invest in his chemical and biological weapons program and to gain possession of nuclear weapons, Cheney said. If he's allowed to do so, the implications would be enormous for the Middle East, for the United States and for the peace of the world.
"Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror and seated atop 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail," Cheney said.
Saddam has been on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism for more than two decades, Cheney noted. Iraqi forces continue to fire on American and British pilots in the no-fly zones over Iraq. Saddam invaded Iran and Kuwait and fired ballistic missiles at Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. He dispatched assassins to murder former President Bush as he traveled abroad.
"There is no basis in Saddam Hussein's conduct or history to discount any of the concerns that I'm raising this morning," Cheney said.
"Simply stated, Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," he said. "There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us. There is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors, confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth."
As former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently stated, Cheney added, "The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system and the demonstrated hostility of Saddam Hussein combine to produce an imperative for pre-emptive action."
A regime change in Iraq would benefit the region, Cheney said. "When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace," he said. One Middle East expert predicts that after liberation, "the streets in Basra and Baghdad would erupt in joy in the same way throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans.
"Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad," Cheney said. "Moderates throughout the region would take heart. Our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991."
Right now, the United States is facing opportunities as well as dangers, Cheney stressed. "In the Middle East where so many have known only poverty and oppression, terror and tyranny, we look to the day when people can live in freedom and dignity and the young can grow up free of the conditions that breed despair, hatred and violence."
The world has seen how the United States defeats enemies and then helps to rebuild their countries, he said. In Afghanistan, America acted to liberate, not to conquer. U.S. forces remain there to help Afghanistan build "a future with stability, self-determination and peace.
"We would act in that same spirit after a regime change in Iraq," Cheney said. "With our help, a liberated Iraq can be a great nation once again. Iraq is rich in human resources and human talent. It has unlimited potential for a peaceful, prosperous future."
The U.S. goal, he said, "would be an Iraq that has territorial integrity, a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized and protected. In that troubled land, all who seek justice and dignity and the chance to live their own lives can know they have a friend and ally in the United States of America."
Cheney said President Bush would proceed cautiously and deliberately in dealing with the threat that an Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein represents. "The president intends to consult with Congress and America's friends and allies before deciding on a course of action," he said.
"The elected leaders of this country have a responsibility to consider all of the available options and we are doing so," he said. "What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness. We will not simply look away, hope for the best and leave the matter for some future administration to resolve."
Now and in the future, Cheney said, the United States will work closely with the global coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. U.S. officials, he said, will also develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack.
"Great decisions and challenges lie ahead of us," he concluded, "yet we can and we will build a safer and better world beyond the war on terror."