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9/11 Caused Reassessment of Saddam Threat, Policy Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2004 – After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America it became apparent to senior U.S. policy makers that Saddam Hussein and his regime had to go, the Defense Department's top policy official said here today.

Officials believed U.S. and U.N. efforts to contain Saddam since the end of the Gulf War had largely failed, Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, said in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. AEI is a public policy "think tank."

"President Bush concluded, in light of the 9/11 attacks, that it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein by force," Feith explained. "The danger was too great that Saddam might give the fruits of his (weapons of mass destruction) programs to terrorists for use against the United States." And that threat, Feith emphasized, "did not hinge on whether Saddam was actually stockpiling" chemical or biological weapons.

The president told the American people and the world, Feith noted, that removing Saddam and his regime "would make the world safer, would free the Iraqi people, and would open the way for the development of democratic institutions in Iraq that could inspire the growth of freedom throughout the Middle East." A free and democratic Iraq, Feith pointed out, also would help counter ideological support for terrorism throughout the world.

Although weapons of mass destruction have yet to turn up in Iraq, Feith insisted that "no one can properly assert that the failure, so far, to find Iraqi WMD stockpiles undermines the reasons for the war."

Today, a year since the end of major combat operations in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is in U.S. custody. U.S., coalition and Iraqi officials, Feith noted, are working to transfer power to a new Iraqi government "that will govern by compromise and consensus" among the country's ethnic and sectarian groups.

"We want Iraqis to run their own country," Feith said, noting that the United States and its allies don't want to control or exploit Iraq or its resources.

Feith said the United States and its coalition partners are helping Iraqis assume control of their economics, politics and security. A sovereign Iraqi government, he noted, "will be better able to marginalize its extremist opponents politically, while coalition forces defeat them militarily."

The June 30 handover of power in Iraq, he said, represents the "worse possible scenario" for insurgents.

"The Baathists and terrorists fear the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, and that's why they're trying so hard to derail it," Feith explained.

And Iraqis should know, he said, that the insurgents offer only a return to oppression.

"We are still at war" in Iraq, Feith said, adding that insurgents likely will become more violent as June 30 approaches. The U.S.-led coalition, Feith emphasized, has "the will, the forces, the resources and the strategy to succeed."

"What we are fighting for is important and right," he said.

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Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith

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American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

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