Bush, Rumsfeld Confident Iraq Had Weapons of Mass Destruction
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2003 President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stand firm in their conviction that Saddam Hussein's regime posed a threat to world peace.
Speaking in South Africa July 9, Bush said he is "absolutely confident" removing Saddam Hussein from power was the "right thing" to do. Countering charges that he misled the public regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, the president said he is confident the Iraqi dictator had a WMD program.
"In 1991, I will remind you, we underestimated how close he was to having a nuclear weapon," he told reporters. "Imagine a world in which this tyrant had a nuclear weapon. In 1998, my predecessor raided Iraq, based upon the very same intelligence."
Now that the Iraqi dictator is gone, Bush said, "the world is a much more peaceful and secure place."
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee later in the day, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said one of the challenges facing the coalition is the "sizable and complex" task of finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
"The Iraqi regime had 12 years to conceal its programs, to move materials, hide documents, disperse equipment, develop mobile production facilities and sanitize known WMD sites, including four years with no U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground," Rumsfeld told the committee.
"Needless to say," he said, "uncovering those programs will take time." He then reminded committee members that "major combat operations ended less than 10 weeks ago."
The United States did not go to war in Iraq because of "new, dramatic evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder," Rumsfeld added. "The objective in the global war on terror is to prevent another terrorist attack like Sept. 11th -- or a biological, nuclear or chemical attack that would be worse -- before it happens," he said. "We can say with confidence that the world is a better place today because the United States led a coalition of forces into action in Iraq."
The United States took action against Saddam's regime, he explained, "because we saw the existing evidence in a new light, through the prism of our experience on Sept. 11. On that day, we saw thousands of innocent men, women and children killed by terrorists, and that experience changed our appreciation of our vulnerability and the risks the U.S. faces from terrorist states and terrorist networks armed with powerful weapons."
Saddam Hussein chose war, Rumsfeld stressed, not the United States. For 12 years, the secretary noted, the Iraqi dictator violated 17 U.N. resolutions "without cost or consequence. His regime had an international obligation to destroy its weapons of mass destruction and to prove to the world that they had done so. He refused to do so."
Saddam had the opportunity to prove his weapons of mass destruction program had ended and his weapons were destroyed, Rumsfeld said. "Had he done so, war would have been avoided."
Instead, Hussein continued to lie and obstruct U.N. inspectors. "The logical conclusion is that he did so because he wanted to keep his weapons, and he believed that he could continue to outwit the international community for another 12 years, just as he had for the past 12," Rumsfeld said.