Bush Gives Hussein 48 Hours to Leave Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2003 President Bush delivered an ultimatum that Saddam Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to leave Iraq.
"Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing," the president said tonight in an 8 p.m. address to the nation from the White House.
"It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power," Bush said. "It is not too late for the Iraqi military to act with honor and protect your country by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction."
Bush's speech was broadcast via Commando Solo aircraft to the Iraqi people. He spoke directly to the Iraqi military, saying coalition forces will give Iraqi military units clear instructions on actions they can take to avoid being attacked and destroyed.
"I urge every member of the Iraqi military and intelligence services, if war comes, do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life."
Bush told the Iraqis their day of liberation is approaching: "The tyrant will soon be gone." He said the coalition will ensure food and medical aid will continue.
He traced the history of the confrontation with Iraq. He said Saddam Hussein agreed to disarm his weapons of mass destruction at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. For 12 years, the United Nations has sent inspectors into Iraq to verify the disarmament. The inspectors met a brick wall. Bush said no country doubts that Iraq maintains a weapons of mass destruction stockpile.
But Iraq's aid to terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, is the real danger, the president said.
"The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological, or one day nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other," Bush said.
"The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it," he continued. "Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety."
Before the danger appears in America's skies, the United States will confront it, the president said. "The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security," he said. "That duty falls to me as commander in chief by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep."
U.N. Security Council resolutions 678 and 687, passed in 1991, give the United States the authority to act, Bush said. In addition, U.N. Security Council resolution 1441 promised "serious consequences" if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.
"Today no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed," Bush said. "And it will not disarm as long as Saddam Hussein holds power."
Since the passage of Resolution 1441 in November 2002, the United States and its allies have worked within the Security Council to enforce that council's long-standing demands.
"Yet some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq," Bush said. "These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it.
"Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace. And a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities. So we will rise to ours."
Should Saddam Hussein choose not to leave Iraq, the U.S. military will use every measure needed to win a war. "Americans understand the costs of conflict because we have paid them in the past," the president said. "War has no certainty except the certainty of sacrifice."
The president said in his attempt to remain in power, Hussein and terrorist groups may attempt to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and allies.
"These attacks are not inevitable," he said. "They are, however, possible." But, he added, the terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment Saddam Hussein is disarmed.
Shortly after the president's address, the Department of Homeland Security raised the threat level to "Orange." Officials there noted that American authorities have expelled people with ties to Iraqi intelligence.
The president has also directed additional security at airports and increased Coast Guard patrols of major seaports.
"In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war," the president said. "In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth.
"Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice in formal declarations. And responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self- defense, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."