Armitage Says 'Time Is Running Out'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2003 Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said people who believe Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is cooperating and should be given more time are engaging in "very dangerous wishful thinking."
He said discussions about events in Iraq should not be focused on what the United States might do, but what the Iraqi regime might do.
Armitage spoke at the U.S. Institute of Peace here today and said the discussion should center on what Saddam Hussein is doing and not doing.
"(Saddam Hussein) is not meeting the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441," he said. "He is not cooperating with the international community. And he's certainly not disarming his nation of the biological and chemical weapons and nuclear capabilities he continues to hold and to develop."
Armitage spoke directly to the idea that the United Nations cannot do anything about the Iraqi regime unless inspectors find a "smoking gun." He said that has already been found. Before Hussein threw out the U.N. arms inspectors in 1998, they had located 30,000 chemical weapons warheads. They had also documented 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas and 400 aerial bombs configured for biological weapons. They had further documented 26,000 liters of anthrax, botulinum, VX and sarin.
The U.N. inspectors in Baghdad now are looking for proof that the Iraqi dictator had those weapons destroyed. And Saddam Hussein has failed to offer that evidence.
"Since the weapon inspectors and watchdogs were kicked out of Iraq four years ago, everything going on in the country has been in the dark," Armitage said. "We've had no choice but to rely on the word of a regime that has rarely told the truth about anything.
"For all of our information about weapons development in the country, if the inspectors are unable to find the physical evidence of what we know Iraq has, that does not mean nothing is there, unless you believe that those thousands of weapons and tons of material have miraculously gone away," he continued.
Armitage stressed that the U.N. inspectors are not in Iraq to conduct "a scavenger hunt." The inspection teams are meant to confirm Iraqi disarmament, not to prove Iraqi noncompliance with Security Council resolutions.
"As Secretary of State (Colin) Powell noted last week, if Iraq wanted to get to the truth and wanted to satisfy the mandate, the regime would not be waiting to have the information pulled out of them, pried out of them, dug out of holes," Armitage said. "They would be putting it all forward. But they are not."
The United States would prefer a peaceful solution to the present crisis. "That is why we have given him all the years since to comply," Armitage said. "But that cannot mean that this nation or the international community should stand by with blind faith that Saddam Hussein will do the right thing, because he never has. He has routinely and he has consistently flouted 16 separate U.N. Security Council resolutions."
He said it is "ludicrous" for people to still believe that if left alone Saddam Hussein will not threaten his neighbors, kill and torture his people or proliferate weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.
"For 12 years, we have tolerated an intolerable situation," the deputy secretary said. "For 12 years, we've seen far too many resolutions and far too little resolve."
To pundits who ask why is the United States pushing this now, Armitage said the world has already waited too long. "This is a dangerous situation," he said. "And today, right now, time is running out."
The international community's options are just about exhausted at this point, he said. "This (Iraqi) regime has very little time left to undo the legacy of 12 years," he said. "There is not one sign that the regime has any intent to comply fully with the terms of Resolution 1441, just as it has failed to comply with any of the other 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions."
He said that it is difficult to hold "a scrap of hope" that Saddam Hussein will experience an epiphany and comply with international demands. "But even to keep that scrap of hope, the international community must maintain and even increase the pressure (on Iraq)," he said.
Armitage said the U.N. inspectors' report of Jan. 27 would be important. "We do all need to focus on that report in light of Saddam's pattern of behavior in the past and now," he said. "And then we must honestly face facts. If Iraq is disarming peacefully, showing active cooperation, then we can sit back and claim that our U.N. resolution is successful.
"If he is not disarming, then we must have the guts to draw that conclusion and take another course," he said. "It does none of us any good to let Saddam think he can wear us down into business as usual as he has practiced it over the past 12 years."
The deputy stressed that President Bush has made no decision on the use of force against Iraq. "The decision (the president) has made is that the international community has an obligation to see that Iraq is disarmed - peacefully, or forcibly if necessary," Armitage said. "He has made a decision that if the international community is unwilling to do so, then the United States and like-minded nations will have no choice but to step into the breach. We will take a stand."
He said Iraq is not a problem the United States or the world can turn away from. "We must be prepared to face it," he said. "We must not let the sensible reluctance to fight drive us into wishful thinking. We must never let fear of the unknown stop us from defending our nation with force, if that is our only recourse."