Bush Details the Dangers from Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2002 President Bush last night clearly answered the questions Americans have raised about the danger Saddam Hussein's Iraq poses to the world.
"The threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place, Bush said during a nationally broadcast speech in Cincinnati. "By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of the regime, Iraq is unique."
The president called Hussein "a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction." The danger is not just that Iraq may use weapons of mass destruction against its neighbors and the United States, but that it may give these weapons to terrorist groups.
Bush said the danger Iraq poses will only get larger with time, and that it doesn't make sense to allow Hussein to perfect or build more arms before stopping him.
In 1995, the Iraqi regime admitted to stockpiling more than 30,000 liters of the biological weapon anthrax. "This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for and is capable of killing millions," Bush said.
Iraq also has chemical agents and has used them on Iran during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 and against its own people. Bush said that the attacks killed or injured more than 20,000 people.
The president said U.S. surveillance shows Iraq is rebuilding the plants used to make these chemical weapons. "Every chemical and biological weapon Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991," he said.
He said Iraq has the means to deliver these weapons -- missiles that can reach Saudi Arabia, Israel, NATO ally Turkey and other nations. He said intelligence sources have revealed that Iraq possesses manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that can spray chemical and biological agents. "We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States," he said.
But the president also noted chemical and biological attacks don't require sophisticated delivery systems. "All that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it," he said.
Bush said the Iraqi links with terrorist organizations is the U.S. government's most urgent concern. He said Saddam Hussein has links with known terror groups. Iraq has served as a haven for the Abu Nidal group and the Abu Abbas groups, and the government's links with al Qaeda go back at least a decade, he said. Hussein has also offered to bankroll Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide bombers launching attacks in Israel.
Bush said some of the al Qaeda terrorists who escaped U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan have found succor in Iraq. He said a senior al Qaeda leader received medical treatment in Baghdad this year. He said the terrorist has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks.
"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or an individual terrorist," Bush said. "An alliance with a terrorist regime could allow Iraq to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."
The president flatly declared that confronting Iraq is an integral part of the war on terrorism. He said Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and is building instruments of terror in weapons of mass destruction. "The risk is simply too great that he will use them or provide them to a terror network," Bush said.
Terror cells and rogue regimes building weapons of mass destruction are different faces of the same evil, the president said. "Our security requires that we confront both, and the United States military is capable of confronting both," he said.
Bush also addressed the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. He said the United States does not know the extent of the Iraqi effort, "and that's the problem." Before the Gulf War best estimates were it would take Iraq eight to 10 years to develop a nuclear weapon. After the war, however, inspectors learned Iraq had been only six months to two years from having a weapon.
Bush said the evidence is that Hussein has reconstituted the nuclear program and that he has met several times with nuclear scientists he calls his "nuclear Mujahedin."
The regime is rebuilding facilities and is seeking to buy equipment used to enrich uranium. "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon within a year," Bush said. "If we allow that to happen a terrible line would be crossed."
If Hussein got a nuclear weapon he would be able to blackmail anyone opposing him in the region. He would also be in a position to threaten America and the West and he would be in a position to pass this technology to terrorists.
"Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for final proof: the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," Bush said. "Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring."
Inspections and diplomatic and economic pressure have not worked in the past 11 years. Bush said the United States wants the United Nations to be an effective organization to keep the peace. Iraq has flouted U.N. power over the past 11 years. Bush has urged a new Security Council resolution on Iraq be adopted by the world body. He called on this resolution to have requirements.
"Among those requirements: the Iraqi regime must reveal and destroy, under U.N. supervision, all existing weapons of mass destruction," Bush said. "To ensure that we learn the truth, the regime must allow witnesses to its illegal activities to be interviewed outside the country -- and these witnesses must be free to bring their families with them so they are all beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein's terror and murder. And inspectors must have access to any site, at any time, without pre-clearance, without delay, without exceptions.
"The time for denying and delaying has come to an end," the president continued. "Saddam Hussein must disarm himself or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."
Bush said the Iraqis must also end its support of terrorism, stop persecuting its own people, stop the illicit use of the U.N. Oil for Food program and account for all Gulf War personnel still missing, including U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mike Speicher.
Only by these steps can the Iraqi regime hope to avoid conflict. "I hope this will not require military action, but it may," Bush said.
A cornered Saddam Hussein may order attacks with weapons of mass destruction. "If Saddam Hussein orders such measures, his generals would be well advised to refuse those orders," Bush said. "If they do not refuse, they must understand that all war criminals will be pursued and punished. If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully; we will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side, and we will prevail."
Bush said Congress will vote on a measure that will allow the U.S. military to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions. "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable," Bush said. "The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something. Congress will also be sending a message to the dictator in Iraq: that his only chance -- his only choice -- is full compliance, and the time remaining for that choice is limited."