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Rumsfeld Answers Questions on Iraqi Threat

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ATLANTA, Sept. 27, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke today to Georgians about the dangers of the post- Sept. 11 world and the steps the United States must take to combat these new threats.

Rumsfeld spoke to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and tried to answer questions about Iraq and the war on terrorism. He also told the crowd that while there are "serious risks to acting, there are serious risks to not acting" as well.

While Rumsfeld has explained much of the rationale behind the war on terrorism before, this was one of the first times he has done so to such an audience. Atlanta is the business, social and transportation center for the Southeast and home to many national and regional business headquarters.

Rumsfeld told the members that the world entered a new security environment, one in which deterrence -- like that the United States maintained against the Soviet Union -- will be less effective. He said the environment is profoundly different, and America must "adjust our thinking so that we can live safely in this new environment."

Rumsfeld told the Georgians that Iraq is the most immediate threat to the United States. He cited Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iran and against his own people. "(The Iraqis) have amassed large clandestine stocks of biological weapons, including anthrax and possibly smallpox," he said.

He said Iraq also has a large and active program to develop nuclear weapons. In 1991, the Iraqis "were far closer" to building a nuclear weapon than anyone had thought, Rumsfeld said.

The secretary reassured the crowd that ensuring Iraq meets its obligations to the United Nations will not hinder the global war on terror. He said Iraq is a part of the terror war, and Baghdad maintains ties with terrorist networks including al Qaeda. The danger posed by the nexus of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and terrorist networks is too dangerous to ignore.

Rumsfeld said the United Nations must ensure Iraq complies with the 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions that country is currently violating.

The United States favors the return of U.N. inspectors, Rumsfeld said. But, he added, inspections must be part of a comprehensive solution. "The issue isn't inspections; the issue is disarmament," he said.

American officials are concerned that even the most intrusive inspections would have difficulty getting at Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

"His facilities are mobile; they have been widely dispersed to a number of locations; (he has) vast underground networks and facilities, and sophisticated denial and deception techniques," Rumsfeld said. "In addition, (weapons and military facilities) have been placed in close proximity to hospitals, schools and mosques."

The secretary told the business leaders that inspections can be useful when the target country is cooperating. "The purpose of inspection is to validate something that the country to be inspected wants validated," Rumsfeld said. "Saddam Hussein's regime is not interested in disarming. It has demonstrated that over some 20 years."

Rumsfeld called the debate over the new security environment healthy. "These issues are not easy," he said. "It is a difficult thing to try to accurately weigh the risks of action -- of doing something. And it is a very difficult thing to weigh the risks of not doing something."

He said the governments of the United States and other free counties are striving to balance those two risks. "The task, " Rumsfeld explained, "is to conduct ourselves in a way that when people look back in five, 10, 15 years, they'll be able to say that the people of this generation did weigh those considerations carefully, they did make correct assessments and judgments that were in the best interests of their people."

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