Rumsfeld: Burden of Proof Should be on Saddam, Not U.S.
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2002 Recent writing on the wall about Saddam Hussein's intentions and capabilities should be enough to justify pre- emptive military action without the United States providing further evidence, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress this week.
"It is strange that some seem to want to put the burden of proof on us," Rumsfeld said in testimony prepared for appearances before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. "The burden of proof ought to be on him, to prove he has disarmed, to prove he no longer poses a threat to peace and security."
The secretary repeatedly said the Iraqi dictator has failed to comply with 16 U.N. resolutions he agreed to at the end of the Persian Gulf War. Those resolutions required Hussein to disarm and to prove to the United Nations that he had done so.
Several terrorist states are working to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said, but none has so far shown the "murderous combination of intent and capability" as has Hussein's regime. He outlined a list of at least 35 atrocities and crimes Hussein and his government have committed against Iraqi citizens and the country's neighbors.
"The world has acquiesced in Saddam Hussein's aggression, abuses and defiance for more than a decade," Rumsfeld said.
The United States may not have "perfect evidence" that Iraq is a threat to this country and its allies, but Rumsfeld contended, the information available should be enough to connect the dots.
The secretary mentioned congressional investigations into what intelligence agencies knew before Sept. 11 and why some clues weren't taken more seriously. Congressional sources have repeatedly suggested several different government agencies should have seen the signs and acted more aggressively to prevent the attacks.
"I suspect that, in retrospect, most of those investigating 9/11 would have supported preventive action to pre-empt that threat if it had been possible to see it coming," Rumsfeld said.
Now, Rumsfeld contended, the United States has more information on Iraq's capabilities and proclivities than was available before Sept. 11, even in retrospect.
Compare the scraps of information the government had on Iraq before Sept. 11 to the volumes it has today, factor in America's demonstrated vulnerability after Sept. 11 and, "the case the president made should be clear," Rumsfeld said in prepared testimony for a Sept. 18 House hearing.
Saddam's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, his previous use of those weapons, his record of aggression and his consistent hostility toward the United States, Rumsfeld said, should be enough to justify pre-emptive military action without the United States providing further evidence.
Looking to the future, Rumsfeld said a post-Saddam Iraq would have many advantages over the post-Taliban Afghanistan, and the United States would be just as committed to helping the Iraqi people.
"In Afghanistan, our approach was that Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans," Rumsfeld said. "We did not and do not aspire to own it or run it. The same would be true of Iraq."
The Iraqis are generally more educated than the Afghans, and their country has the economic advantage offered by its oil reserves.
Freethinking Iraqis both in and outside Iraq would help that country establish a new, free government, Rumsfeld said.
"There is no shortage of talent to lead and rehabilitate a free Iraq," he said.