Rumsfeld, Myers Discuss Iraq Situation On Talk Shows
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2002 The Defense Department's senior leaders discussed the Iraq situation on the Sunday national television talk shows, just days before the one-year anniversary of 9-11.
Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pointed out that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has repeatedly broken promises Iraq made at the end of the Gulf War to disarm and to discontinue its weapons of mass destruction programs.
The secretary also asserted that Iraq is on the list of the world's terrorist states, and under Saddam Iraq continues to possess chemical and biological weapons, and seeks to acquire nuclear arms, as well. As such, he said, Iraq represents a clear and present danger to America -- and to the world.
Show host Bob Schieffer asked Rumsfeld if the United States was close to going to war against Iraq. The secretary said President Bush has decided that a regime change in Iraq is necessary, but hasn't yet decided how it would be accomplished. The nation's leader is slated to go before the United Nations to "make what he believes to be is a recommendation to the international community and to the world" about what to do about Saddam and Iraq, Rumsfeld said.
Iraq, Rumsfeld said, has invaded its neighbors, persists in violating U.N. resolutions it had agreed to, and continues to amass weapons of mass destruction, creating a significant problem for the international community.
The world can approach the problem of Saddam in a number of ways, Rumsfeld remarked. However, he emphasized that he agrees with the president in that doing nothing is not an option.
People seeking a "smoking gun" -- absolute, conclusive evidence that Saddam has nuclear weapons -- Rumsfeld noted, is like developing a case in a court of law by proving a person's guilt without a reasonable doubt.
"The way one gains absolute certainty as to whether a dictator like Saddam Hussein has a nuclear weapon is if he uses it. And that's a little late," Rumsfeld emphasized.
The secretary pointed out how some U.S. intelligence on Iraqi capabilities may not be revealed to the public for good reason. Putting certain intelligence out to the public could "put people's lives at risk," he noted. However, the secretary said more information about Iraq would likely become known in the days and months ahead.
Rumsfeld noted there is also "a category of things we don't know." After Operation Desert Storm, he noted, American officials discovered that Saddam was six months to a year away from developing a nuclear weapon. The best previous intelligence had estimated it would take two to six years for Saddam to obtain a nuclear bomb, Rumsfeld said.
"Until you're down on the ground, you can't know precisely," Rumsfeld noted. Yet, he added, "the intelligence we have is clearly sufficient for the president to say that he believes that the world has to recognize that the Iraqis have repeatedly violated these U.N. resolutions."
The Iraqis, Rumsfeld continued, have "told the international community they have no respect for the U.N., no respect for their resolutions and no respect for the agreements they've signed."
Earlier in the week President Bush and his top advisors discussed the Iraqi threat with senior members of Congress, and more such meetings are planned, Rumsfeld said. On Saturday, the president and his advisors met with British Prime Minister Anthony Blair at Camp David, Md., to discuss Iraq, among other topics.
Asked if America was going to go after Saddam alone, Rumsfeld acknowledged that it would be nice to have everyone agree with you, but that is not always the case.
However, the secretary noted that today's coalition against global terrorism involves 90-plus nations -- half of the world's countries.
"It is the biggest coalition that I can ever imagine in my lifetime," Rumsfeld remarked, adding, "that coalition wasn't there on Sept. 11th of last year It was built one country at a time, over a long period of time.
"If you're right, if you provide leadership, and if you stake out a direction, people over time find a way to support that leadership," he added.
Rumsfeld reiterated that Iraq is a terrorist state, has developed and possesses weapons of mass destruction, and is one of few countries in the world where the leadership in power, Saddam Hussein, has used such weapons against his own people and neighbors.
"We'd prefer that he not use them against us," Rumsfeld pointed out, noting that unlike the 3,000-plus casualties caused by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, weapons of mass destruction losses could be in the tens of thousands.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated to ABC This Week host Sam Donaldson that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons.
Saddam, Myers added, also wants "to better his nuclear program."
"He's going to go to any means to do that, we think," he said. "Our estimate is at this point he does not have nuclear weapons, but he wants one."
Sept. 11 showed that the intent of the terrorists -- and of those that would supply them with weapons of mass destruction -- is very clear, Myers noted.
"They're to wipe out our way of life, (including) friends, allies, and innocents," the general said.
"And so, when you put that intent with capabilities, such as Iraq has, with chemical, biological, and the quest for nuclear weapons, then you have to be very, very concerned," Myers concluded.
During his TV appearance, Rumsfeld told host Schieffer that Pentagon Renovation Program Manager Lee Evey and construction workers "did a wonderful job" repairing the damaged building before Wednesday's anniversary observance of the attack.
"Lee is really a superb leader," the secretary said, "and the construction crews are so proud of what they've done -- and they ought to be."