Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that while a number of terrorist states are pursuing weapons of mass destruction, the threat posed by "Iraq is unique."
"No living dictator has shown the deadly combination of capability and intent - of aggression against his neighbors; pursuit of weapons of mass destruction; the use of weapons of mass destruction; oppression of his own people; support of terrorism; and the most threatening hostility to its neighbors and to the United States, than Saddam Hussein," said Rumsfeld in remarks to the Reserve Officers Association.
He contrasted the threat from Iraq to that of North Korea, saying, "In both word and deed, Iraq has demonstrated that it is seeking the means to strike the U.S., our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction for a reason: so that it can acquire the territory of its neighbors," Rumsfeld said.
"North Korea, by contrast, is a country teetering on the verge of collapse. Its history has been one of using its weapons programs to blackmail the West into helping stave off an economic disaster. North Korea is a threat, to be sure. But it is a different kind of threat - one that needs to be handled differently."
The following is the text of Rumsfeld's prepared remarks:
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Thank you Colonel Davenport. Admiral, General Hemley, General McCarthy, Admiral Carmona, leaders and members of the Reserve Officers Association. I am pleased to be with you this morning. The Reserve Officers Association has been a strong voice for the American military for eighty years now. My goodness - you folks have been around even longer than I have!
I was a member of the Naval Reserve as a weekend warrior from when I left active duty in 1957 until I became Secretary of Defense the first time in 1975. As you know, that great American tradition dates back to the Revolutionary War, when citizen-soldiers dropped their pitchforks, grabbed their muskets, and left their families and farms behind to fight for freedom. You live that tradition today, and the American people are grateful to you, and proud of all you do for our country.
We are grateful and proud of your families too. When your country calls, you put your lives on hold-leaving behind husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends and loved ones, who miss you, and worry about you and endure long periods of separation. They also sacrifice for their country. And so do your employers, who make do without your skills and talents, so that you can apply them to the battlefield in defense of freedom.
When we were attacked on September 11th, more than 100,000 reservists and National Guard members sprang into action-Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. They helped us defend the homeland, drive the Taliban from power, shut down the terrorist training camps, and liberate the Afghan people.
At this moment, Guard and Reserve Forces are patrolling streets, seas and skies across the globe, disrupting terrorist networks to prevent them from killing more of our people. These contributions have been vital to our success thus far in the global war on terror.
The attacks of September 11th were devastating. Yet September 11th-while unconventional in conception and planning-was essentially a conventional attack. Terrorists took airplanes, loaded with jet fuel, turned them into missiles, and used them to attack the Pentagon and World Trade Towers and kill thousands.
Yet, at this moment, terrorist networks and terrorist states are pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons - capabilities that enable them to kill not thousands, but many tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of our people.
Our objective in the global war on terror is to stop them; to prevent additional attacks that would be far worse - before they happen.
There are a number of terrorist states pursuing such weapons of mass murder today. But, as the president has made clear, Iraq poses a threat to the security of our people, and the stability of the world, that is distinct from others. Consider the record:
Saddam Hussein possesses chemical and biological weapons, he has used chemical weapons against foreign forces and his own people, in one case killing some 5,000 innocent civilians in a single day.
His regime has invaded two of its neighbors, and has launched ballistic missiles at four of this neighbors.
He openly praised the attacks of September 11th.
His regime plays host to terrorist networks, and has ordered acts of terror on foreign soil.
His is the only country in the world that fires missiles and artillery at U.S. and coalition aircraft on an almost daily basis.
His regime is paying a high price to pursue weapons of mass destruction - giving up billions of dollars in oil revenue.
His regime has large, unaccounted for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons - including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas; anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox - and he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons.
His regime has violated 16 different U.N. resolutions, repeatedly defying the will of the international community without cost or consequence.
As the President warned the United Nations last fall, "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger." It is a danger to its neighbors, to the United States, to the Middle East, and to international peace and stability. It is a danger we do not have the option to ignore.
In recent weeks some commentators have raised questions about our differing approaches to Iraq and North Korea. Why, they ask, is the U.S. threatening military action against Iraq while pursuing diplomacy with North Korea?
It is a fair question. And the answer is that the two cases are in fact quite different. Iraq and North Korea both pose serious threats. But Iraq is unique.
No living dictator has shown the deadly combination of capability and intent - of aggression against his neighbors; pursuit of weapons of mass destruction; the use of weapons of mass destruction; oppression of his own people; support of terrorism; and the most threatening hostility to its neighbors and to the United States, than Saddam Hussein.
In both word and deed, Iraq has demonstrated that it is seeking the means to strike the U.S., our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction for a reason: so that it can acquire the territory of its neighbors.
North Korea, by contrast, is a country teetering on the verge of collapse. Its history has been one of using its weapons programs to blackmail the West into helping stave off an economic disaster.
North Korea is a threat, to be sure. But it is a different kind of threat - one that needs to be handled differently.
For more than a decade, the international community has tried every possible means to dissuade Iraq from its weapons of mass destruction ambitions. We have tried diplomacy; economic sanctions and embargoes; positive inducements, such as the "oil for food" program; inspections; limited military strikes. Each of these approaches has failed.
Clearly, in the case of Iraq, we are nearing the end of a long road, where every other option has been exhausted. With North Korea, by contrast, that is not the case.
We are pursuing the diplomatic route with North Korea. We have robust military capabilities in Northeast Asia, which have successfully deterred in the past and do so today.
It should be noted that biological weapons - which Iraq and North Korea both possess - can be as deadly, and arguably more immediate a danger - because they are simpler and cheaper and deliver, and are even more readily transferred to terrorist networks than are nuclear weapons.
The recent "Dark Winter" exercise conducted by Johns Hopkins University simulated a biological attack in which terrorists released smallpox in three separate locations in the U.S. Within two months, the worst-case estimate indicated 1 million people could be dead and another 2 million infected. Biological weapons are of great concern.
After driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, we have already seen a change in behavior in certain regimes. The disarmament of Iraq-whether by diplomatic pressure or military action-will make clear to other terrorist regimes that pursuing weapons of mass destruction will make them less secure, not more secure.
The burden of proof is not on the U.S. or the U.N. to prove that Iraq has these weapons. The burden of proof is on Iraq - to prove that it is disarming. Thus far, they have been unwilling to do so. We continue to hope that the regime will change course.
No one wants war. But as the president has said, the decision between war and peace will be made not in Washington D.C. or New York, but in Baghdad. Either they will cooperate or they won't. And it won't take months to make that judgment.
As we press Iraq to disarm, we will need the continuing support of the men and women of our Guard and Reserve.
At this time of call-ups and alerts and uncertainty, know that the American people are counting on you, have confidence in you. We can live as free people in this dangerous new century, because brave men and women like you voluntarily risk their lives to protect us.
I thank you for your service. God bless you, and God bless America. I'd be happy to take your questions.