United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Corrected Copy

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
November 12, 1998

Q: Sir, might I have a minute of your time.

A: Sure.

Q: You brought up the current situation with Saddam Hussein. (Inaudible) build up he might fall back in line and allow inspectors to go back. (Inaudible) at what point finally stop playing with him and...

A: Well, I think you've seen from President Clinton's statement that we're not playing games any longer with Saddam Hussein. We're saying comply. And a failure to comply could result in a military operation. We're hoping that doesn't take place.

I was talking with Dick Danzig here, before, and he had the perfect analogy. I know there's a lot of frustration because you're people, men and women, of action and you want to take action. But you are taking action. You have been taking action just by being present. And by your constant presence here, that had to have been the most frustrating thing to deal with. Because we have been present, because we've had that military capability, he hasn't been able to do the things that he wants to do. And the frustration comes with (inaudible) saying: Isn't it time to do something now? And as Dick was saying, it's more or less like having the cop on the beat. He's going back and forth on the beat and the crowd level stays down. His presence alone, or her presence alone, will hopefully keep that crime down. He took care to add, if necessary, you can bring in reinforcements of an (inaudible) force, if there appears to be something breaking out that could get out of hand. And the job of that police officer is to keep the peace. And that's what you've been doing. You've been helping to keep the peace by your presence. And, as frustrating as that is, you are actually carrying out our national security policy.

We are containing him. He has not been able to move North, not been able to move South. He has restrictions in the amounts of oil he sells, what he can do with that oil, it has to go for food and medicines, and that's part of his enormous frustration. He wants those inspectors out so they can't be delving into what he is doing behind closed doors and then he wants to get the sanctions removed so the oil revenue will start to flow unrestricted and he'll be able to build his military back up.

So, I know as tough as things may be, you are in fact executing our strategy by just being present with the capability that you have. So now he has turned up the pressure by saying: No more inspections. And, of course, if we have no more inspections, then we have no way of really checking to see whether he's reconstituted his weapons of mass destruction. It doesn't take very long if you follow the (inaudible) for him to rebuild his biological capability or chemical capability. And so, we have indicated to him very clearly that he must comply with the Security Council resolutions under the agreement that he signed back in February.

I just came back from the Gulf, a very quick trip visiting all of our Gulf friends, and they understand the consequences of what's involved. They understand what the implications are if the United States and the UN should simply say it's okay. We're not going to enforce the Security Council resolutions. If we don't do that, then, for all practical purposes, the Security Council has lost credibility. The resolutions become meaningless. He is able to achieve his goals of not complying and yet getting released from the restrictions without consequence. As they understand, that's not fair, that's going to take place.

We had been in the process of making sure everyone understands what we are seeking to do. We're not seeking to go war. We're seeking to avoid it. But there is a very easy way for him to avoid it. All he has to do is say: I'm going to comply with what I agreed to comply with in February and in 1991 and ever since that time. So, the choice really is his at this point.

Virtually everyone, the Security Council unanimously condemned his actions, the French, the Russians, the others have become frustrated in dealing with him because they don't understand what he's doing. The rationale behind his actions is completely contrary to reason. So, there's a lot of frustration there in terms of Saddam Hussein. He's a very difficult individual to deal with. But we also have found out that when we demonstrate a willingness to use force, if necessary, it has a way of sobering the mind, concentrating the mind. It happened in Kosovo recently where we had 16 nations calmly agreeing that we were all prepared to join in taking military action against Milosevic unless he agreed to the terms of the Security Council resolutions. And then, finally, as a result of the negotiations taking place with Mr. Holbrook and Gen. Wes Clark and others, Milosevic saw the wisdom of agreeing to an approach to settle the issue peacefully. But it took the presence of that force in order to bring about that kind of result. We're hoping the same thing will take place here. There's no guarantee of it. The words that come from Baghdad are not encouraging, but we're hoping that he may still have time to reconsider and rethink his position on it.

Additional Links

Stay Connected