BUSH: Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace and America's determination to lead the world in confronting that threat. The threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from the Iraqi regime's own actions, its history of aggression and its drive toward an arsenal of terror.
CHRIS TOENSING editor of Middle East Report: This might indicate that Iraq is actively threatening the peace in the region. There is no evidence whatsoever that Iraq is doing so, or has any intention of doing so. Other powers are actively disrupting the peace in the region: Israel is trying to crush Palestinian resistance to occupation with brute force, and the U.S. and Britain have bombed Iraq 46 times in 2002 when their aircraft are "targeted" by Iraqi air defense systems in the bilaterally enforced no-fly zones. Most of our "friends" in the region -- Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan -- have strongly urged us not to go to war and to tone down the war rhetoric. Aren't they better positioned than we are to judge what threatens their safety?
BUSH: Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons and to stop all support for terrorist groups.
RAHUL MAHAJAN, author of The New Crusade: America's War on Terrorism: Resolution 687 also speaks of "establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction" -- which also means Israel's 200-plus nuclear weapons as well as Syria's and Egypt's apparent chemical weapons capabilities, and any nuclear capability the U.S. has placed in the region.
BUSH: The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons.
AS'AD ABUKHALIL, author of Bin Laden, Islam & America's New 'War on Terrorism, and associate professor of political science at California State University at Stanislaus: The president fails to credit Reagan's and his father's administrations -- prominent members of which included Rumsfeld and Cheney -- for their help in the construction of Saddam's arsenal, especially in the area of germ warfare.
TOENSING: After being presented with evidence that Iraq had used chemical weapons to attack the Kurds in 1987-88, the Reagan administration blocked a Senate resolution imposing sanctions on Iraq, and continued to pursue good relations with the regime.
JAMES JENNINGS, president of Conscience International (a humanitarian aid organisation that has worked in Iraq since 1991): The evidence that Iraq gassed its own people is also not about a current event, but one that happened 14 years ago. If that did not constitute a good enough reason for going to war with Iraq in 1988, which the U.S. did not even contemplate at the time, it certainly is not a good enough reason now.
BUSH: It is seeking nuclear weapons.
SUSAN WRIGHT, co-author of Biological Warfare and Disarmament: New Problems/New Perspectives: How does Bush know this? It's as if the inspections have already been conducted and we know the outcome. We're expected to accept the administration's word for this without seeing any evidence. We have no way of judging the accuracy of these claims and the only way to do so is to hold inspections. The only country in the region that is known to possess a nuclear arsenal is Israel. (The Administration says that it does not know if Israel has nuclear weapons: www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0521-06.htm )
MAHAJAN: There's no evidence that Iraq has gotten anywhere with seeking nuclear weapons. The pitiful status of evidence in this regard is shown by claims in e.g. Blair's dossier that Iraq is seeking uranium from Africa, year and country unspecified. South Africa is, of course, the only country in the continent that has potentially the capacity for enrichment of uranium to bomb quality, and claims not to have supplied Iraq with uranium. Unenriched uranium does Iraq little good, since enrichment facilities are large, require huge investment, and cannot easily be hidden.
BUSH: It has given shelter and support to terrorism and practices terror
against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's 11-year history
of defiance, deception, and bad faith. We also must never forget the most vivid
events of recent history. On Sept. 11, 2001, America felt its vulnerability
-- even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then,
and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could
bring sudden terror and suffering to America.
Members of the Congress of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. We agree that the Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons.
TOENSING: Only two members of the U.N. Security Council would appear to agree with the idea that Iraq threatens, or will threaten "America and the world" with weapons of mass destruction -- making the next sentence disingenuous at best.
BUSH: Since we all agree on this goal, the issue is: How can we best achieve it? Many Americans have raised legitimate questions: About the nature of the threat. About the urgency of action -- and why be concerned now? About the link between Iraq developing weapons of terror, and the wider war on terror. These are all issues we have discussed broadly and fully within my administration. And tonight, I want to share those discussions with you.
TOENSING: Bush may have shared the discussion, but he did not share the evidence, saying, like the British dossier and CIA reports, that intelligence has established the threat. But Americans apparently will not be seeing it.
BUSH: First, some ask why Iraq is different from other countries or regimes
that also have terrible weapons. While there are many dangers in the world,
the threat from Iraq stands alone -- because it gathers the most serious dangers
of our age in one place.
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant, who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbour, has struck other nations without warning, and holds an unrelenting hostility towards the United States.
STEPHEN ZUNES, author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism, and associate professor of politics at the University of San Francisco: The hostility toward the United States is a direct consequence of U.S. hostility toward Iraq. Iraq was quite unhostile to the United States when it was receiving support from the U.S. during the 1980s. The answer is certainly not to appease Iraq's tyrannical regime, as was done in the past. However, to imply this hostility is unrelated to the U.S. destruction of much of Iraq's civilian infrastructure and other actions during the Gulf War which went far beyond what was necessary to rid Iraqi forces from Kuwait and the U.S.-led sanctions and its impact upon the civilian population is very misleading.
ABUKHALIL: If Bush wants to punish nations that "tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbour, has struck other nations without warning," then he would have to punish Israel for an occupation of Palestinian lands that lasted far longer than the now famous -- yet brief -- Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Of course, Iraq did attack Iran and Kuwait, and Israel, in the span of 30 years, has attacked Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, not to mention Palestine, and not to mention a civilian Libyan airliner that was downed by Israeli forces in 1973.
BUSH: By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities,
by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique. As a former chief weapons
inspector for the U.N. has said, "The fundamental problem with Iraq remains
the nature of the regime itself --Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who
is addicted to weapons of mass destruction."
Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?
ZUNES: He was far more dangerous in the 1980s when the U.S. was supporting him. It will take many years, assuming military sanctions continue in effect, before he comes close to the strength he was then. If U.N. inspectors are allowed to return, it would be impossible -- even if they don't find 100 per cent of everything -- to get much stronger than he is today.
BUSH: In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount.
ZUNES: If this is really a concern, then why did the United States supply Iraq with the seed stock of anthrax spores back in the 1980s? [William Blum, "Anthrax for Export: U.S. Companies Sold Iraq the Ingredients for a Witch's Brew," The Progressive, April 1998, p.18]
BUSH: This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and is capable of killing millions.
ZUNES: This is like saying that a man is capable of making millions of women pregnant. It's a matter of delivery systems, of which there is no proof that Iraq currently has.
BUSH: We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, and VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks on Iran, and on more than 40 villages in his own country. These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people, more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September 11.
MAHAJAN: All of this was done with the full support, approval and connivance of the U.S. government. U.S.-supplied "agricultural credits" helped fund the sustained counterinsurgency campaign in northern Iraq; the U.S. supplied military intelligence to Iraq for use against Iran, even when it knew Iraq was using chemical weapons in the war and the U.S. ran diplomatic interference for Iraq at the United Nations.
TOENSING: The U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Iraq in 1984, while it was in the midst of fighting the first of these wars of aggression, because the U.S. wanted to contain the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The U.S. and Britain tilted toward Iraq throughout the war, and U.S. allies in the region, chief among them Saudi Arabia, bankrolled the Iraqi war effort. The U.S. was still trying to become closer to Iraq when it invaded Kuwait.
ZUNES: He attacked Iranian troops because he knew Iran had no allies that would defend it. And we now know that officials from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assisted Iraq in targeting Iranian forces in the full knowledge that they were using chemical weapons. Saddam used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians because he knew they couldn't fight back. And the U.S. helped cover up the Halabja massacre and other assaults by falsely claiming the Iranians were responsible. In other words, Saddam is a coward. He will use WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] when he knows he won't have to suffer the consequences, especially when the world's most powerful country is supporting him.
BUSH: And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it has used to produce chemical and biological weapons.
TOENSING: That it "has used." The last time Bush made a big deal of this, he claimed that Iraq was again using the facilities in this way -- an assertion which the IAEA promptly rebutted as unverifiable. It still is unverifiable.
BUSH: Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
MAHAJAN: There are no credible allegations that Iraq produced chemical or biological agents while inspectors were in the country until December 1998. The reason we don't know whether they are producing those agents or not since then is that inspectors were withdrawn at the U.S. behest, preparatory to the Desert Fox bombing campaign.
BUSH: Yet Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons, despite
international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world.
[The U.S. has maintained for years that it would continue the sanctions, regardless of Iraq's behavior regarding weapons -- see "Autopsy of a Disaster: The U.S. Sanctions Policy on Iraq -- Myth: The Sanctions Will be Lifted When Iraq Complies with the U.N. Inspections": www.accuracy.org/iraq ]
ZUNES: Again the U.S. has yet to produce evidence that Iraq is building such weapons. Also U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 calls for Iraqi disarmament as part of a region-wide disarmament effort which the United States has refused to enforce or even support.
BUSH: Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles -- far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations -- in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work.
TOENSING: This is a neat rhetorical trick. Bush knows that Turkey and Saudi Arabia themselves do not feel under threat from Iraq's WMD, so he doesn't claim that. Rather, it's the threat to U.S. servicemen and oil company employees, based in those countries, which should concern us. The questions left unasked are why Iraq would attack Americans, knowing the massive response that would incur, and of course why so many American troops "live and work" in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. They're partly there in forward deployment against Iraq.
ZUNES: According to UNSCOM, 817 of Iraq's 819 Soviet-built ballistic missiles have been accounted for and destroyed. They may possess up to a couple of dozen home-made versions, but none of these have been tested and it is questionable whether they have any functional launchers.
BUSH: We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States.
TOENSING: Other intelligence experts have disputed that UAVs are a threat, because the agents they released might disperse to basically harmless levels by the time they reached the ground if the UAV was trying to cover such a broad area.
MAHAJAN: The claim that these UAVs have ranges that would enable attacking the United States, and that they could reach it undetected, is a startlingly new one, and entirely untenable. No one has ever produced evidence of Iraqi capability or intent to target the United States directly.
BUSH: And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems are not required for a chemical or biological attack -- all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it.
MAHAJAN: Bioterrorist attacks and delivery of biological agents aren't that easy -- the very limited effects of the anthrax attacks showed that. In fact, the loss of life in the anthrax attacks occurred mostly among the postal workers who were not issued antibiotics, and not among the congressional staff who were. As for chemical attacks with "a small container and one terrorist," they would be severely limited in effect.
BUSH: And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans.
MICHAEL RATNER, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights: Although U.S. intelligence agencies have not found a relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, Bush mentions one, but no evidence is shown. Likewise he tries to frighten Americans by talking about the crimes of Abu Nidal, but Abu Nidal is dead. Again it is an attempt to create fear by association with something from the past, not evidence of a current threat.
BUSH: Iraq has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who was responsible for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger. And we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror, and gives assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle East peace.
TOENSING: Yes, but neither of these groups is ideologically anti-American. Their attacks are aimed at Israel and Israeli interests, including the killing of Leon Klinghoffer and other Americans. This is a crucial piece of context.
BUSH: We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We have learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb making, poisons, and deadly gases.
JENNINGS: The claim that al-Qaeda is in Iraq is disingenuous, if not an outright lie. Yes, the U.S. has known for some time that up to 400 al-Qaeda-type Muslim extremists, the Ansar al-Islam, formerly "Jund al-Islam," a splinter of the Iranian-backed Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan, were operating inside the Kurdish security zone set up under U.S. protection in the north of Iraq. For some reason, this was kept quiet and has not been much reported in the mainstream media. Finally last spring, the Kurds themselves attacked and killed most of the terrorists in their territory, sending the rest fleeing for their lives across the border into Iran. Since this area was under U.S. protection, and not under Saddam Hussein's rule, it's pretty hard to claim that al-Qaeda operates in Iraq.
MAHAJAN: Al-Qaeda has carried out no chemical or biological attacks. The anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001 were almost certainly from a U.S. government employee. It's hard to know what, if anything, to make of claims that one "senior al Qaeda leader" got medical treatment in Baghdad. Giving medical treatment, even to criminals, is not illegal, and with so little evidence given to us, there's no reason to suppose this isn't another story like the one about a meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence in Prague (now discredited).
BUSH: And we know that after Sept. 11, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliances with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
MAHAJAN: Biological or chemical weapons would undoubtedly leave fingerprints, just as the anthrax attacks in the fall did. Even if Iraq couldn't be conclusively shown to be the source of such materials, the U.S. government would assume Iraq was the source. Iraq has been under the gun ever since the Gulf War, and can't possibly assume that it could get away with such an attack. Moreover, Saddam has traditionally seen WMD as his ace in the hole, protecting him from defeat. Paranoid dictators do not give control of something they see as the foundation of their security into the hands of networks, like al-Qaeda, which they can't control.
BUSH: Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract
from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by
Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror.
When I spoke to the Congress more than a year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them, or provide them to a terror network.
Terror cells, and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass destruction, are different faces of the same evil. Our security requires that we confront both. And the United States military is capable of confronting both.
Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon. We don't know exactly, and that is the problem. Before the Gulf War, the best intelligence indicated that Iraq was eight to 10 years away from developing a nuclear weapon. After the war, international inspectors learned that the regime had been much closer. The regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993. The inspectors discovered that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a workable nuclear weapon, and was pursuing several different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.
TOENSING: Yes. Inspectors learned all of this. The inspections worked.
BUSH: Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium-enrichment sites.
ROBERT JENSEN, author of Writing Dissent, and an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin: Bush at least acknowledged that we know little about Saddam's nuclear capability, but he lied about why. Bush claimed that Iraq barred the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1998. In fact, the inspectors, along with those from the U.N. Special Commission, were withdrawn by their agencies -- not expelled by Iraq -- in December 1998 when it became clear the Clinton administration was going to bomb Iraq (as it did) and the safety of the inspectors couldn't be guaranteed. The inspectors also spied for the United States -- in violation of their mandate.
BUSH: That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer,
who had defected, revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein
had ordered his nuclear program to continue. The evidence indicates that Iraq
is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.
Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahedeen" -- his nuclear holy warriors.
Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past.
TOENSING: As Lincoln Chafee said on NPR, if these satellite photos exist, then surely the public has a right to see them. Surely mere photos would not compromise sources and methods. [In 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the U.S. government claimed that Iraqi troops were threatening Saudi Arabia -- a claim that turned out to be false.]
BUSH: Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
MAHAJAN: The aluminum tubes can also be used in conventional artillery, which Iraq is allowed to have. In the past, when Iraq tried to build such centrifuges, they used steel tubes. This is an incredibly weak indicator.
BUSH: If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
TOENSING: Both the CIA report and the British dossier say that this is very unlikely as long as Iraq remains under sanctions.
MAHAJAN: This means only that it has the technological know-how to create the high-explosive "lenses" necessary to set off the appropriate nuclear chain reaction. As long as it retains its scientists, this will remain the case.
BUSH: And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.
MAHAJAN: Again, such an act is not at all consonant with the history or the mindset of Saddam Hussein. One organization hosted by the Iraqi government, which is classified as terrorist by the State Department, is the Iranian Mujahedin-l-Khalq, whose activities are directed against the current government of Iran. They have never had access to any nonconventional resources from the Government of Iraq. Saddam Hussein sees the radical Islamist terrorist networks like al-Qaeda as a huge potential threat to his own rule, something that concerns him far more than any unrealistic ideas of revenge against the U.S. Anything that could allow al-Qaeda (which, in its turn, is likely more concerned with replacing regimes in the Middle East with new radical Islamist regimes) to blackmail him would be the last thing he would give them.
BUSH: Some citizens wonder: After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? There is a reason. We have experienced the horror of Sept. 11. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing -- in fact they would be eager -- to use a biological or chemical or a nuclear weapon.
MAHAJAN: Invoking Sept. 11 without showing any kind of link between the government of Iraq and those attacks is just transparent manipulation. What he really means is that after Sept. 11, he thinks he can get away with such a policy.
BUSH: Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering
against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof
-- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
As President Kennedy said in October of 1962: "Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world," he said, "where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril."
JACQUELINE CABASSO, executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation: The hypocrisy in this speech -- and in the Bush Administration's overall national security strategy -- is monumental. If having weapons of mass destruction and a history of using them is a criteria, then surely the United States must pose the greatest threat to humanity that has ever existed. While Bush warns that "we cannot wait for the final proof. . . the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," his Sept. 2002 National Security Strategy states that "America will act against. . .emerging threats before they are fully formed. . .by acting preemptively." And his top-secret Nuclear Posture Review, leaked to the New York Times earlier this year, reveals that "U.S. nuclear forces will continue to provide assurance. . .in the event of surprising military developments. . .Current examples of immediate contingencies include an Iraqi attack on Israel or its neighbours. . ." It doesn't take a lot of imagination to predict that if Iraq is attacked by the U.S., it might launch whatever it has at Israel -- itself a nuclear power. Further, while the U.S. is massively expanding its biological weapons research capabilities -- for example by upgrading its bioresearch facilities at the Livermore and Los Alamos Nuclear weapons labs to aerosolize live anthrax and genetically modify bioorganisms -- it is blocking a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention that would allow international inspectors into U.S. facilities. The Bush Administration's unilateral headlong rush to war threatens to unleash unprecedented regional instability and potentially catastrophic loss of life. It's hard to image a more self-destructive course of action.
BUSH: Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions
of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an
urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.
Some believe we can address this danger by simply resuming the old approach to inspections, and applying diplomatic and economic pressure. Yet this is precisely what the world has tried to do since 1991. The U.N. inspections program was met with systematic deception. The Iraqi regime bugged hotel rooms and offices of inspectors to find where they were going next. They forged documents, destroyed evidence, and developed mobile weapons facilities to keep a step ahead of inspectors. Eight so-called presidential palaces were declared off-limits to unfettered inspections. These sites actually encompass 12 square miles, with hundreds of structures, both above and below the ground, where sensitive materials could be hidden.
[In fact, there were inspections of these "presidential palaces."]
ZUNES: These are not off-limits. They are open to unfettered inspections as long as an Iraqi official is accompanying the inspectors. Such a proviso is quite legal under U.N. Security Council resolutions authorizing the creation of UNMOVIC, resolutions that were supported by the United States.
BUSH: The world has also tried economic sanctions and watched Iraq use billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues to fund more weapons purchases, rather than providing for the needs of the Iraqi people.
TOENSING: Yes, and all the while, the U.S. and Britain were undermining the logic of sanctions and inspections by speaking of regime change, giving the regime no incentive to cooperate.
MAHAJAN: The government-instituted food ration program in Iraq had been widely praised, characterized as "second to none" by Tun Myat, current U.N. Humanitarian Coordinater in Iraq. Money that comes in under the Oil for Food program cannot, despite constant allegations, be used for weapons purchases. All proceeds from such sales are deposited to an escrow account in New York which is controlled by the U.N. Sanctions Committee. The government of Iraq cannot touch any of this money.
BUSH: The world has tried limited military strikes to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities. . .only to see them openly rebuilt, while the regime again denies they even exist.
MAHAJAN: For "world" here, read "United States and its lieutenant, the United Kingdom." Those military strikes were a blatant violation of international law, done without Security Council authorization.
BUSH: The world has tried no-fly zones to keep Saddam from terrorizing his own people. . .and in the last year alone, the Iraqi military has fired upon American and British pilots more than 750 times.
TOENSING: Another remarkable rhetorical trick. The no-fly zones did not protect the Kurds from Iraqi incursions in 1995-96, nor have they protected the Shia or the marsh Arabs from ground-based repression throughout the which have yet to come close to actually hitting a U.S. or U.K. jet. As with the Saudi-Turkish point above, it appears the U.S.-U.K. attempts to protect the peoples of the region are to be counted as failures because the U.S. and U.K. are in danger.
FRANCIS BOYLE, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence: It is the U.S. government that is violating the United Nations Charter. . .by using military force to allegedly "police" these illegal "no-fly" zones that have never been authorized by the U.N. Security Council or by the U.S. Congress, in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution as well. Iraq is simply exercising its legitimate right of self-defense under U.N. Charter article 51. The Bush administration has deliberately put U.S. pilots in harm's way in order to concoct a pretext for a catastrophic war of aggression against Iraq. The best way for the American people to protect the lives of our military personnel in the Persian Gulf is to bring them all home.
MAHAJAN: Again, the no-fly zones don't involve the "world", but are a naked projection of American and British power (France, the third partner in the no-fly zones, withdrew in 1996), unsanctioned by the Security Council.
BUSH: After 11 years during which we have tried containment, sanctions,
inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein
still has chemical and biological weapons, and is increasing his capabilities
to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon.
Clearly, to actually work, any new inspections, sanctions, or enforcement mechanisms will have to be very different. America wants the U.N. to be an effective organization that helps to keep the peace. That is why we are urging the Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough, immedicate requirements.
ABUKHALIL: Bush also fails to mention American violations of the sanctions regime, by using the inspectors to spy on Iraq, and to obtain information unrelated to the U.N. mandate.
BUSH: Among those requirements, the Iraqi regime must reveal and destroy, under U.N. supervision, all existing weapons of mass destruction. To ensure that we learn the truth, the regime must allow witnesses to its illegal activities to be interviewed outside of the country. And these witnesses must be free to bring their families with them so they are all beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein's terror and murder. And inspectors must have access to any site, at any time, without pre-clearance, without delay, without exceptions.
SUSAN WRIGHT: [The evidence] suggests that the United States and the United Kingdom intend to set such tough conditions for further arms inspections in Iraq that they would create a double bind. If Iraq rejects the conditions, then war with the U.S. will follow. If Iraq attempts to comply and an ambiguity triggers action by the security forces of one of the permanent members of the Security Council -- which according to this draft, might accompany an inspection team -- war could follow anyway. Other members of the Security Council should reject such traps. It is also essential to avoid a situation in which the inspection force is effectively hijacked by the U.S. and used for espionage, as was the case with the U.N. Special Commission in the 1990s.
BUSH: The time for denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself -- or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. Many nations are joining us in insisting that Saddam Hussein's regime be held accountable. They are committed to defending the international security that protects the lives of both our citizens and theirs.
ABUKHALIL: When Bush speaks about "many nations" supporting the U.S., he certainly means Israel and the U.K., although public opinion in the U.K. is running solidly against Bush's war.
BUSH: And that is why America is challenging all nations to take the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council seriously.
ZUNES: There are well over 90 U.N. Security Council resolutions that are currently being violated by countries other than Iraq. The vast majority of these resolutions are being violated by allies of the United States that receive U.S. military, economic and diplomatic support. Indeed, the U.S. has effectively blocked the U.N. Security Council from enforcing these resolutions against its allies.
BUSH: Those resolutions are very clear. In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction, Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. And it must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including an American pilot whose fate is still unknown.
ZUNES: Most of these do not fall under Chapter VII which allows for the UNSC to authorize the use of force.
ABUKHALIL: And Bush's sudden concern for U.N. resolutions should not lead one to believe that he will next move to implement all U.N. resolutions -- including those against U.S. allies.
BUSH: By taking these steps, and only by taking these steps, the Iraqi
regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict. These steps would also change the
nature of the Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make that choice.
Unfortunately, at least so far, we have little reason to expect it. This is
why two administrations -- mine and President Clinton's -- have stated that
regime change in Iraq is the only certain means of removing a great danger to
I hope this will not require military action, but it may. And military conflict could be difficult. An Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate measures. If Saddam Hussein orders such measures, his generals would be well advised to refuse those orders. If they do not refuse, they must understand that all war criminals will be pursued and punished. If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully, we will act with the full power of the U.S. military, we will act with allies at our side, and we will prevail.
There is no easy or risk-free course of action. Some have argued we should wait, and that is an option. In my view, it is the riskiest of all options -- because the longer we wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become. We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists, or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I am convinced that is a hope against all evidence.
As Americans, we want peace. We work and sacrifice for peace. And there can be no peace if our security depends on the will and whims of a ruthless and aggressive dictator. I am not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein.
MAHAJAN: Throughout all of this, there has never been any credible evidence introduced to indicate that Hussein has any policy of trying to target Americans. His depredations have almost always been distinguished by actions against people that the Western powers don't care about.
BUSH: Failure to act would embolden other tyrants, allow terrorists access
to new weapons and new resources, and make blackmail a permanent feature of
The United Nations would betray the purpose of its founding and prove irrelevant to the problems of our time. And through its inaction, the U.S. would resign itself to a future of fear. That is not the America I know. That is not the America I serve. We refuse to live in fear. This nation -- in world war and in cold war -- has never permitted the brutal and lawless to set history's course.
ZUNES: Then why did the United States support Indonesian dictator Suharto for over three decades, as he oversaw the massacre of over a half million of his own people, invaded the tiny nation of East Timor, resulting in the deaths of an additional 200,000? How about brutal and lawless governments in Turkey, Morocco and Israel that have invaded neighboring countries at the cost of thousands of civilian lives? How about Pinochet and other Latin American tyrants supported by the U.S.?
BUSH: Now, as before, we will secure our nation, protect our freedom and help others to find freedom of their own. Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create instability and make the situation worse. The situation could hardly get worse, for world security and for the people of Iraq. The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power, just as the lives of Afghanistan's citizens improved after the Taliban.
TOENSING: Given what is known about the return of warlordism and chaos to Afghanistan -- not to mention the fiction that Afghan women have all thrown away their burqas -- this is a debatable position, and indicative of the administration's lack of interest in rebuilding Afghanistan. Why would Iraq be any different?
MAHAJAN: On every test of justice and pragmatism, the war on Afghanistan
fails. Worse, every one of these aspects, from an increased threat
of terrorism to large numbers of civilian deaths, to installation of a U.S.-controlled
puppet regime, is due to play out again in the war on Iraq. In fact, though
it has been little noted, the sanctions regime has made Iraqis dependent on
centralized, government-distributed food to survive and relief agencies
have already expressed their concerns about the potential for a humanitarian
crisis once war starts.
BUSH: The dictator of Iraq is a student of Stalin, using murder as a tool of terror and control within his own cabinet and within his own army and even within his own family. On Saddam Hussein's orders, opponents have been decapitated, wives and mothers of political opponents have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners have been forced to watch their own children being tortured.
JENSEN: All of that and more was going on while Iraq was a "valued ally" of the United States -- hence the hyprocrisy of the next few sentences.
BUSH: America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights -- to the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery, prosperity to squalor, self-government to the rule of terror and torture.America is a friend to the people of Iraq.
ANTHONY ARNOVE, editor of the book Iraq Under Siege: But the people of Iraq have good reason to feel otherwise. As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times noted in his October 4 report from Baghdad: "While ordinary Iraqis were very friendly toward me, they were enraged at the U.S. after 11 years of economic sanctions. . .Worse, U.S. bombing of water treatment plants, difficulties importing purification chemicals like chlorine (which can be used for weapons), and shortages of medicines led to a more than doubling of infant mortality, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization." Another war on Iraq -- this time, a "preemptive" attack aimed at "regime change" -- will lead to more civilian casualties and damage to Iraq's infrastructure. And Iraqis are right to worry that the regime Washington installs, in violation of their right to self-determination, will be one that serves U.S. interests, not their own. We should recall the impact of the last war. In the words of Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford, a former Marine corporal, writing in the New York Times October 2, "From the ground, I witnessed the savage results of American air superiority: tanks and troop carriers turned upside down and ripped inside out: rotten, burned, half-buried bodies littering the desert like the detritus of years -- not weeks -- of combat." We should be skeptical of Bush's stated concern for the Iraqi people. His real interests in this war are not the Iraq people, or defending Americans from attack, but expanding U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.
BUSH: Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end and an era of new hope will begin.
JENNINGS: The president has repeatedly claimed, "We have no quarrel with the Iraqi people." In his speech to the nation on Oct. 7, he said, "America is a friend of the people of Iraq." Try telling that to a friend of mine in Baghdad who walked out of his house following a U.S. bomb attack to find his neighbor's head rolling down the street, or to a taxi driver I met whose four-year-old child shook uncontrollably for three days following Clinton's 1998 "Monicagate" bombing diversion. Try telling it to the mother of Omran ibn Jwair, whom I met in the village of Toq al-Ghazzalat after a U.S. missile killed her 13-year-old son while he was tending sheep in the field. Try telling it to the hundreds of mothers I have seen crying over their dying babies in Iraqi hospitals, and to the hundreds of thousands of parents who have actually lost their infant children due to the cruel U.S. blockade, euphemistically called "sanctions". Are the Iraqi people supposed to rejoice now that a new war is being forced upon them by their so-called "friends"? It is understandable that people are frightened following the disastrous attacks of Sept. 11. But fear is not a good reason to stop thinking. In fact, when we are in danger is when clear thinking is needed most of all.
BUSH: Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq's people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors. Later this week the United States Congress will vote on this matter. I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands.
JOHN BERG, director of graduate studies of the government department at Suffolk University: Our Constitution makes it clear that Congress, not the president, is to "declare war" -- that is, make the decision that war is necessary in a given situation. For Congress to delegate this determination to the president would be an abdication of its Consitutional responsibility.
ZUNES: According to the articles 41 and 42 of the United Nations Charter, this can only be done if the U.N. Security Council finds the violator in material breach of the resolution, determines all non-military means of enforcement have been exhausted, and specifically authorizes the use of force. Otherwise, it will be illegal. Members of Congress would therefore be obliged to vote against it since, according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, international treaties such as the U.N. Charter are the supreme law of the land. Furthermore, if the U.S. can invade Iraq for its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, then Britain could invade Morocco, France could invade Turkey, Russia could invade Israel, etc.
BUSH: Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something. Congress will also be sending a message to the dictator in Iraq that his only choice is full compliance -- and the time remaining for that choice is limited. Members of Congress are nearing an historic vote, and I am confident they will fully consider the facts and their duties. The attacks of Sept. 11 showed our country that vast oceans no longer protect us from danger. Before that tragic date, we had only hints of al Qaeda's plans and designs. Today in Iraq, we see a threat whose outlines are far more clearly defined -- and whose consequences could be far more deadly. Saddam Hussein's actions have put us on notice -- and there is no refuge from our responsibilities. We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it. Like other generations of Americans, we will meet the responsibility of defending human liberty against violence and aggression. By our resolve, we will give strength to others. By our courage, we will give hope to others. By our actions, we will secure the peace and lead the world to a better day.
PHYLLIS BENNIS, author of the just-released book, Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis, and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies: President Bush's speech ignored Congress, and instead was aimed at U.S. public opinion (where his support is dwindling) and international allies in the U.N. (where the U.S. is significantly isolated). It was designed to divert attention from the real reasons for this coming war: oil and empire. It is a war designed to rewrite the political map of the Middle East, and is not dependent on the particular threat posed by a particular dictator. The crimes of the Iraqi regime are serious and longstanding -- back to the days of massive U.S. economic and military support, and U.S. provision of the biological seed stock for the anthrax and other germs President Bush warned us about. But launching a massive bombing campaign against Baghdad, a city of more than five million inhabitants -- grandmothers, kindergarten classes, teenagers -- will not secure human rights for those living and dying under those bombs."
BUSH: Thank you and good night.