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nuclear September 11? Or is it the responsibility of free people to take steps to deal with the threat before we are attacked?
There are a number of terrorist states pursuing weapons of mass destruction—Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, just to name a fewbut no terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Mr. Chairman, these facts about Saddam Hussein's regime should be part of the record and of our country's considerations. He has ordered the use of chemical weapons against his own people, in one case killing 5,000 innocent civilians in a day. His regime has invaded two of its neighbors. It has launched ballistic missiles against four of its neighbors. He plays host to terrorist networks. He regularly assassinates his opponents, both in Iraq and abroad. He has executed a member of his own cabinet, whom he personally shot and killed. He has ordered doctors to surgically remove the ears of military deserters. His regime has committed genocide and ethnic cleansing in Northern Iraq. His regime, on almost a daily basis, continues to fire missiles and artillery at U.S. and coalition aircraft. He has amassed large clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including anthrax, botulism toxin, and possibly smallpox. He has amassed large clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin, and mustard gas. His regime has an active program to acquire nuclear weapons. His regime has dozens of ballistic missiles and is working to extend their ranges, in violation of U.N. restrictions. He has in place an elaborate organized system of denial and deception to frustrate both inspectors and outside intelligence efforts. His regime has diverted funds from the U.N.'s Oil for Food Program, intended to feed starving Iraqis, to fund weapons of mass destruction programs. He has violated 16 U.N. resolutions, repeatedly defying the will of the international community, without cost and without consequence.
The President warned the United Nations last week that his regime is a grave and gathering danger. It's a danger that we do not have the option to ignore. President Bush made clear that the United States wants to work with the U.N. Security Council, but he made clear the consequences of Iraq's continued defiance. “The purpose of the United States should not be doubted,” he said, “The Security Council resolutions will be enforced or action will be unavoidable, and a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.”
The President has asked the Members of Congress to support actions that may be necessary to deliver on that pledge. He urged that Congress act before the recess. Delaying a vote in Congress would send the wrong message, just as we are asking the international community to take a stand and as we are cautioning Iraq to reflect on its options.
It was Congress that changed the objective of U.S. policy from containment to regime change by passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 by, as I recall, a 10-to-1 margin in both houses. The President is now asking Congress to support that policy. A decision to use military force, potentially, is never easy, and it's important that the issues surrounding this decision be discussed and debated seriously.
In recent weeks, a number of questions have been surfaced, many by Members of Congress and others. Some of the arguments raised are important, and, in my prepared testimony, I've tried to discuss in detail a number of those issues that have been raised. Let me just touch on a few here this afternoon.
Now that Iraq has agreed to unconditional inspections, the question goes, why does Congress need to act? Well, if we want to measure the depth of their so-called change of heart, I suggest we watch what they do, not what they say. On Monday, they sent a letter indicating that they were ready to begin cooperating with the U.N. Within hours, they began firing and trying to shoot down coalition aircraft. There have been two inspection regimes. They've thrown the ground inspectors out. The air inspections, Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch, have been continuing with coalition pilots flying at risk of their lives. Since delivering the letter promising unconditional access, they have fired at coalition aircraft somewhere between 15 and 20 times, which is a considerable increase from the preceding period, before the letter.
I would add that today I'm told that the Iraqi Foreign Minister up at the United Nations made a speech and added a series of conditions to the unconditional proposal that had been sent by letter 2 or 3 days ago. They suggest that the inspections must operate within guidelines in a manner that respects Iraqi sovereignty and security. That was the quotation I was given, although I did not have a chance to listen to the speech personally.
The point is that Iraq has demonstrated great skill at playing the international community. When it's the right moment to lean forward, they do. When it's the right moment to lean back, they do. It's a dance. They go on for months, and, indeed, they've gone on for years jerking the U.N. around. When they find things are not going their way, they throw out a proposal like this. The issue is not inspections; the issue is disarmament. The problem is a lack of compliance. As the President made clear in his U.N. address, we require Iraq's compliance with all 16 U.N. resolutions.
Some have asked whether an attack on Iraq would disrupt and distract from the U.N. global war on terror. The answer is no. Iraq is part of the global war on terror. Stopping terrorist regimes from acquiring weapons of mass destruction is a key objective of that war, and we can fight the various elements of the global war on terror simultaneously, as General Myers will indicate in his remarks.
Our principal goal in the war on terror is to stop another September 11, or a weapon of mass destruction attack that could make September 11 seem modest by comparison, and to do it before it happens. Whether that threat comes from a terrorist regime or a terrorist network is beside the point. Our objective is to stop them.
Another question has been, “What about a smoking gun?” Well, Mr. Chairman, the last thing we want is a smoking gun. A gun smokes after it has been fired, and the goal must be to stop an attack of the type I have described before it happens. As the President told the United Nations last week, the first time we may be absolutely completely certain that a country has nuclear weapons is when, God forbid, they are used. We owe it to our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming. If Con
gress and the world wait for a so-called smoking gun, it's certain that they will have waited too long.
I suggest that anyone who insists on perfect evidence really is thinking back in the 20th century, and they're still thinking preSeptember 11. On September 11, we were awakened to the fact that America is now vulnerable to unprecedented destruction. We have not, we will not, and we cannot know everything that is going on in the world. Over the years, despite our best efforts, intelligence has repeatedly underestimated weapons capabilities of a variety of important major countries. We've had numerous gaps of 2, 4, 6, 8, and, in some cases, double-digit years between when a country of real concern to us began a development program and when we finally found out about it that many years later.
We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, that they're pursuing nuclear weapons, that they've a proven willingness to use those weapons, and that they've a proven aspiration to seize territory of their neighbors and to threaten their neighbors, that they cooperate with terrorists networks, and that they have a proven record of declared hostility and venomous rhetoric against the United States. Those threats should be clear to all.
The committees of Congress today are currently asking hundreds of question and poring over tens of thousands of documents trying to figure out what happened, why September 11 occurred. Indeed, they're asking who knew what and when did they know it and why didn't somebody prevent that tragedy.
Well, if one were to compare the scraps of information that the Government had before September 11 to the volumes of information the Government has today about Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, his use of those weapons, his record of aggression, and his consistent hostility toward the United States, and then factor in our country's demonstrated vulnerability after September 11, the case that the President made in the United Nations, it seems to me, should be clear.
If more time passes, and the attack we're concerned about were to come to pass, I would not want to have ignored all the warning signs and then be required to explain why our country failed to protect our fellow citizens from that threat.
We do know that Saddam Hussein has been actively and persistently pursuing nuclear weapons for more than 20 years, but we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons. They are much simpler to deliver than nuclear weapons and even more readily transferred to terrorist networks who could allow Iraq to deliver them without Iraq's fingerprints on the attack.
If you want an idea of the devastation Iraq could wreak on our country with a biological attack, consider the recent Dark Winter exercise conducted by Johns Hopkins University. It simulated a biological weapons attack in which terrorists released smallpox in three separate locations in the United States. Within 2 months, the worst-case estimate indicated that 1 million Americans could be dead and another 2 million infected. It's not a pretty picture. Cut it in half. Cut it by three-quarters. It's still a disaster.
Some have argued that Iraq is unlikely to use weapons of mass destruction against us, because, unlike terrorist networks, Saddam Hussein has a return address. Mr. Chairman, there's no reason to have confidence that if Iraq launched a WMD attack against the United States, it would necessarily have a return address. There are ways Iraq could easily conceal responsibility for a WMD attack. They could give biological weapons to a terrorist network to attack us from within. Suicide bombers are not deterrable. They end up dead, and, therefore, the problem of being deterred is not something they worry about.
We still do not know with certainty who was behind the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, for example. We don't know who was responsible for last year's anthrax attack. Indeed, our consistent failure over the past two decades to trace terrorist attacks to their ultimate source gives terrorist states the lesson that using terrorist networks is an effective way of attacking the United States with impunity.
Some ask, “Why does he have to be overthrown? Can't we just take out the capabilities that he has to threaten us?” Well, the President has not made a decision. The problem with doing that piecemeal is this. First, we simply do not know where all or even a large portion of Iraq's WMD facilities are. We do know where a fraction of them are. Second, of the facilities that we do know, not all are vulnerable to attack from the air. A good many are underground and deeply buried. Others are purposely located near population centers—schools, hospitals, mosques—where an air strike could kill a large number of innocent people. The Iraq problem cannot be solved by air strikes alone.
Some have asked whether military intervention in Iraq means that the U.S. would have to go to war with every terrorist state that's pursuing WMD. The answer is no. For one thing, preventive action in one situation may very well produce a deterrent effect in other states. After driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, we've already seen a change in the behavior of several states. Moreover, dealing with some states may not require military action. Indeed, I think they would not. In some cases, we see states where there is a good deal of unrest within the country. Take Iran, where their women and the young people are putting pressure on the small clique of clerics who are running that country. In my view, it's possible, at some point, that it could flip, just like it flipped from the Shah to the ayatollahs. No one can promise that, but it is at least impressive to see the stirrings that are taking place in that country.
There is a place in this world for inspections, and they tend to be effective if the target nation is actually willing to disarm and they want to prove to the world that they are doing so. They tend not to be as effective in uncovering deceptions and violations when the target is determined not to be disarmed. Iraq's record of the past decade shows that they want weapons of mass destruction and that they are determined to develop them.
Some people have suggested that if the U.S. were to act, it might provoke Saddam Hussein's use of weapons of mass destruction. That's a valuable point. There are ways to mitigate the risk of a chem-bio attack, but they cannot be entirely eliminated. It's true that there could be that risk in a military action. But if Iraq is that dangerous, then it only makes the case stronger; the longer one waits, the more deadly his capabilities will be every month and every year.
Moreover, consider the consequences if the world were to allow that risk to deter us from acting. We would then have sent a message to the world about the value of weapons of mass destruction that we would deeply regret having sent to other countries.
The message the world should want to send is exactly the opposite, that Iraq's pursuit of WMD has made it not more secure, but less secure, that by pursuing those weapons they have attracted undesired attention to themselves from the world community. Saddam Hussein might not have anything to lose personally, but those other people beneath him in the chain of command would most certainly have a great deal to lose. Wise Iraqis will not obey orders to use weapons of mass destruction.
Some have asked, “Well, what's changed to warrant the action now?” Well, what has changed is our experience on September 11. What's changed is our appreciation of our vulnerability and the risk that the United States faces from terrorist networks and terrorist states armed with weapons of mass destruction. What's not changed is his drive to acquire those weapons and the fact that every single approach that the world community and the United Nations have taken has failed.
Mr. Chairman, as the President has made clear, this is a critical moment for our country and for our world, indeed. Our resolve is being put to the test. It's a test that, unfortunately, the world's free nations have failed before in recent history with terrible consequences. Long before the Second World War, Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf indicating what he intended to do, but the hope was that maybe he would not do what he said. Between 35 and 60 million people died because of a series of calculated mistakes. He might have been stopped early at a minimal cost of lives had the vast majority of the world's leaders not decided at the time that the risks of acting were greater than the risks of not acting.
Today we must decide whether the risks of acting are greater than the risks of not acting. Saddam Hussein has made his intentions clear. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his neighbors. He has stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and he is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons. If he demonstrates the capability to deliver them to our shores, the world would be changed.
We need to decide as a people how we feel about that. Do the risks of taking action to stop that threat outweigh the risks of living in the world as we see it evolving, or is the risk of doing nothing greater than the risk of acting?
The question comes down to this: How will the history of this era be recorded? When we look back on previous periods of our history, we see that there have been many books written about threats and attacks that were not anticipated. At Dawn We Slept, The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor, Final Judgment, Why England slept—the list of such books is endless. Unfortunately, in the past year, historians have already started to add to that body of literature, and there are books out on the September 11 attacks