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Some have opined there is scant evidence of Iraq's ties to terrorists, and he has little incentive to make common cause with them.
That is not correct. Iraq's ties to terrorist networks are long-standing. It is no coincidence that Abu Nidal was in Baghdad, when he died under mysterious circumstances. Iraq has also reportedly provided safe haven to Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, who was a key participant in the first World Trade Center bombing. We know that al-Qaeda is operating in Iraq today, and that little happens in Iraq without the knowledge of the Saddam Hussein regime. We also know that there have been a number of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda over the years. We know Saddam has ordered acts of terror himself, including the attempted assassination of a former U.S. President.
He has incentives to make common cause with terrorists. He shares many common objectives with groups like al-Qaeda, including an antipathy for the Saudi royal family and a desire to drive the U.S. out of the Persian Gulf region. Moreover, if he decided it was in his interest to conceal his responsibility for an attack on the U.S., providing WMD to terrorists would be an effective way of doing so.
Some have said that they would support action to remove Saddam if the U.S. could prove a connection to the attacks of September 19th — but there is no such proof.
The question implies that the U.S. should have to prove that Iraq has already attacked us in order to deal with that threat. The objective is to stop him before he attacks us and kills thousands of our citizens.
The case against Iraq does not depend on an Iraqi link to 9/11. The issue for the U.S. is not vengeance, retribution or retaliation-it is whether the Iraqi regime poses a growing danger to the safety and security of our people, and of the world. There is no question but that it does.
Some argue that North Korea and Iran are more immediate threats than Iraq. North Korea almost certainly has nuclear weapons, and is developing missiles that will be able to reach most of the continental United States. Iran has stockpiles of chemical weapons, is developing ballistic missiles of increasing range, and is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons. The question is asked: why not deal with them first?
Iran and North Korea are indeed threats-problems we take seriously. That is why President Bush named them specifically, when he spoke about an "Axis of Evil." And we have policies to address both.
But Iraq is unique. No other living dictator matches Saddam Hussein's record of waging aggressive war against his neighbors; pursuing weapons of mass destruction; using WMD against his own people and other nations; launching ballistic missiles at his neighbors; brutalizing and torturing his own citizens; harboring terrorist networks; engaging in terrorist acts, including the attempted assassination of foreign officials; violating his international commitments; lying, cheating and hiding his WMD programs; deceiving and defying the express will of the United Nations over and over again.
As the President told the UN, "in one place-in one regime-we find all these dangers in their most lethal and aggressive forms."
Some respond by saying, OK, Iraq poses a threat we will eventually have to deal with-but now is not the time to do so.
To that, I would ask: when? Will it be a better time when his regime is stronger? When its WMD programs are still further advanced? After he further builds his forces, which are stronger and deadlier with each passing day? Yes, there are risks in acting. The President understands those risks. But there are also risks in further delay. As the President has said: "I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
Others say that overthrowing the regime should be the last step, not the first.
I would respond that for more than a decade now, the international community has tried every other step. They have tried diplomacy; they have tried sanctions and embargoes; they have tried positive inducements, such as the "oil for food" program; they have tried inspections; they have tried limited military strikes. Together, all these approaches have failed to accomplish the UN goals.
If the President were to decide to take military action to overthrow the regime, it would be not the first step, it would be the last step, after a decade of failed diplomatic and economic steps to stop his drive for WMD.
Some have asked: why not just contain him? The West lived for 40 years with the Soviet threat, and never felt the need to take pre-emptive action. If containment worked on the Soviet Union, why not Iraq?
First, it's clear from the Iraqi regimes 11 years of defiance that containment has not led to their compliance. To the contrary, containment is breaking down-the regime continues to receive funds from illegal oil sales and procure military hardware necessary to develop weapons of mass murder. So not only has containment failed to reduce the threat, it has allowed the threat to grow.
Second, with the Soviet Union we faced an adversary that already possessed nuclear weapons-thousands of them. Our goal with Iraq is to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons. We are not interested in establishing a balance of terror with the likes of Iraq, like the one that existed with the Soviet Union. We are interested in stopping a balance of terror from forming.
Third, with the Soviet Union, we believed that time was on our side - and we were correct. With Iraq, the opposite is true-time is not our side. Every month that goes by, his WMD programs are progressing and he moves closer to his goal of possessing the capability to strike our population, and our allies, and hold them hostage to blackmail.
Finally, while containment worked in the long run, the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal prevented the West from responding when they invaded their neighbor, Afghanistan. Does anyone really want Saddam to have that same deterrent, so he can invade his neighbors with impunity?
Some ask: Why does he have to be overthrown? Can't we just take out the capabilities he has that threaten us?
While the President has not made that decision, the problem with doing it piecemeal is this: First, we do not know where all of Iraq's WMD facilities are. We do know where a fraction of them are. Second, of the facilities we do know, not all are vulnerable to attack from the air. Some are underground. Some are mobile. Others are purposely located near population centers - schools, mosques, hospitals, etc. -- where an air strike could kill large numbers of innocent people. The Iraq problem cannot be solved with air strikes alone.
Some have argued that, if we do have to go to war, the U.S. should first layout details of a truly comprehensive inspections regime, which, if Iraq failed to comply, would provide a casus belli.
I would respond this way: if failure to comply with WMD inspections is a casus belli, the UN already has it-Iraq's non-compliance with UN inspection regimes has been going on for more than a decade. What else can one ask for?
The U.S. is not close to inspections as an element of an effective response. But the goal is not inspections-it is disarmament. Any inspections would have to be notably different from the past. Given the history of this regime, the world community hase every right to be skeptical that it would be. And that is why, in 1998, the U.S. began to speak of regime change.
Our goal is disarmament. The only purpose of any inspections would be to prove that Iraq has disarmed, which would require Iraq to reverse its decades-long policy of pursuing these weapons. Something they are unlikely to do.
There are serious concerns about whether an inspections regime could be effective. Even the most intrusive inspection regime would have difficultly getting at all his weapons of mass destruction. Many of his WMD capabilities are mobile and can be hidden to evade inspectors. He has vast underground networks and facilities to hide WMD, and sophisticated denial and deception techniques. It is simply impossible to "spot check" a country the size of Iraq. Unless we have people inside the Iraqi program who are willing to tell us what they have and where they have it-as we did in 1995 with the defection of Saddam's son in law, Hussein Kamel it is easy for the Iraqi regime to hide its capabilities from us.
Indeed, Hans Blix, the chief UN Weapons inspector, said as much in an interview with the New York Times last week. According to the Times, (quote) " (Mr. Blix] acknowledged that there were some limitations to what his team could accomplish even if it was allowed to return. Mr. Blix said his inspectors might not be able to detect mobile laboratories for producing biological weapons materials, or underground storehouses for weapons substances, if the inspectors did not have information about such sites from the last time they were in Iraq or have not seen traces of them in satellite surveillance photography." (Unquote).
When UNSCOM inspectors were on the ground, they did an admirable job of uncovering many of Iraq's violations, which is undoubtedly why Iraq had them expelled. But despite the UN's best efforts, from 1991-1995 Saddam was able to conceal some of his nuclear program and his biological weapons program. Some aspects were uncovered after his son-in-law defected and provided information that allowed inspectors to find them. And even then, Iraq was able to hide many of those activities from inspectors-capabilities he most likely still has today, in addition to what he has developed in recent years.
There is a place in this world for inspections. They tend to be effective if the target nation is cooperating-if they are actually willing to disarm and want to prove to the world that they are doing so. They tend not be as effective in uncovering deceptions and violations when the target is determined not to disarm. Iraq's record of the past decade shows the regime is not interested in disarming or cooperating. Their behavior demonstrates they want weapons of mass destruction and are determined to continue developing them.
Some ask: now that Iraq has agreed to "unconditional inspections," why does
Iraq has demonstrated great skill at playing the international community. When it's the right moment to lean forward, they lean forward. When it's a time to lean
back, they lean back. It's a dance. They can go on for months or years jerking the U.N, around. When they find that things are not going their way, they throw out a proposal like this. And hopeful people say: "There's our opportunity. They are finally being reasonable. Seize the moment. Let's give them another chance." And then we repeatedly find, at the last moment, that Iraq withdraws that carrot and goes back into their mode of rejecting the international community. And the dance starts all over again.
The issue is not inspections. The issue is disarmament. The issue is compliance. As the President made clear in his UN address, we require Iraq's compliance with all 16 UN resolutions that they have defied over the past decade. And, as the President said, the UN Security Council - not the Iraqi regime-needs to decide how to enforce its own resolutions. Congress's support for the President is what is needed to further generate international support.
Some have asked whether military intervention in Iraq means the U.S. would have to go to war with every terrorist state that is pursuing WMD?
The answer is: no. Taking military action in Iraq does not mean that it would be necessary or appropriate to take military action against other states that possess or are pursuing WMD. For one thing, preventive action in one situation may very well produce a deterrent effect on other states. After driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, we have already seen a change in behavior in certain regimes.
Moreover, dealing with some states may not require military action. In some cases, such as Iran, change could conceivably come from within. The young people and the women in Iran are increasingly fed up with the tight clique of Mullahs- they want change, and may well rise up to change their leadership at some point.
Some say that there is no international consensus behind ousting Saddam-and most of our key allies are opposed.
First, the fact is that there are a number of countries that want Saddam Hussein gone. Some are reluctant to say publicly just yet. But, if the U.S. waited for a consensus before acting, we would never do anything. Obviously, one's first choice in life is to have everyone agree with you at the outset. In reality, that is seldom the case. It takes time, leadership and persuasion. Leadership is about deciding what is right, and then going out and persuading others.
The coalition we have fashioned in the global war on terror today includes some 90 nations, literally half the world. It is the greatest coalition ever assembled in the