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issue that is usually discussed, and that is what kind of evidence ought we to consider as appropriate to act in the 21st century. In our country it has been customary to seek evidence that would prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. That approach of course is appropriate when the objective is to protect the rights of the accused, but in the age of weapons of mass destruction, the objective is not to protect the rights of a Saddam Hussein. It is to protect the lives of the American people and our friends and allies, and when there is that risk and we are trying to defend against closed societies and shadowy terrorist networks, expecting to find that standard of evidence before such a weapon has been used is really not realistic, and after such a weapon has been used it is too late.
I suggest that any who insist on perfect evidence really are thinking back in the 20th century in a pre-9/11 context.
On September 11th, we were awakened to the fact that America is now vulnerable to unprecedented destruction, and that awareness ought to be sufficient to change the way we think about our security and the type of certainty and evidence we consider appropriate. We will not have, we do not have and cannot know everything that is going on in the world at any time.
Over the years, despite the very best efforts of enormously expensive talented intelligence capabilities, we have repeatedly underestimated the weapons capabilities in a variety of countries of major concern to us. We have had numerous gaps of two, four, six, eight, ten and in one case more years between the time a country developed a capability and the time that the United States of America became aware of it.
We do know that the Iraqi regime currently has chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, and we do know they are currently pursuing nuclear weapons, that they have a proven willingness to use those weapons at their disposal and that they have a proven aspiration to seize the territory of and threaten their neighbors, proven support for and cooperation with terrorist networks and proven record of declared hostility and venomous rhetoric against the United States. Those threats should be clear to all.
Committees of Congress are interestingly—they are currently asking hundreds of questions and pouring over tens of thousands of documents, pages of documents, about September 11th, and they are asking the question, who knew what, when and why didn't we prevent that tragedy?
Well, if one were to compare the scraps of information that the government had before September 11th to the volumes of information the government has today about Iraqi's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, his use of those weapons, his record of aggression and his consistent hostility towards the United States and then factor in our country's demonstrated vulnerability after September 11th, the case the President made should be clear.
If more time passes and the attacks we are concerned about were to come to pass, we would not want to have ignored those warning signs and then be required to explain why we failed to protect our fellow citizens.
Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam Hussein is at least 5 to 7 years away from hav
ing nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain. Before Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the best intelligence estimates were that Iraq was about 5 to 7 years away from having nuclear weapons. The experts were flat wrong. When the U.S. got on the ground, it found that the Iraqis were probably 6 months to a year to 18 months from having a nuclear weapon, not 5 to 7 years.
We do know that he 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 simpler to deliver and even more readily transferred to terrorist networks, who could allow Iraq to deliver them without Iraq's fingerprints. If you want an idea of the devastation Iraq could wreck on our country with a biological attack, consider the recent unclassified Dark Winter exercise ducted by Johns Hopkins University. It stimulated a biological WMD attack in which terrorists released smallpox in three separate locations in the U.S. Within two months the worst-case estimate indicated up to one million people could be dead and another two million infected. Cut it in half. Cut it in a quarter. It is not a nice picture.
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. That is to say, he is probably deterrable is the argument. Well, Mr. Chairman, there is no reason for confidence that if Iraq launched a WMD attack on the U.S. that it would necessarily have an obvious return address. There are ways Iraq could easily conceal responsibility for a WMD attack. For example, they could give biological weapons to terrorist networks to attack the United States from within and then deny any knowledge. Suicide bombers are not deterrable.
We still do not know with certainty who was behind the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. We don't know who is responsible for last year's anthrax attacks. 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 a very effective way of attacking the United States seemingly with impunity.
Some argue that North Korea and Iran are more immediate threats than Iraq. Well, why not deal with them first, the question goes? Well, Iran and North Korea are indeed threats and problems. That is why President Bush named them specifically when he spoke about the axis of evil, and we do as a country 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 them against his own people, launching missiles against his neighbors, brutalizing and torturing his own citizens, harboring terrorist networks, engaging in terrorist acts, including the attempted assassination of foreign officials, violating international commitments, lying and hiding his WMD programs from inspectors, deceiving and defying the express will of the United Nations over and over again.
As the President told the United Nations in one place in one regime, we find all of these dangers in their most lethal and aggressive forms. Some have asked if containment worked on the Soviet
Union. Why not just contain Iraq? First, it is clear from the Iraqi regime's 11 years of defiance that containment has not led to their compliance. To the contrary, containment is breaking down.
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.
Third, with the Soviet Union we believed that time was on our side, and indeed we were correct. Time was on our side. With Iraq the opposite is true. Time is not on our side. Every month that goes by with his weapons of mass destruction programs, they are progressing
Fourth, the containment worked in the long run. The Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal prevented the West from responding when they—while containment did work in the long run, the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal prevented the West from responding when they invaded their neighbor Afghanistan, if you think back. Does anyone really want Saddam Hussein to have the same deterrence so that he could invade his neighbors with impunity?
Some have argued that if we do go to war the U.S. should first lay out details of a truly comprehensive inspection regime, which if Iraq failed to comply would provide a casus belli.
Well, I would respond this way. If failure to comply with weapons of mass destruction inspections is a casus belli, the U.N. already has it. It is preceded over a period of many, many years. The United States, as the President indicated, is not closed to the idea of inspections as an element of an effective response, but our goal can't be inspections. It has to be disarmament. That is where the threat is. The purpose of inspections is to prove that Iraq has disarmed, which would require that Iraq would reverse its decade-long policy of pursuing those weapons, and that is certainly something that Iraq is unlikely to do.
Even the most intrusive inspection regime would have difficulty getting in all of his weapons of mass destruction. Many of his WMD capabilities are mobile. They can be hidden from inspectors no matter how intrusive. He has vast underground networks and facilities and sophisticated denial and deception techniques
There is a place in this world for inspections. They tend to be effective if the target nation is actually willing to disarm and wants to prove to the world that they are doing so. They are looking for a way to prove to the world that they have in fact done what the world has asked them to do. They tend not to be as effective on covering deceptions and violations when the target is determined not to disarm and to try to deceive. And Iraq's record of the past decade shows that they want weapons of mass destruction and are determined to continue developing them.
Some say that there is no international consensus behind ousting Saddam Hussein and that most of our key allies are opposed. First, the truth is to the contrary. There are a number of countries that want Saddam Hussein gone and increasing numbers are willing to say so publicly, and a quite large number are willing to say so privately, although because a number of countries live in the neighborhood and he is not a nice neighbor, it is not surprising that some of them are reluctant to say so publicly.
The coalition we have fashioned in the global war on terror includes 90 countries, literally half of the world. It was not there on September 11th. It was built one country at a time over a long period of time. During the Persian Gulf War, the coalition there eventually included 36 nations when Iraq was attacked, but they were not there on August 5th when President George Herbert Walker Bush announced to the world that Saddam Hussein's aggression would not stand. That coalition was built over many months.
With his U.N. speech, President Bush has begun the process of building international support for dealing with Iraq, and the reaction has been very positive. The President will continue to state our case, and I suspect that as he does so we will find that additional countries in increasing numbers will cooperate and participate. Certainly that has been our experience over the past days.
Some have suggested that if the U.S. were to act, it might provoke Saddam Hussein's use of weapons of mass destruction. That is a useful point, and certainly there are ways to mitigate the risk of a chemical or biological attack, but it cannot be entirely eliminated. And it is true that that could be a risk of military action, were the President to make a decision for military action. But if Saddam Hussein is that dangerous today, then I would think it would only make the case for dealing with such a threat stronger, because the longer we wait, the more deadly his regime becomes.
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 having weapons of mass destruction that we would deeply regret having said. The message the world should want to send is the exact opposite: that Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction has not made it more secure but less secure, and that by pursuing those weapons they have attracted undesired attention to themselves.
But I would suggest that even Saddam Hussein—that if he were to issue such an order to use a chemical or a biological attack, that that does not necessarily mean his orders would be carried out. He might not have anything to lose, but those beneath him in the chain of command most certainly would have a great deal to lose. Wise Iraqis will not obey orders to use weapons of mass destruction.
Some have asked what has changed to warrant action now. Well, what has changed is our experience on September 11th. What has changed is our appreciation of our vulnerability and the risks that this country faces from terrorist networks, terrorist states armed with weapons of mass destruction and the nexus between terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction. What has not changed is Iraq's drive to acquire those weapons and the fact that every approach that the United Nations has taken to stop Iraq's drive has failed.
Mr. Chairman, as the President has made clear, this is a critical moment for our country and for the world. Our resolve is being put to the test. It is a test that unfortunately, the world's free nations have failed before in recent history with unfortunate consequences. Long before the Second World War, Hitler wrote in Mein Kamph indicating what he intended to do, but the hope was that maybe he would not do what he said, and between 35 and 60 million peo
ple died because of the series of fatal miscalculations. He might have been stopped early at a minimum 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 those weapons. He has demonstrated an intention to take the territory of his neighbor. He plays host to terrorist networks. He is hostile to our country. Because we have denied him the ability he has sought to impose his will on his neighbors. He has said in no uncertain terms that he would use weapons of mass destruction against the United States. He has at this moment stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. If he demonstrates the capability to deliver those weapons to our shore, the world would be changed. Our people would be at risk. Our willingness to be engaged in the world and our willingness to project power to stop aggression and our ability to forge coalitions for multilateral actions all could be put under question, and many lives could be lost.
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 that we see, 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 history, we see there have been many books written about threats and attacks that were not anticipated. “At Dawn We Slept.” “The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor.” “December 7th, 1941, the Day the Admiral Slept Late.” “Pearl Harbor, Final Judgment.” “From Munich to Pearl Harbor.” “Why England Slept.” “The Cost of Failure.” The list of such books is endless, and unfortunately, in the past year historians have added to the body of literature. And there are already books out on September 11th wondering why those attacks weren't prevented. Each is an attempt by the authors to connect the dots, to determine what happened and why it was not possible before the fact to figure out what was going to happen.
And our job today, the President's, the Congress and the United States is to connect the dots before the fact. It is to anticipate vastly more lethal attacks before they happen and to make the right decision as to whether or not it is appropriate for this country to take action before it is too late. We are on notice, each of us. Each of us has a responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure that when the history books of this period are written, the books won't ask why we slept, but to ensure that history would instead record that on September 11th, the American people were awakened to the impending dangers and that those entrusted with the safety of the American people made the right decisions for the country.
President Bush is determined to do just that, and that is why he has come before the Congress and why he has come before the United Nations and why he has set forth his case. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Rumsfeld can be found in the Appendix on page 149.]