the Future of Iraq
Washington Hilton Hotel
February 26, 2003
7:22 P.M. EST
Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm proud to be with the scholars, and the friends,
and the supporters of the American Enterprise Institute. I want to thank you
for overlooking my dress code violation. (Laughter.) They were about to stop
me at the door, but Irving Kristol said, "I know this guy, let him in."
Chris, thank you for your very kind introduction, and thank you for your leadership.
I see many distinguished guests here tonight -- members of my Cabinet, members
of Congress, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and so many respected writers and
policy experts. I'm always happy to see your Senior Fellow, Dr. Lynne Cheney.
(Applause.) Lynne is a wise and thoughtful commentator on history and culture,
and a dear friend to Laura and me. I'm also familiar with the good work of her
husband -- (laughter.) You may remember him, the former director of my vice
presidential search committee. (Laughter.) Thank God Dick Cheney said yes. (Applause.)
Thanks for fitting me into the program tonight. I know I'm not the featured
speaker. I'm just a warm-up act for Allan Meltzer. But I want to congratulate
Dr. Meltzer for a lifetime of achievement, and for tonight's well-deserved honor.
At the American Enterprise Institute, some of the finest minds in our nation
are at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation. You do such good
work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds. I want to thank them
for their service, but I also want to remind people that for 60 years, AEI scholars
have made vital contributions to our country and to our government, and we are
grateful for those contributions.
Why We Know Iraq is Lying
What Does Disarmament Look Like?
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Addresses the U.N. Security Council
We meet here during a crucial period in the history of our nation, and of the
civilized world. Part of that history was written by others; the rest will be
written by us. (Applause.) On a September morning, threats that had gathered
for years, in secret and far away, led to murder in our country on a massive
scale. As a result, we must look at security in a new way, because our country
is a battlefield in the first war of the 21st century.
We learned a lesson: The dangers of our time must be confronted actively and
forcefully, before we see them again in our skies and in our cities. And we
set a goal: we will not allow the triumph of hatred and violence in the affairs
of men. (Applause.)
Our coalition of more than 90 countries is pursuing the networks of terror with
every tool of law enforcement and with military power. We have arrested, or
otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al Qaeda. (Applause.) Across the
world, we are hunting down the killers one by one. We are winning. And we're
showing them the definition of American justice. (Applause.) And we are opposing
the greatest danger in the war on terror: outlaw regimes arming with weapons
of mass destruction.
In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to
dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world -- and we will not
allow it. (Applause.) This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations,
and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country -- and
America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons
cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that
the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully
and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either
way, this danger will be removed. (Applause.)
The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing
threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term
safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime has shown the power
of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq
can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope
and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and
America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and
peaceful Iraq. (Applause.)
The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people, themselves.
Today they live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them
nothing but war, and misery, and torture. Their lives and their freedom matter
little to Saddam Hussein -- but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us.
Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet that is no
excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation.
Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare
world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them. (Applause.)
If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help
the citizens of a liberated Iraq. We will deliver medicine to the sick, and
we are now moving into place nearly 3 million emergency rations to feed the
We'll make sure that Iraq's 55,000 food distribution sites, operating under
the Oil For Food program, are stocked and open as soon as possible. The United
States and Great Britain are providing tens of millions of dollars to the U.N.
High Commission on Refugees, and to such groups as the World Food Program and
UNICEF, to provide emergency aid to the Iraqi people.
We will also lead in carrying out the urgent and dangerous work of destroying
chemical and biological weapons. We will provide security against those who
try to spread chaos, or settle scores, or threaten the territorial integrity
of Iraq. We will seek to protect Iraq's natural resources from sabotage by a
dying regime, and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners
-- the Iraqi people. (Applause.)
The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's
new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure
that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a
voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.
Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including
our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America
has made and kept this kind of commitment before -- in the peace that followed
a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies,
we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety,
in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions
of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found
a permanent home.
There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were
incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the
same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. (Applause.) The nation of Iraq -- with
its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people -- is
fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom. (Applause.)
The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable
and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful
pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom
in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address
the "freedom gap" so their peoples can fully share in the progress
of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions
internal reform, greater politics participation, economic openness, and free
trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps
toward politics reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring
example of freedom for other nations in the region. (Applause.)
It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world
-- or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim -- is somehow untouched by the
most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet
the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire
to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In
our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the
same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere
have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror. (Applause.)
Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set
in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. (Applause.)
The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a
wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families
of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support
for terror will not be tolerated. (Applause.)
Without this outside support for terrorism, Palestinians who are working for
reform and long for democracy will be in a better position to choose new leaders.
(Applause.) True leaders who strive for peace; true leaders who faithfully serve
the people. A Palestinian state must be a reformed and peaceful state that abandons
forever the use of terror. (Applause.)
For its part, the new government of Israel -- as the terror threat is removed
and security improves -- will be expected to support the creation of a viable
Palestinian state -- (applause) -- and to work as quickly as possible toward
a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity
in the occupied territories must end. (Applause.) And the Arab states will be
expected to meet their responsibilities to oppose terrorism, to support the
emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine, and state clearly they will
live in peace with Israel. (Applause.)
The United States and other nations are working on a road map for peace. We
are setting out the necessary conditions for progress toward the goal of two
states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. It
is the commitment of our government -- and my personal commitment -- to implement
the road map and to reach that goal. Old patterns of conflict in the Middle
East can be broken, if all concerned will let go of bitterness, hatred, and
violence, and get on with the serious work of economic development, and political
reform, and reconciliation. America will seize every opportunity in pursuit
of peace. And the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an opportunity.
In confronting Iraq, the United States is also showing our commitment to effective
international institutions. We are a permanent member of the United Nations
Security Council. We helped to create the Security Council. We believe in the
Security Council -- so much that we want its words to have meaning. (Applause.)
The global threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction cannot be
confronted by one nation alone. The world needs today and will need tomorrow
international bodies with the authority and the will to stop the spread of terror
and chemical and biological and nuclear weapons. A threat to all must be answered
by all. High-minded pronouncements against proliferation mean little unless
the strongest nations are willing to stand behind them -- and use force if necessary.
After all, the United Nations was created, as Winston Churchill said, to "make
sure that the force of right will, in the ultimate issue, be protected by the
right of force."
Another resolution is now before the Security Council. If the council responds
to Iraq's defiance with more excuses and delays, if all its authority proves
to be empty, the United Nations will be severely weakened as a source of stability
and order. If the members rise to this moment, then the Council will fulfill
its founding purpose.
I've listened carefully, as people and leaders around the world have made known
their desire for peace. All of us want peace. The threat to peace does not come
from those who seek to enforce the just demands of the civilized world; the
threat to peace comes from those who flout those demands. If we have to act,
we will act to restrain the violent, and defend the cause of peace. And by acting,
we will signal to outlaw regimes that in this new century, the boundaries of
civilized behavior will be respected. (Applause.)
Protecting those boundaries carries a cost. If war is forced upon us by Iraq's
refusal to disarm, we will meet an enemy who hides his military forces behind
civilians, who has terrible weapons, who is capable of any crime. The dangers
are real, as our soldiers, and sailors, airmen, and Marines fully understand.
Yet, no military has ever been better prepared to meet these challenges.
Members of our Armed Forces also understand why they may be called to fight.
They know that retreat before a dictator guarantees even greater sacrifices
in the future. They know that America's cause is right and just: liberty for
an oppressed people, and security for the American people. And I know something
about these men and women who wear our uniform: they will complete every mission
they are given with skill, and honor, and courage. (Applause.)
Much is asked of America in this year 2003. The work ahead is demanding. It
will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country that has known three
decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal divisions, and war. It will
be difficult to cultivate liberty and peace in the Middle East, after so many
generations of strife. Yet, the security of our nation and the hope of millions
depend on us, and Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard.
We have met great tests in other times, and we will meet the tests of our time.
We go forward with confidence, because we trust in the power of human freedom
to change lives and nations. By the resolve and purpose of America, and of our
friends and allies, we will make this an age of progress and liberty. Free people
will set the course of history, and free people will keep the peace of the world.