Cincinnati Museum Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal
October 7, 2002
8:02 P.M. EDT
Thank you all. Thank you for that very gracious and warm Cincinnati welcome.
I'm honored to be here tonight; I appreciate you all coming.
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. 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. The Iraqi regime
has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and
biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and
support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire
world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad
We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September
the 11th, 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. Since we all agree on this goal, the issues is : how can we best achieve
Many Americans have raised legitimate questions: about the nature of the threat;
about the urgency of action -- why be concerned now; about the link between
Iraq developing weapons of terror, and the wider war on terror. These are all
issues we've discussed broadly and fully within my administration. And tonight,
I want to share those discussions with you.
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 neighbor, has struck other nations without warning, and holds
an unrelenting hostility toward the United States.
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 of
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
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. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons
that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions.
We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including
mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience
in using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks on Iran, and on more
than forty 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 the 11th.
And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that
it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons. 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. Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep
these weapons despite international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from
the civilized world.
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. We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet
of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical
or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring
ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States. And, of course,
sophisticated delivery systems aren't 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.
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. 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.
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've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda
members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after
September the 11th, 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. Alliance with terrorists could
allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
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 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
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.
Well, we don't know exactly, and that's the problem. Before the Gulf War, the
best intelligence indicated that Iraq was eight to ten years away from developing
a nuclear weapon. After the war, international inspectors learned that the regime
has 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.
Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency
dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium
enrichment sites. 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 mujahideen" -- 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. 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.
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. 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.
Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we
need to confront it now? And there's a reason. We've experienced the horror
of September the 11th. 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 biological or chemical,
or a nuclear weapon.
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 nations security to constitute maximum peril."
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 twelve square miles, with hundreds
of structures, both above and below the ground, where sensitive materials could
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.
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.
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.
After eleven 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 keep the peace. And that is why we are urging the Security Council
to adopt a new resolution setting out tough, immediate requirements. 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 the country -- and these witnesses must be free to bring their families
with them so they 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.
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
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. And that's why America is
challenging all nations to take the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council
And these resolutions are 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. It must release or account for all Gulf
War personnel, including an American pilot, whose fate is still unknown.
By taking these steps, and by only taking these steps, the Iraqi regime has
an opportunity to avoid conflict. Taking 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. And that's
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 United States military; we will act with
allies at our side, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
There is no easy or risk-free course of action. Some have argued we should wait
-- and that's an option. In my view, it's 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'm convinced that is a hope against
all evidence. As Americans, we want peace -- we work and sacrifice for peace.
But there can be no peace if our security depends on the will and whims of a
ruthless and aggressive dictator. I'm not willing to stake one American life
on trusting Saddam Hussein.
Failure to act would embolden other tyrants, allow terrorists access to new
weapons and new resources, and make blackmail a permanent feature of world events.
The United Nations would betray the purpose of its founding, and prove irrelevant
to the problems of our time. And through its inaction, the United States 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. (Applause.) This nation, in world war and in Cold War, has never
permitted the brutal and lawless to set history's course. 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. The dictator of Iraq is a student of Stalin,
using murder as a tool of terror and control, within his own cabinet, 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 chance
-- his only choice is full compliance, and the time remaining for that choice
Members of Congress are nearing an historic vote. I'm confident they will fully
consider the facts, and their duties.
The attacks of September the 11th 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. And by our actions, we will secure
the peace, and lead the world to a better day.