Remarks by the President on Iraq
Cincinnati Museum Center – Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio. October 7, 2002.

THE PRESIDENT: 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 faith.

TRUTH: We now know that Iraq did not have chemical or biological weapons and that it does not appear that they were actively pursuing them. We know that they were not developing a nuclear program, and that the Niger documents were crude forgeries. Tomorrow’s NY Times will reveal something about Bush’s sources for claiming that Iraq was pursuing WMD and giving shelter and support to terrorist groups:

Ever since the Democrats briefly closed the U.S. Senate from view earlier this week, to protest alleged Republican foot-dragging in probing Bush administration pre-war manipulation of intelligence, the press has been asking: So what new evidence do the Democrats have in this matter?

Tomorrow, The New York Times answers the question, with reporter Doug Jehl disclosing the contents of a newly declassified memo apparently passed to him by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It shows that an al-Qaeda official in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to this Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002.

Oh, what a shocker! Let’s take a look at Bush’s Cincinnati speech, below the fold:

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.

First, Bush reminds us of 9/11. Then he implies that Iraq can bring sudden terror and suffering on America. But no one thought Saddam was capable of doing much more than any terrorist group is capable of: namely, sponsoring truck bombs, or highjackings. There was never any consensus that Saddam had the capability to use WMD against the homeland.

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 it?

Saddam was not a threat to peace. No one was predicting that Saddam was about to invade another country, or even reassert sovereignty over the whole of his own country. And he could not disarm, because he was already disarmed. The UN Security Council did not agree that Saddam was a threat, nor did they agree that their inspectors were incapable of verifying (or, if need be, assuring) his disarmament. He had no horrible poisons, and he had no atomic weapons.

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.

Once again, Saddam may have been a murderous tyrant, but he no longer controlled any weapons of mass destruction. He used chemical weapons to fight a war with Iran that we encouraged him to wage, and he used chemical weapons on his own Kurdish population when he became convinced that his own Kurdish population was committing treachery in his war with Iran. We had an opportunity to condemn Saddam for committing those acts when they happened, but we chose not to complain. His gassing of the Kurds happened fifteen years before Bush launched the invasion of Iraq.

Furthermore, Saddam had not struck other nations without warning. He invaded Iran with our encouragement and before invading Kuwait he discussed his troop movements with our ambassador, April Glaspie. The invasion of Kuwait was not a complete surprise, although some thought it could be averted. Saddam never struck any other nations (excepting a few Scud launches during the Persian Gulf War).

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.”

It’s a strange kind of addiction when the junkie has no access to the junk.

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 weapons?

We obviously did not know that he had dangerous weapons. And the CIA and State Department told Bush repeatedly that they did not know.

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.

This is a likely reference to Hussein Kamil who defected from Iraq and talked with the CIA about Saddam’s weapons systems. Kamil told the CIA: “All weapons– biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed.” So, Bush was just flat-out lying, and Clinton had lied about these revelations too. We did not want the world to know that Saddam had destroyed his weapons because we wanted to maintain support for the sanctions.

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.

All of these weapons had been destroyed, the crimes were carried out years ago, and the crimes were carried out while he was fighting a war we supported.

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.

Let’s look at the situation two and a half months later. From CNN:

As the war planning progressed, on December 21, 2002, Tenet and his top deputy, John McLaughlin, went to the White House to brief Bush and Cheney on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Woodward reports.

The president, unimpressed by the presentation of satellite photographs and intercepts, pressed Tenet and McLaughlin, saying their information would not “convince Joe Public” and asking Tenet, “This is the best we’ve got?” Woodward reports.

So much for the satellite imagery. Bush lied.

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.

We have not found any weaponized UAV’s in Iraq. This is all from discredited and unreliable sources. And it goes even deeper. From tomorrow’s NYT piece:

“Mr. Libi was not alone among intelligence sources later determined to have been fabricating accounts,” Jehl continues. “Among others, an Iraqi exile whose code name was Curveball was the primary source for what proved to be false information about Iraq and mobile biological weapons labs.

German intelligence told us Curveball was a drunk and a fabricator. Cheney didn’t care.

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.

Finally, Bush appears to be on solid factual ground here. Of course, Saddam’s support of terrorism was limited to terrorism committed against Israel, or Israeli interests. That is not a reason for the United States to invade his country.

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.

Here is a casual reference to the now infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: the man with the missing missing leg. From the Wiki:

In 2004 Newsweek reported that some “senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad” had come to believe that he still had his original legs.[15]. Knight Ridder later reported that the leg amputation was something “officials now acknowledge was incorrect,” though it’s possible this is merely a restatement of the Newsweek report.

As for the poisons and gases? That intelligence came from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who:

“was intentionally misleading the debriefers” in making claims about Iraqi support for al-Qaeda’s work with illicit weapons, Jehl reports.

Just more unreliable and fabricated evidence.

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.

In October of 2002, the National Intelligence Estimate advised that Saddam was unlikely to give his WMD to al-Qaeda unless we invaded his country:

Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al-Qa’ida–with worldwide reach and extensive terrorist infrastructure, and already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States–could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct.

* In such circumstances, he might decide that the extreme step of assisting the Islamist terrorists in conducting a CBW attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.

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 network.

Saddam might have been harboring a few terrorists here and there. He was not trustworthy. But the risk was not very great.

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.

Our military is looking pretty worn out, Mr. President. And he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, and he wasn’t building any either.

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.

Another high-ranking Iraqi defector…another bullshit story.

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.

Oh, those wonderful aluminum tubes again. The ones no one with an ounce of expertise thought were for centrifuges. The tubes Judy Miller warned us about. And more lovely satellite imagery. Bullshit.

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.

That is a lot of ‘ifs’. And it ignores the fact that Iraq had 500 tons of uranium in its possession, and did not need to buy any from Niger, or anyplace else. This was all just a smokescreen.

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.

Yet, we failed to secure the sites where Iraq’s nuclear materials were sealed by the IAEA, and we let those sites be looted. So, it seems that protecting Americans against attack by radiological devices was not high on our invasion priority list. Invading took those materials out of lock and key and put them in general circulation. Brilliant.

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.”

Bush compares the non-existent weapons of Saddam Hussein to the nuclear missiles that the Soviet Union placed ninety miles off our coasts.

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.

Bush took “assuming the worst” to previously unheard of levels. Of course, he wasn’t assuming anything but, rather, leaving nothing to chance.

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 be hidden.

Actually, I think Ahmed Chalabi, Ayad Allawi, and Michael Ledeen were the ones forging documents, the British were bugging Kofi Annan’s UN offices in New York, and Curveball ‘developed’ the mobile weapons facilities.

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.

They didn’t have any weapons.

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.

They didn’t rebuild them, much less openly.

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.

As the Downing Street Minutes make clear, you were deliberately trying to provoke Saddam into shooting down an allied aircraft, in the hope of creating a casus belli.

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.

Actually, he didn’t have any chemical or biological weapons.

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.

Are we to believe that the war would have been called off if the inspectors had found weapons? Are we to believe that we went to war because Saddam didn’t allow the extended families of his scientists to be taken out of the country? Are we to believe that there is anything Saddam could have done to avert your bloodlust, Mr. President?

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 disarm him.

For the sake of peace?

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 seriously.

Here are some of the coerced and the bribed nations that joined us: Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Nicaragua, Slovakia, and Uzbekistan.

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.

This laundry list made it clear that our strategy was to make Saddam reject the effort to let inspectors back in and then use that as a casus belli. How could he ever have proven that he had ceased persecution and aiding terrorists?

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 our nation.

Bush, you are the much greater danger to our nation.

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.)

Hope it won’t require military action? Plan carefully? Hold war criminals responsible? LMAO.

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.

Total scaremongering, lying, hokum, and bullshit. Our security has been undermined by the will and whims of a petulant man-child; it never was threatened by the Butcher of Baghdad.

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.

Refuse to live in fear? Who is bringing up mushroom clouds based on transparently forged documents, and totally unreliable dinner partners of Judy Miller?

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.

Abu Ghraib.

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.

An era of no-bid contracts will begin. And no security, no prosperity, no improvement for Iraqis.

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 is limited.

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.

May God bless America. (Applause.)

A better day? This speech belongs in a Hall of Shame along with the Address by Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of the Reich, before the Reichstag, September 1, 1939.

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