20 reasons to overthrow Saddam Hussein
by J Michael Waller
Insight magazine, September 9, 2002
President George W. Bush intends to finish off Saddam Hussein once and for all. A spectrum of options is at his disposal, from covert operations against the Iraqi leader to a range of military actions that include outright invasion in partnership with Iraqi resistance. Leaving Saddam Hussein in power, Bush told reporters as Washington officialdom reassembled after Labor Day, is “not an option.”
Yet the American public, united in the view that Saddam presents a terrorist danger, was divided about what to do. As the administration’s end-of-summer public-relations offensive against the Baghdad regime began, support for U.S. action was declining — with the liberal press searching for Republican defectors.”
A bare majority of Americans, 53 percent, say they would favor sending American ground troops to the Persian Gulf area in an attempt to remove Hussein from power, while 41 percent say they would oppose such action,” the Gallup polling organization reported in late August. That was down from 74 percent backing action against Saddam 10 months ago. Meanwhile, the public overwhelmingly believed the Iraqi dictator is “supporting terrorist groups that have plans to attack the United States,” according to Gallup.
At home and abroad, according to the media, the common complaint among Bush’s supporters and adversaries is that the administration has not stated its case well against Saddam Hussein.
That complaint bugs the White House press office, which says with a trace of annoyance that top officials, including the president himself, time and again have advanced their reasons in public statements and speeches.
But critics say the administration position has been muddled, reflecting bitter policy battles that pit Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, advocating decisive action on one side, and Secretary of State Colin Powell and the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board chief Brent Scowcroft preaching caution on the other.
To the delight of those thinking to embarrass Bush a few senior Republican figures appeared to break ranks even before the president had made a decision about how to remove Saddam. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) joined Scowcroft, who served as national-security adviser in the administration of George H.W. Bush, openly expressing reservations about going after the Iraqi regime. A few more Republican critics followed, creating fissures that liberal media reported as erosion of the president’s base.
But as with so many national-security issues, senior Bush supporters in Washington say, the message was fumbled. “The president has decided that Saddam must go, but he hadn’t yet decided how,” a Pentagon insider tells Insight. “That didn’t mean the administration shouldn’t have been clearly explaining to the public exactly why Saddam had to be removed and why it must be done so urgently.”
So whether the White House press office believed it had a message problem, a lot of people who matter thought it did.
Even after Vice President Cheney launched the president’s anti-Saddam drive with two hard-hitting speeches in late August followed by Bush meeting with congressional leaders and the press the following week, the White House still didn’t have a clear set of points packaged in a way the public readily could understand.
After the president announced definitively Sept. 3 that Saddam had to go, Insight called the White House press office for a fact sheet or talking points outlining why the president viewed the threat so serious as to require immediate forceful action. “I don’t think we need a fact sheet,” White House spokesman Ken Lisaius responded, adding that the administration “takes umbrage” at those who say that there’s no clear message and pointing to the two Cheney speeches and the president’s remarks that morning.
The spokesman could not provide a point-by-point paper that clearly and fully explained the president’s views.
While there were official statements that reflected the president’s views — Bush is reported to have read the drafts of Cheney’s speeches and personally added his own comments — the reader first had to navigate through paragraph after paragraph of Cheney remarks on health care for veterans and a recounting of the Korean war to get to the main points.
And the presidential quotes of Sept. 3 were strong but general: “For 11 long years, Saddam Hussein has sidestepped, crawfished, wheedled out of any agreements he had made not to develop weapons of mass destruction.” Bush stuck to the broad message: “Saddam Hussein is a serious threat. He is a significant problem and something the country must deal with.”
Why? No details. “Doing nothing about that serious threat is not an option for the United States.” He told reporters, “This is a debate the American people must hear, must understand.”
They’re not understanding it yet. Senior administration officials still don’t have talking points.
After the president met with top lawmakers, senior Bush deputies visited Capitol Hill to speak with them one-on-one. A senior administration official succeeded only in angering a prominent senator by offering no new details, saying he didn’t have anything to brief the senator about because he had been out of town.
“So far, it seems like the administration has not invoked a just reason for going to war with Saddam Hussein, by default ironically giving him the ‘just-war’ defense that the United States is the aggressor,” says a former senior National Security Council official.
With nobody else offering fact sheet or talking points, Insight carefully has examined the administration’s most logical and specific statements, made in Cheney’s speeches, and identified 20 reasons why the president has decided Saddam Hussein must go. Here they are. The individual points are mine. The quotes are from the vice president’s remarks said to have been personally cleared by the president.
1. The United States has awakened to a new terrorist danger of weapons of mass destruction. “Sept. 11 and its aftermath awakened this nation to danger, to the true ambitions of the global terror network and to the reality that weapons of mass destruction are being sought by determined enemies who would not hesitate to use them against us.”
2. Old ways of deterrence and containment don’t work. “In the days of the Cold War, we were able to manage the threat with strategies of deterrence and containment. But it’s a lot tougher to deter enemies who have no country to defend. And containment is not possible when dictators obtain weapons of mass destruction and are prepared to share them with terrorists who intend to inflict catastrophic casualties on the United States.”
3. America no longer will wait to be attacked. “Wars are never won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy. We will take every step necessary to make sure our country is secure. And we will prevail. …”Any enemy conspiring to harm America or our friends must face a swift, a certain and a devastating response.” After all, “If the United States could have pre-empted 9/11, we would have, no question. Should we be able to prevent another more devastating attack, we will, no question. This nation will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terror regimes.”
4. Saddam is a sworn enemy of the United States and a danger to the world. “The case of Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of our country, requires a candid appraisal of the facts. … We are, after all, dealing with the same dictator who shoots at American and British pilots in the no-fly zone on a regular basis, the same dictator who dispatched a team of assassins to murder former president [George H.W.] Bush as he traveled abroad, the same dictator who invaded Iran and Kuwait and has fired ballistic missiles at Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the same dictator who has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for the better part of two decades.”
5. Saddam is in systematic violation of a standing U.N. Security Council resolution on weapons of mass destruction. “After his defeat in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam agreed under U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 to cease all development of weapons of mass destruction. “He agreed to end his nuclear-weapons program. He agreed to destroy his chemical and biological weapons. He further agreed to admit U.N. inspection teams into his country to ensure that he was in fact complying with these terms. In the past decade, Saddam has systematically broken each of these agreements.”
6. Saddam is buying time to rebuild his chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal. “What he wants is time and more time to husband his resources, to invest in his ongoing chemical- and biological-weapons programs and to gain possession of nuclear arms.”
7. Saddam’s weapons programs are offensive in nature. “The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago. These are not weapons for the purpose of defending Iraq; these are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam can hold the threat over the head of anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.”
8. The United States believes Saddam will use those weapons.“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors — confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth. … There is no basis in Saddam Hussein’s conduct or history to discount any of the concerns that I am raising.”
9. Saddam would hold the entire Middle East, and even the United States, hostage to nuclear blackmail. “Should all his ambitions be realized, the implications would be enormous for the Middle East, for the United States and for the peace of the world. The whole range of weapons of mass destruction then would rest in the hands of a dictator who has already shown his willingness to use such weapons, and has done so both in his war with Iran and against his own people. Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.”
10. U.N. weapons inspectors are of limited value. “During the spring of 1995, the inspectors were actually on the verge of declaring that Saddam’s programs to develop chemical weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles had been fully accounted for and shut down. Then Saddam’s son-in-law suddenly defected and began sharing information. Within days the inspectors were led to an Iraqi chicken farm. Hidden there were boxes of documents and lots of evidence regarding Iraq’s most-secret weapons programs. That should serve as a reminder to all that we often learned more as the result of defections than we learned from the inspection regime itself.”
11. Baghdad uses denial and deception to conceal weapons systems. “Saddam … devised an elaborate program to conceal his active efforts to build chemical and biological weapons. And one must keep in mind the history of U.N. inspection teams in Iraq. Even as they were conducting the most intrusive system of arms control in history, the inspectors missed a great deal. … Yet Saddam Hussein had sought to frustrate and deceive them at every turn, and was often successful in doing so.”
12. Weapons inspectors provide a false sense of security. “Saddam has perfected the game of cheat and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow ‘back in his box.’ ”
13. All of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction must be destroyed. “Inspections are not an end in themselves. The objective has to be disarmament, to compel Iraqi compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the complete destruction of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and an end to all efforts to develop or produce more chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.”
14. Saddam does not respond to civilized means of deterrence.“Nothing in the last dozen years has stopped him — not his agreements, not the discoveries of the inspectors, not the revelations by defectors, not criticism or ostracism by the international community and not four days of bombings by the U.S. in 1998.”
15. The world can’t wait for Saddam to go nuclear. “Some concede that Saddam is evil, power-hungry and a menace but that, until he crosses the threshold of actually possessing nuclear weapons, we should rule out any pre-emptive action. That logic seems to me to be deeply flawed. The argument comes down to this: Yes, Saddam is as dangerous as we say he is; we just need to let him get stronger before we do anything about it.”And any of those who now argue that we should act only if he gets a nuclear weapon would then turn around and say that we cannot act because he has a nuclear weapon. At bottom, that argument counsels a course of inaction that itself could have devastating consequences for many countries, including our own.”
16. America must not submit to willful blindness about a mortal threat. “What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness. We will not simply look away, hope for the best and leave the matter for some future administration to resolve. As President [George W.] Bush has said, time is not on our side.”Deliverable weapons of mass destruction at the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator or the two working together, constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action.”
17. Regime change will benefit the war against terrorism. “Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats is eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace.” Who does not expect as much jubilation in Iraq as in Afghanistan after the U.S. helped oust the Taliban? “Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.”
18. Regime change in Iraq will help build a better Middle East. “In other times the world saw how the United States defeated fierce enemies, then helped rebuild their countries, forming strong bonds between our peoples and our governments. Today in Afghanistan, the world is seeing that America acts not to conquer but to liberate, and remains in friendship to help the people build a future of stability, self-determination and peace. We would act in that same spirit after a regime change in Iraq.”
19. The Bush Doctrine will be enforced. “The president has made it very clear that there is no neutral ground in the fight against terror. Those who harbor terrorists share guilt for the acts they commit. Under the Bush Doctrine, a regime that harbors or supports terrorists will be regarded as hostile to the United States.”
20. The United States is going after the regime, but is friendly to the Iraqi people. “Our goal would be an Iraq that has territorial integrity, a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized and protected. In that troubled land, all who seek justice and dignity and the chance to live their own lives can know they have a friend and ally in the United States of America.”