Text Of Clinton Statement On Iraq
Text of President Clinton's address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and
Please be seated. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, for your remarks and
your leadership. Thank you, Secretary Cohen, for the superb job you
have done here at the Pentagon and on this most recent very
difficult problem. Thank you, General Shelton, for being the right
person at the right time.
Thank you, General Ralston, and the members of the joint chiefs,
General Zinni, Secretary Albright, Secretary Slater, DCIA Tenet,
Mr. Bowles, Mr. Berger, Senator Robb thank you for being here
and Congressman Skelton. Thank you very much, and for your years of
service to America and your passionate patriotism both of you.
And to the members of our armed forces and others who work here to
protect our national security.
I have just received a very fine briefing from our military
leadership on the status of our forces in the Persian Gulf. Before
I left the Pentagon, I wanted to talk to you and all those whom you
represent the men and women of our military. You, your friends
and your colleagues are on the front lines of this crisis in Iraq.
I want you, and I want the American people, to hear directly
from me what is at stake for America in the Persian Gulf, what we
are doing to protect the peace, the security, the freedom we
cherish, why we have taken the position we have taken.
I was thinking as I sat up here on the platform, of the slogan
that the first lady gave me for her project on the millennium,
which was, remembering the past and imagining the future.
Now, for that project, that means preserving the Star Spangled
Banner and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and
the Bill of Rights, and it means making an unprecedented commitment
to medical research and to get the best of the new technology. But
that's not a bad slogan for us when we deal with more sober, more
difficult, more dangerous matters.
Those who have questioned the United States in this moment, I
would argue, are living only in the moment. They have neither
remembered the past nor imagined the future.
So first, let's just take a step back and consider why meeting
the threat posed by Saddam Hussein is important to our security in
the new era we are entering.
This is a time of tremendous promise for America. The superpower
confrontation has ended; on every continent democracy is securing
for more and more people the basic freedoms we Americans have come
to take for granted. Bit by bit the information age is chipping
away at the barriers economic, political and social that once
kept people locked in and freedom and prosperity locked out.
But for all our promise, all our opportunity, people in this
room know very well that this is not a time free from peril,
especially as a result of reckless acts of outlaw nations and an
unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized
We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st
century. They feed on the free flow of information and technology.
They actually take advantage of the freer movement of people,
information and ideas.
And they will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build
arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the
missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam
Hussein's Iraq. His regime threatens the safety of his people, the
stability of his region and the security of all the rest of us.
I want the American people to understand first the past how
did this crisis come about?
And I want them to understand what we must do to protect the
national interest, and indeed the interest of all freedom-loving
people in the world.
Remember, as a condition of the cease-fire after the Gulf War,
the United Nations demanded not the United States the United
Nations demanded, and Saddam Hussein agreed to declare within 15
days this is way back in 1991 within 15 days his nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them,
to make a total declaration. That's what he promised to do.
The United Nations set up a special commission of highly trained
international experts called UNSCOM, to make sure that Iraq made
good on that commitment. We had every good reason to insist that
Iraq disarm. Saddam had built up a terrible arsenal, and he had
used it not once, but many times, in a decade-long war with Iran,
he used chemical weapons, against combatants, against civilians,
against a foreign adversary, and even against his own people.
And during the Gulf War, Saddam launched Scuds against Saudi
Arabia, Israel and Bahrain.
Now, instead of playing by the very rules he agreed to at the
end of the Gulf War, Saddam has spent the better part of the past
decade trying to cheat on this solemn commitment. Consider just
some of the facts:
Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that
it had left in its possession after the Gulf War. When UNSCOM would
then uncover evidence that gave lie to those declarations, Iraq
would simply amend the reports.
For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times
within just 14 months and it has submitted six different biological
warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by UNSCOM.
In 1995, Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-law, and the chief
organizer of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, defected
to Jordan. He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons
and missiles and the capacity to build many more.
Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of
weapons in significant quantities and weapon stocks. Previously, it
had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once
Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected to Jordan and told the truth.
Now listen to this, what did it admit?
It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare
capability notably 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes
botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud
warheads; and 157 aerial bombs.
And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has
actually greatly understated its production.
As if we needed further confirmation, you all know what happened
to his son-in-law when he made the untimely decision to go back to
Next, throughout this entire process, Iraqi agents have
undermined and undercut UNSCOM. They've harassed the inspectors,
lied to them, disabled monitoring cameras, literally spirited
evidence out of the back doors of suspect facilities as inspectors
walked through the front door. And our people were there observing
it and had the pictures to prove it.
Despite Iraq's deceptions, UNSCOM has nevertheless done a
remarkable job. Its inspectors the eyes and ears of the civilized
world have uncovered and destroyed more weapons of mass
destruction capacity than was destroyed during the Gulf War.
This includes nearly 40,000 chemical weapons, more than 100,000
gallons of chemical weapons agents, 48 operational missiles, 30
warheads specifically fitted for chemical and biological weapons,
and a massive biological weapons facility at Al Hakam equipped to
produce anthrax and other deadly agents.
Over the past few months, as they have come closer and closer to
rooting out Iraq's remaining nuclear capacity, Saddam has
undertaken yet another gambit to thwart their ambitions.
By imposing debilitating conditions on the inspectors and
declaring key sites which have still not been inspected off limits,
including, I might add, one palace in Baghdad more than 2,600 acres
large by comparison, when you hear all this business about
presidential sites reflect our sovereignty, why do you want to come
into a residence, the White House complex is 18 acres. So you'll
have some feel for this.
One of these presidential sites is about the size of Washington,
D.C. That's about how many acres did you tell me it was? 40,000
acres. We're not talking about a few rooms here with delicate
personal matters involved.
It is obvious that there is an attempt here, based on the whole
history of this operation since 1991, to protect whatever remains
of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the
missiles to deliver them, and the feed stocks necessary to produce
The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq still has stockpiles of
chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type
missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production
program and build many, many more weapons.
Now, against that background, let us remember the past here. It
is against that background that we have repeatedly and
unambiguously made clear our preference for a diplomatic solution.
The inspection system works. The inspection system has worked in
the face of lies, stonewalling, obstacle after obstacle after
obstacle. The people who have done that work deserve the thanks of
civilized people throughout the world.
It has worked. That is all we want. And if we can find a
diplomatic way to do what has to be done, to do what he promised to
do at the end of the Gulf War, to do what should have been done
within 15 days within 15 days of the agreement at the end of
the Gulf War, if we can find a diplomatic way to do that, that is
by far our preference.
But to be a genuine solution, and not simply one that glosses
over the remaining problem, a diplomatic solution must include or
meet a clear, immutable, reasonable, simple standard.
Iraq must agree and soon, to free, full, unfettered access to
these sites anywhere in the country. There can be no dilution or
diminishment of the integrity of the inspection system that UNSCOM
has put in place.
Now those terms are nothing more or less than the essence of
what he agreed to at the end of the Gulf War. The Security Council,
many times since, has reiterated this standard. If he accepts them,
force will not be necessary. If he refuses or continues to evade
his obligations through more tactics of delay and deception, he and
he alone will be to blame for the consequences.
I ask all of you to remember the record here what he promised
to do within 15 days of the end of the Gulf War, what he repeatedly
refused to do, what we found out in 1995, what the inspectors have
done against all odds. We have no business agreeing to any
resolution of this that does not include free, unfettered access to
the remaining sites by people who have integrity and proven
confidence in the inspection business. That should be our standard.
That's what UNSCOM has done, and that's why I have been fighting
for it so hard. And that's why the United States should insist upon
Now, let's imagine the future. What if he fails to comply, and
we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which gives
him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of
mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the
sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he
Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost
its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more
to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction.
And some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal.
And I think every one of you who's really worked on this for any
length of time believes that, too.
Now we have spent several weeks building up our forces in the
Gulf, and building a coalition of like-minded nations. Our force
posture would not be possible without the support of Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Bahrain, the GCC states and Turkey. Other friends and
allies have agreed to provide forces, bases or logistical support,
including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Portugal, Denmark
and the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland and the Czech Republic,
Argentina, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand and our friends and
neighbors in Canada.
That list is growing, not because anyone wants military action,
but because there are people in this world who believe the United
Nations resolutions should mean something, because they understand
what UNSCOM has achieved, because they remember the past, and
because they can imagine what the future will be depending on what
we do now.
If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is
clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction program. We want to seriously reduce
his capacity to threaten his neighbors.
I am quite confident, from the briefing I have just received
from our military leaders, that we can achieve the objective and
secure our vital strategic interests.
Let me be clear: A military operation cannot destroy all the
weapons of mass destruction capacity. But it can and will leave him
significantly worse off than he is now in terms of the ability to
threaten the world with these weapons or to attack his neighbors.
And he will know that the international community continues to
have a will to act if and when he threatens again. Following any
strike, we will carefully monitor Iraq's activities with all the
means at our disposal. If he seeks to rebuild his weapons of mass
destruction, we will be prepared to strike him again.
The economic sanctions will remain in place until Saddam
complies fully with all U.N. resolutions.
Consider this already these sanctions have denied him $110
billion. Imagine how much stronger his armed forces would be today,
how many more weapons of mass destruction operations he would have
hidden around the country if he had been able to spend even a small
fraction of that amount for a military rebuilding.
We will continue to enforce a no-fly zone from the southern
suburbs of Baghdad to the Kuwait border and in northern Iraq,
making it more difficult for Iraq to walk over Kuwait again or
threaten the Kurds in the north.
Now, let me say to all of you here as all of you know the
weightiest decision any president ever has to make is to send our
troops into harm's way. And force can never be the first answer.
But sometimes, it's the only answer.
You are the best prepared, best equipped, best trained fighting
force in the world. And should it prove necessary for me to
exercise the option of force, your commanders will do everything
they can to protect the safety of all the men and women under their
No military action, however, is risk-free. I know that the
people we may call upon in uniform are ready. The American people
have to be ready as well.
Dealing with Saddam Hussein requires constant vigilance. We have
seen that constant vigilance pays off. But it requires constant
vigilance. Since the Gulf War, we have pushed back every time
Saddam has posed a threat.
When Baghdad plotted to assassinate former President Bush, we
struck hard at Iraq's intelligence headquarters.
When Saddam threatened another invasion by amassing his troops
in Kuwait along the Kuwaiti border in 1994, we immediately deployed
our troops, our ships, our planes, and Saddam backed down.
When Saddam forcefully occupied Irbil in northern Iraq, we
broadened our control over Iraq's skies by extending the no-fly
But there is no better example, again I say, than the U.N. weapons
inspection system itself. Yes, he has tried to thwart it in every
conceivable way, but the discipline, determination,
year-in-year-out effort of these weapons inspectors is doing the
job. And we seek to finish the job. Let there be no doubt, we are
prepared to act.
But Saddam Hussein could end this crisis tomorrow simply by
letting the weapons inspectors complete their mission. He made a
solemn commitment to the international community to do that and to
give up his weapons of mass destruction a long time ago now. One
way or the other, we are determined to see that he makes good on
his own promise.
Saddam Hussein's Iraq reminds us of what we learned in the 20th
century and warns us of what we must know about the 21st. In this
century, we learned through harsh experience that the only answer
to aggression and illegal behavior is firmness, determination, and
when necessary action.
In the next century, the community of nations may see more and
more the very kind of threat Iraq poses now a rogue state with
weapons of mass destruction ready to use them or provide them to
terrorists, drug traffickers or organized criminals who travel the
world among us unnoticed.
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would
follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow by the
knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a
clear message from the United Nations Security Council and clear
evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program.
But if we act as one, we can safeguard our interests and send a
clear message to every would-be tyrant and terrorist that the
international community does have the wisdom and the will and the
way to protect peace and security in a new era. That is the future
I ask you all to imagine. That is the future I ask our allies to
If we look at the past and imagine that future, we will act as
one together. And we still have, God willing, a chance to find a
diplomatic resolution to this, and if not, God willing, the chance
to do the right thing for our children and grandchildren.
Thank you very much.