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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Clinton: Iraq has abused its final chance

American president defends timing and need for strikes

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 16) -- President Bill Clinton Wednesday defended his decision to order airstrikes against Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein had failed his "one last chance" to cooperate with United Nations resolutions. "So we've had to act and act now."


"Earlier today I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces," Clinton said during his Oval Office address to the nation.

"Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs, and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the middle east and around the world," Clinton said.

A showdown between the U.S. and Iraq six weeks ago, when again the military action was threatened, ended with Saddam Hussein's promise to give U.N. inspectors unconditional access to Iraqi facilities so they could determine if Iraq was rebuilding its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

At the time, Clinton said he "concluded then that the right thing to do was to use restraint and give Saddam one last chance to prove his willingness to cooperate. I made it very clear at that time what 'unconditional cooperation' meant."

The American president said a report by inspectors to the U.N. over the weekend determined that Iraq had failed to fulfill that promise and had instead placed new restrictions on the inspections.

In response, Clinton gave the go ahead for "Operation Desert Fox."

Both directly and indirectly, Clinton addressed the impeachment crisis his presidency is currently facing. He defended the timing of strikes, which his critics have questioned in light of Thursday's scheduled debate and floor vote.

He also said that Saddam Hussein should not believe that domestic troubles in the U.S. would deter the nation from taking decisive action.

"Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate before the House of Representatives would distract Americans," Clinton said. "But once more the United States has proven that although we are never eager to use force, when we must act in America's vital interests we will do so."

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said earlier that the president made his decision Wednesday morning after reviewing the United Nation's report.

Was Saddam Hussein trying to take advantage of the political turmoil in the U.S.?


View Results


Clinton says attack on Iraq averted potential Iraqi aggression (12-17-98) Real: 28K | 56K, Windows Media: 28K | 56K

For Clinton, a long day of political juggling (12-17-98) Real: 28K | 56K, Windows Media: 28K | 56K

Larry King Live highlight: Vice President Al Gore on the military air strike on Iraq (12-17-98) Real: 28K | 56K, Windows Media: 28K | 56K

Clinton statement on attack against Iraq (12-16-98) Windows Media: 28K | 56K


Clinton defends U.S. attack on Iraq (12-17-98)

President Clinton explains Iraq strike (12-16-98)


U.S. public endorses Clinton's actions on Iraq (12-17-98)


Blasts over Baghdad during second night of attack (12-17-98)

U.S. boosts Gulf strength (12-17-98)

World reaction mixed; Russia, China harshly criticize U.S. (12-17-98)

House passes resolution in support of U.S. troops (12-17-98)

Impeachment and Iraq fill the president's time (12-17-98)

In-depth: Strike on Iraq


Your opinion: Iraq vs. the U.N.


Wednesday, December 16, 1998

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