Message to Saddam
March 17, 2003
My fellow citizens, events
in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision. For
more than a decade, the United States and other nations
have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the
Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged to reveal
and destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition
for ending the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of diplomacy.
We have passed more than a dozen resolutions in the United
Nations Security Council. We have sent hundreds of weapons
inspectors to oversee the disarmament of Iraq. Our good
faith has not been returned.
The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain
time and advantage. It has uniformly defied Security Council
resolutions demanding full disarmament. Over the years,
U.N. weapon inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials,
electronically bugged, and systematically deceived. Peaceful
efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and
again -- because we are not dealing with peaceful men.
Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves
no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and
conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This
regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against
Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.
The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the
Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends.
And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including
operatives of al Qaeda.
The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one
day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the
terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill
thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in
our country, or any other.
The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve
or invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat
it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set
a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come,
before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed.
The United States of America has the sovereign authority
to use force in assuring its own national security. That
duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I
have sworn, by the oath I will keep.
Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States
Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the
use of force against Iraq. America tried to work with the
United Nations to address this threat because we wanted
to resolve the issue peacefully. We believe in the mission
of the United Nations. One reason the U.N. was founded
after the second world war was to confront aggressive dictators,
actively and early, before they can attack the innocent
and destroy the peace.
In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did act, in
the early 1990s. Under Resolutions 678 and 687 -- both
still in effect -- the United States and our allies are
authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass
destruction. This is not a question of authority, it is
a question of will.
Last September, I went to the U.N. General Assembly and
urged the nations of the world to unite and bring an end
to this danger. On November 8th, the Security Council unanimously
passed Resolution 1441, finding Iraq in material breach
of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences if
Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.
Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed.
And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds
power. For the last four-and-a-half months, the United
States and our allies have worked within the Security Council
to enforce that Council's long-standing demands. Yet, some
permanent members of the Security Council have publicly
announced they will veto any resolution that compels the
disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment
of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it. Many nations,
however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against
this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering
to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations
Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities,
so we will rise to ours.
In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have
been doing their part. They have delivered public and private
messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq, so that disarmament
can proceed peacefully. He has thus far refused. All the
decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end.
Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours.
Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict,
commenced at a time of our choosing. For their own safety,
all foreign nationals -- including journalists and inspectors
-- should leave Iraq immediately.
Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio
broadcast, and I have a message for them. If we must begin
a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless
men who rule your country and not against you. As our coalition
takes away their power, we will deliver the food and medicine
you need. We will tear down the apparatus of terror and
we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous
and free. In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of
aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories,
no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers
and rape rooms. The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of
your liberation is near.
It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power.
It is not too late for the Iraqi military to act with honor
and protect your country by permitting the peaceful entry
of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.
Our forces will give Iraqi military units clear instructions
on actions they can take to avoid being attacked and destroyed.
I urge every member of the Iraqi military and intelligence
services, if war comes, do not fight for a dying regime
that is not worth your own life.
And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen
carefully to this warning. In any conflict, your fate will
depend on your action. Do not destroy oil wells, a source
of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey
any command to use weapons of mass destruction against
anyone, including the Iraqi people. War crimes will be
prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will
be no defense to say, "I was just following orders."
Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American
people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid
war, and every measure will be taken to win it. Americans
understand the costs of conflict because we have paid them
in the past. War has no certainty, except the certainty
Yet, the only way to reduce the harm and duration of war
is to apply the full force and might of our military, and
we are prepared to do so. If Saddam Hussein attempts to
cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end.
In desperation, he and terrorists groups might try to conduct
terrorist operations against the American people and our
friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however,
possible. And this very fact underscores the reason we
cannot live under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist
threat to America and the world will be diminished the
moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.
Our government is on heightened watch against these dangers.
Just as we are preparing to ensure victory in Iraq, we
are taking further actions to protect our homeland. In
recent days, American authorities have expelled from the
country certain individuals with ties to Iraqi intelligence
services. Among other measures, I have directed additional
security of our airports, and increased Coast Guard patrols
of major seaports. The Department of Homeland Security
is working closely with the nation's governors to increase
armed security at critical facilities across America.
Should enemies strike our country, they would be attempting
to shift our attention with panic and weaken our morale
with fear. In this, they would fail. No act of theirs can
alter the course or shake the resolve of this country.
We are a peaceful people -- yet we're not a fragile people,
and we will not be intimidated by thugs and killers. If
our enemies dare to strike us, they and all who have aided
them, will face fearful consequences.
We are now acting because the risks of inaction would
be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of
Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied
many times over. With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein
and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly
conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that
threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly
in our skies and cities.
The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize
new and undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some
chose to appease murderous dictators, whose threats were
allowed to grow into genocide and global war. In this century,
when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror,
a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind
never before seen on this earth.
Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats
with fair notice, in formal declarations -- and responding
to such enemies only after they have struck first is not
self-defense, it is suicide. The security of the world
requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.
As we enforce the just demands of the world, we will also
honor the deepest commitments of our country. Unlike Saddam
Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and
capable of human liberty. And when the dictator has departed,
they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital
and peaceful and self-governing nation.
The United States, with other countries, will work to
advance liberty and peace in that region. Our goal will
not be achieved overnight, but it can come over time. The
power and appeal of human liberty is felt in every life
and every land. And the greatest power of freedom is to
overcome hatred and violence, and turn the creative gifts
of men and women to the pursuits of peace.
That is the future we choose. Free nations have a duty
to defend our people by uniting against the violent. And
tonight, as we have done before, America and our allies
accept that responsibility.
Good night, and may God continue to bless America.
Also see: Responses
to Message to Saddam
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