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US Administration's Position On Iraq: As Delivered

The Administration's Position With Regard to Iraq (As Delivered)

Secretary Colin L. Powell Testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Washington, DC September 19, 2002

As Delivered

SECRETARY POWELL: [Mr. Chairman, members of]-- the committee, and I welcome this opportunity to present the Administration's position with respect to our situation regarding Iraq.

Mr. Chairman, Congressman Lantos, and other members of the committee, you and I have been discussing Iraq for many years. In fact, many of the committee members go back to the days before the Gulf war when I came up and testified on so many occasions about what we were doing in that buildup of Desert Shield.

We all remember vividly that in 1990, Saddam Hussein's forces, as both of you have noted, invaded Kuwait, brutalized that population, and at that time rejected the international community's ultimatum to withdraw.

The United States built a world-wide coalition -- we got the whole international community involved at that time -- with the clear political purpose of liberating Kuwait. And the military instrument of that coalition, led by America, had an equally clear military objective that flowed directly from the political purpose, and that was to eject the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.

The United Nations Security Council endorsed this purpose and objective, and the international community responded with unprecedented political backing, financial support, and military forces. And as a result, we not only accomplished our mission in the Gulf War, the way in which we did it was a model of American leadership and a model of international cooperation.

When the war ended, the Security Council of the United Nations agreed to take measures to ensure that Iraq did not threaten any of its neighbors again. Saddam Hussein, as you all both have noted and all will note, was a man after all who had sent his armies against Iran in 1980 and then against Kuwait in 1990, who had fired ballistic missiles at neighboring countries, and who had used chemical weapons in the war with Iran and even against his own people. The United States and the international community at that time were strongly determined to prevent any future aggression.

So United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 of 3 April 1991 fixed the terms of the ceasefire in the Gulf. And the fundamental purpose of this resolution and many more that followed was restoration of regional peace and security by way of a series of stringent demands on Iraq, particularly its disarmament with respect to weapons of mass destruction and possession of ballistic missiles with ranges greater than 150 kilometers. Desert Storm had dramatically reduced Iraq's more conventional military capability while at the same time not leaving Iraq so prostrate that it could not defend itself against Iran. It just had finished a war with Iran and we did not want to give Iran an opportunity to start that war up again from a position of superiority. The focus of 687 was on weapons of mass destruction, and the resolutions that followed focused on that and other problems with Iraq that I will touch on in a moment.

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, you know the rest of the story. You heard the President relate it at the United Nations seven days ago today. Iraq has defied the United Nations and refused to comply completely with any of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions that were passed. Moreover, since December of 1998 when the United Nations inspection teams left Iraq because of the regime's flagrant defiance of the UN, the Iraqi regime, Saddam Hussein, has been free to pursue weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, the world has changed dramatically.

Since September 11, 2001, the world is a different place, a more dangerous place than the place that existed before September 11 or a few years ago when the inspectors were last in. As a consequence of the terrorist attacks on that day and of the war on terrorism that those attacks made necessary, a new reality was born: the world had to recognize that the potential connection between terrorists and weapons of mass destruction moved terrorism to a new level of threat, a threat that could not be deterred, as has been noted; a threat that we could not allow to grow because of this connection between states developing weapons of mass destruction and terrorist organizations willing to use them without any compunction and in an undeterrable fashion. In fact, that nexus became the overriding security concern of our nation. It still is and will continue to be so for years to come.

We now see that a proven menace like Saddam Hussein, in possession of weapons of mass destruction, could empower a few terrorists to threaten millions of innocent people.

President Bush is fully determined to deal with this threat. This Administration is determined to defeat it. I believe the American people would have us do no less.

President Bush is also aware of the need to engage the international community. Just as an earlier President Bush did some 12 years ago, he understands perfectly how powerful a strong and unified international community can be, as we have seen so well-demonstrated in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, a war on terrorism that is each day producing new successes, one step, one arrest, one apprehension at a time.

The need to engage the international community is why the President took his message on the grave and gathering danger of Iraq to the United Nations last week. Moreover, it is the United Nations that is the offended party, not Iraq, as some people might claim. Not just the United States, it is the international community that should be offended.

It is a combination of United Nations resolutions that have been systematically and brutally ignored and violated for these past 12 years. It was United Nations inspectors who found it impossible to do their job and had to leave the work unfinished.

The President's challenge to the United Nations General Assembly was a direct one and it was a very simple one: if you would remain relevant, you must act. You must not look away from this challenge.

The President's speech was powerful. I was there. I listened to it. I knew what he was going to say, and I could see the energy in the room as he delivered it. It energized the United Nations General Assembly and it energized the debate taking place at this 57th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. It changed the political landscape on which this issue was being discussed. It made it clear that Iraq is the problem. Iraq is the one that is in material breach of the demands placed on it by this multilateral organization, the United Nations.

The President made clear what was expected of Iraq was to repair this breach if they could. He made it clear that the issue, however, was more than just disarming Iraq by eliminating its weapons of mass destruction and by constraining its mid and long range missile capability. The UN resolutions also spoke of terrorism, human rights, the return of prisoners, the return of property, and the proper use of the Oil-for-Food program. And the indictment that the President laid out didn't need much discussion or debate. Everybody sitting in that chamber last Thursday new that Iraq stood guilty of the charges. It convicted itself by its action over these past 12 years. There can be no question that Iraq is in material breach of its obligations.

Over the past weekend while I worked the aftermath of the President's speech, I saw the pressure build on Iraq as the Arab League, the Secretary General and so many other nations pressed Iraq on the need to take action because it stood guilty and nobody could deny the guilt.

And four days ago, on Monday, Iraq responded not with a serious offer but with a familiar, tactical ploy to try to get out of the box, to try to get out of the corner once more. The Iraqi Foreign Minister said Iraq would let the inspectors in ''without conditions.'' And this morning, in a speech at the United Nations he challenged President Bush's September 12th speech. He even called for a discussion of the issue of inspection teams in accordance ''with international law.'' he said. He is already walking back. He is already stepping away from the without condition statement they made on Monday. But he is not deceiving anybody. It is a ploy we have seen before. We have seen it on many occasions. And on each occasion, once inspectors began to operate, Iraq continued to do everything to frustrate their work.

Mr. Chairman, I will call your attention and the members' attention to the written statement that I have submitted, and I ask that it be put in the record, where I record a dozen examples of Iraq's defiance of the UN mandate. Cited in that longer statement is everything from intimidation at gunpoint to holding up inspectors while all the incriminating evidence was removed from the site to be inspected. It is a litany of defiance, unscrupulous behavior and every sort of attempt at noncompliance. And by no means have I listed everything, only a sampling.

The Iraqi regime is infamous for its ploys, stalling tactics, its demands on inspectors, sometimes at the point of a gun, and its general and consistent defiance of the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. There is absolutely no reason to expect that Iraq has changed, that this latest effort of theirs to welcome inspectors without conditions is not just another ploy.

Let's be absolutely clear about the reason for their announcement Monday and what their Foreign Minister said today. They did not suddenly see the error of their ways. They did not suddenly want to clear up the problems of the past 12 years. They were responding to the heat and the pressure generated by the international community after President Bush's speech.

The United States has made it clear to our Security Council colleagues that we will not fall for this ploy. This is the time not to welcome what they said and become giddy, as some have done. This is the time to apply even more pressure. We must not relent. We must not believe that inspectors going in under the same conditions that caused their withdrawal four years ago is in any way acceptable or will bring us to a solution to this problem. These four years have been more than enough for Iraq to procure, develop, and hide proscribed items well beyond the reach of the kinds of inspections that were subject to Saddam's cheat and retreat approach from 1991 to 1998.

If inspectors do go back in because the UN feels it is appropriate for them to do so, they must go back in under a new regime with new rules, without any conditions and without any opportunity for Iraq to frustrate their efforts.

It is up now to the United Nations Security Council to decide what action is required of Iraq to deal with this material breach of the United Nations mandate. If part of that solution that the Security Council comes to involves an inspection regime, it must be a regime that goes in with the authority of a new resolution that removes the weaknesses of the present regime and which will not tolerate any Iraqi disobedience. It cannot be a resolution that will be negotiated with Iraq. The resolution must be strong enough and comprehensive enough that it produces disarmament, and not just inspections.

Many United Nation members, including some on the Security Council, want to take Iraq at its word and send inspectors back in without any new resolution or new authority. It's a recipe for failure, and we will not support that. The debate we have begun to have within the Council is on the need for and the wording of a resolution. Our position is clear: we must face the facts and find Iraq in material breach, then we must specify the actions we demand of Iraq, which President Bush has already laid out in his speech last week.

And then here's the key element. Here's what will make it different from what we did in the past, and this must be an essential element of any road going forward, any plan to go forward from the Security Council. We must determine what consequences this time will flow from Iraq's failure to take action. That is what makes this different. This time, unlike any time over the previous 12 years of Iraqi defiance, there must be hard consequences. This time Iraq must comply with the UN mandate or there will be decisive action to compel compliance.

We will listen to other points of view and we'll try to reach agreement within the Council. It will be a difficult debate. We will also preserve at all times the President of the United States' authority and ability to defend our nation and our interest, as he sees fit -- do it with our friends, do it with the United Nations, or do it alone. But the President has made it clear that this is a problem that must be solved and will be solved.

Some have suggested that there is a conflict in this approach, that US interests should be our total concern. But Mr. Chairman, both of these issues, both multilateral and unilateral, are important. We are a member of the United Nations Security Council. We are a member of the United Nations. It is a multilateral institution whose resolutions have been violated. But the United States, as a separate matter, believes that its interests are threatened even if the United Nations has not continued to come to that conclusion.

We are trying to solve this problem through the United Nations and in a multilateral way. The President took the case to the UN because it is the body that should deal with such matters as Iraq. It was created to deal with such matters. President Bush is hoping that the UN will act in a decisive way. But at the same time, as he has made clear, and my other colleagues in the Administration have made clear and I make clear today, if the United Nations is not able to act and act decisively -- and I think that would be a terrible indictment of the UN -- then the United States will have to make its own decision as to whether the danger posed by Iraq is such that we have to act in order to defend our country and to defend our interests.

And Mr. Chairman, our diplomatic efforts at the United Nations would be helped by a strong, strong congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to take action. The President should be authorized to use all means he determines appropriate, including military force, to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions that Iraq is defying and to defend the United States and its interests against the threat Iraq poses and to restore international peace and security to the region.

I know that the Administration has provided language to the Congress. I ask that the Congress consider it carefully and quickly, and I ask for immediate action on such a resolution to show the world that the United States is united in this effort. To help the United Nations understand the seriousness of this issue, it would be important for all of us to speak as a nation, as a country, and to give this powerful signal to our diplomatic efforts in the United Nations.

Mr. Chairman, my colleagues in the intelligence community and my colleague, Secretary Rumsfeld, are giving the Congress additional information with respect to military ideas and options, with respect to the intelligence supporting the conclusions we have come to. So I will not take any time to do that here today, but I am prepared to answer any questions in these areas that you think I might be competent and qualified to answer.

But let me say this about the Iraq threat before I stop and allow the greater part of our time available for your important questions to be answered. We can have debates, discussions and disagreements about the size and nature of the Iraqi stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, and we can discuss whether they are or are not violating the range constraints on the missiles that they have. But no one can doubt the record of Iraqi violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions. That is not debatable. It's a fact. It's a stated fact.

And no one can doubt Iraq's intention to continue to try to get these weapons of mass destruction unless they are stopped, and that is also not debatable. And I hope that will help to shape our debate and our discussions and the important decisions that we may have to make as a nation. These two realities -- their intention and their continued violations over time -- are indisputable.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will stop and look forward to the questions from the committee. And once again, I ask that my full statement be put in the record.


Released on September 19, 2002

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