Saddam Posed Threat Through Ability to Produce WMD
Bush Says Saddam Posed Threat Through Ability to Produce WMD
Invasion of Iraq justified, he says on NBC's "Meet the Press"
By Bridget Hunter
Washington File Special Correspondent
The available intelligence in the months preceding the invasion of Iraq in 2003 "clearly said Saddam Hussein was a threat to America," President Bush said in a television interview broadcast February 8.
Although intelligence relating to Iraqi weapon stockpiles may not have been accurate, the United States responded to a real threat because Iraq had the capacity to produce chemical and biological weapons, had funded terrorism, and had the potential to develop nuclear weapons, Bush said on the NBC news program "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert.
The president said a commission he recently appointed "to look into intelligence failures regarding the Iraq war and our entire intelligence community" will take a "lessons learned" approach that is intended to improve the collection and analysis of intelligence.
"Intelligence is a vital part of fighting and winning the war against the terrorists," according to Bush, who added that the goal of the commission is to ensure "the intelligence services provide as good a product as possible for future presidents."
The president explained that the March 2005 deadline for the commission's report was set "because we didn't want it to be hurried."
In response to a question regarding whether he had brought the nation to war under false pretenses, the president responded that he had based his decision "on the best intelligence possible ... intelligence that not only our analysts thought was valid but analysts from other countries thought were valid." Bush added that the decision was made "in the context of the war against terror," in which every threat and the potential harm to America had to be taken seriously.
"I'm a war president.... And I see dangers that exist, and it's important for us to deal with them," he said.
The president stressed the potential for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and pointed to that country's weapon production capacity as proof of the legitimacy of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime.
"David Kay [the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq] did report to the American people that Saddam had the capacity to make weapons.... He [Saddam Hussein] was a dangerous man in a dangerous part of the world," Bush said.
"I believe that it is essential that when we see a threat, we deal with those threats before they become imminent. It's too late if they become imminent ... and so that's why I made the decision I made," he added.
When asked whether it was appropriate to "launch a preemptive war without ironclad absolute intelligence," the president responded that there is no such thing as "ironclad absolutely solid evidence" when dealing with a dictatorship. "The evidence I had was the best possible evidence," he said.
Bush cited U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 as proof that the United States was not alone in judging Saddam Hussein dangerous. "The world thought he was dangerous and needed to be disarmed," he said.
The president also elaborated on the differences between the situation in Iraq and that in North Korea, explaining the United States "needed to use force in Iraq and not in North Korea, because we had run the diplomatic string in Iraq." Bush said that diplomacy in North Korea "is just beginning," and said "[w]e are making good progress."
When questioned regarding the role of the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq, President Bush said the United Nations would play a "vital role," and added that "of course we want the international community to participate" in reconstructing that country.
During the hour-long interview, the president also responded to questions on a number of domestic issues, including the American economy and the upcoming 2004 presidential election.