Skip to comments.(A MUST READ) The Clinton Administration's Public Case Against Saddam Hussein
Posted on 11/12/2005 9:10:44 AM PST by doug from upland
"The [Bush] Administration did not hesitate to heighten and distort public fear of terrorism after September 11th, to create a political case for attacking Iraq."
-- Former Vice President Al Gore, February 5, 2004
The Clinton Administration's Public Case Against Saddam Hussein
In June of 1997, Iraq officials had ratcheted up their obstruction of UNSCOM inspection efforts. They interfered with UNSCOM air operations and denied and delayed access of inspectors to sites. In September, they burned documents at sites while inspectors watched outside the front entrance. By mid-November, Saddam Hussein had demanded an end to U-2 surveillance flights over Iraq and called on American inspectors to leave Iraq.1 Iraqis also began moving equipment that could produce weapons of mass destruction out of the range of video cameras inspectors had installed inside key industrial facilities.2
At first, the Clinton administration adopted a generally reserved tone toward Saddam's provocations. "We believe that he needs to fulfill all the Security Council obligations and that that is an appropriate way to deal with him," commented Secretary Albright at a November 5 press conference with the German foreign minister.3
The next day Secretary Cohen held a ceremony unrelated to Iraq, but, citing "an unusual array" of journalists present, he also spoke on Iraq. "[I]t's imperative that Iraq comply with U.N. mandates," said Cohen, but "the task right now, however, is to persuade them to cease and desist from their obstruction." And when asked what would be the consequences should Saddam not comply, Cohen said simply, "it's important that we not speculate what those reactions might be."4
Striking a similar tone on November 10 at the Pentagon, Vice President Gore stated that "Saddam has taken steps that interfere with the ability of the inspection team to carry out its mission." He added, "The procedure chosen to deal with this situation is to engage him in discussions in which he can be made aware that this is not a smart thing for him to do, and he ought to change his mind."5
But Saddam remained defiant. So on Friday, November 14, President Clinton and his top advisors met at the White House and decided to launch a public campaign to build support for a possible war against Iraq.
"Prepare the Country for War"
The New York Times reported that at the November 14 meeting the "White House decided to prepare the country for war." According to the Times, "[t]he decision was made to begin a public campaign through interviews on the Sunday morning television news programs to inform the American people of the dangers of biological warfare."6 During this time, the Washington Post reported that President Clinton specifically directed Cohen "to raise the profile of the biological and chemical threat."7
"The War of Words Grows; U.S.: Poisons Are World Threat" headlined the New York Daily News Monday morning.9 CBS News said the White House had begun "a new tack, warning in the darkest possible terms of the damage which Saddam Hussein could inflict with his chemical and biological weapons."10 And in "America the Vulnerable; A disaster is just waiting to happen if Iraq unleashes its poison and germs," Time wrote that "officials in Washington are deeply worried about what some of them call 'strategic crime.' By that they mean the merging of the output from a government's arsenals, like Saddam's biological weapons, with a group of semi-independent terrorists, like radical Islamist groups, who might slip such bioweapons into the U.S. and use them."11
This message was echoed in a series of remarks President Clinton delivered the same week.
In Sacramento, November 15, Clinton painted a bleak future if nations did not cooperate against "organized forces of destruction," telling the audience that only a small amount of "nuclear cake put in a bomb would do ten times as much damage as the Oklahoma City bomb did." Effectively dealing with proliferation and not letting weapons "fall into the wrong hands" is "fundamentally what is stake in the stand off we're having in Iraq today."
He asked Americans to not to view the current crisis as a "replay" of the Gulf War in 1991. Instead, "think about it in terms of the innocent Japanese people that died in the subway when the sarin gas was released [by the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo in 1995]; and how important it is for every responsible government in the world to do everything that can possibly be done not to let big stores of chemical or biological weapons fall into the wrong hands, not to let irresponsible people develop the capacity to put them in warheads on missiles or put them in briefcases that could be exploded in small rooms. And I say this not to frighten you."12
Again in Wichita, November 17, Clinton said that what happens in Iraq "matters to you, to your children and to the future, because this is a challenge we must face not just in Iraq but throughout the world. We must not allow the 21st century to go forward under a cloud of fear that terrorists, organized criminals, drug traffickers will terrorize people with chemical and biological weapons the way the nuclear threat hung over the heads of the whole world through the last half of this century. That is what is at issue."13
In Washington, D.C., November 21, Clinton applauded the return of UNSCOM inspectors that day (after a three week absence) "to proceed with their work without interference, to find, to destroy, to prevent Iraq from rebuilding nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to carry them." He added: "We must not let our children be exposed to the indiscriminate availability and potential abuse and actual use of the biological and chemical and smaller-scale nuclear weapons which could terrorize the 21st century," said Clinton.15
With the end of Ramadan on January 29 and Saddam still failing to comply with his commitment to the U.N. to disarm, Clinton officials resumed public efforts to make the case on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
Secretary Albright flew to the Middle East to drum up support for possible war.21 "Saddam Hussein, armed with chemical and biological weapons, is a threat to the international community," she told journalists in Bahrain.22
The white paper also discussed Iraqi nuclear activity.
Under the White Paper's "nuclear weapons" section, it observed: "Baghdad's interest in acquiring nuclear or developing nuclear weapons has not diminished"; "we have concerns that scientists may be pursuing theoretical nuclear research that would reduce the time required to produce a weapon should Iraq acquire sufficient fissile material"; "Iraq continues to withhold significant information about enrichment techniques, foreign procurement, weapons design, and the role of Iraq's security and intelligence services in obtaining external assistance and coordinating postwar concealment."27
On February 17, President Clinton spoke on the steps of the Pentagon. The president declared that the great danger confronting the U.S. and its allies was the "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." Before the Gulf War of 1991, he noted, "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."28
Clinton furthered explained that:
"Saddam Hussein," Cohen said "has developed an arsenal of deadly chemical and biological weapons. He has used these weapons repeatedly against his own people as well as Iran. I have a picture which I believe CNN can show on its cameras, but here's a picture taken of an Iraqi mother and child killed by Iraqi nerve gas. This is what I would call Madonna and child Saddam Hussein-style."
Four days later, February 23, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reached a deal with Saddam for inspections of presidential sites. The Security Council endorsed the agreement on March 2 with UNSC Resolution 1154, which warned of the "severest consequences" should Iraq break the agreement. But within a few months, Saddam was again obstructing U.N. inspectors.
On May 22, 1998, President Clinton delivered a speech reminiscent of the comments he made on February 17 at the Pentagon.
The president warned Annapolis graduates that our enemies "may deploy compact and relatively cheap weapons of mass destruction - not just nuclear, but also chemical or biological, to use disease as a weapon of war. Sometimes the terrorists and criminals act alone. But increasingly, they are interconnected, and sometimes supported by hostile countries." The U.S. will work to "prevent the spread and use of biological weapons and to protect our people in the event these terrible weapons are ever unleashed by a rogue state or terrorist group or an international criminal organization." This protection will include "creating stockpiles of medicines and vaccines to protect our civilian population against the kind of biological agents our adversaries are most likely to obtain or develop."32
On August 5, 1998, Iraq halted no-notice inspections by UNSCOM but allowed UNSCOM's monitoring activities to continue.33
On August 14, 1998, President Clinton signed public law 105-235, "Iraqi Breach of International Obligations," which had passed the Senate unanimously and by a vote of 407-6 in the House.34 Among the law's findings: "Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threaten vital United States interests and international peace and security." It concluded:
Six days later, August 20, the U.S. launched missiles strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan. According to the September 1, 1998 Washington Post, a U.S. intelligence operation "to investigate Sudan's nascent chemical weapons program ultimately linked Al Shifa [a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory] to Iraq's chemical weapons programs...."36
On October 31, 1998, Iraq ceased all cooperation with UNSCOM.37 The same day President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which declared that "[i]t should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."38 In signing the Act, the President stated that the U.S. "looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life."39
Two week later, November 14, Iraq resumed cooperation with UNSCOM, averting U.S and British air strikes.40
On December 8, National Security Advisor Berger delivered an address at Stanford University on U.S. policy on Iraq. He stated:
On December 9, Iraq again resumed obstructing inspection activities and shortly thereafter UNSCOM withdrew inspectors from Iraq.42
On December 16, 1998, President Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox, a four-day missile and bombing attack on Iraq. "I acted quickly because, as my military advisors stressed, the longer we waited, the more time Saddam would have to disburse his forces and protect his arsenal," Clinton explained in his December 19 radio address to the nation. "Our mission is clear: to degrade Saddam's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction."43 (It should be noted that on July 27, 2003 President Clinton assessed the effectiveness of Desert Fox. He stated: "When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know." )44
Secretary Albright held a briefing on Desert Fox and was asked how she would respond to those who say that unlike the 1991 Gulf War this campaign "looks like mostly an Anglo-American mission." She answered:
Secretary Cohen replied much the same way to comments made in March of 1998 by Senator Campbell of Colorado, who chided the administration for not keeping the "coalition together" during an Appropriations Committee hearing. Cohen responded:
On December 19, Saddam Hussein declared that inspectors would never be allowed back in Iraq.47 Inspectors wouldn't return to Iraq for five years.
The dems constantly attempt to rewrite history when they have screwed that history up.
More info for your reading pleasure PING!
This legacy confab is in and of itself proof certain of clinton's deeply flawed character, and a demonstration in real time of the way in which the clinton years were about a legacy that was incidentally a presidency.
Madeleine Albright captured the essence of this dysfunctional presidency best when she explained why clinton couldn't go after bin Laden.
According to Richard Miniter, the Albright revelation occurred at the cabinet meeting that would decide the disposition of the USS Cole bombing by al Qaeda [that is to say, that would decide to do what it had always done when a "bimbo" was not spilling the beans on the clintons: Nothing]. Only Clarke wanted to retaliate militarily for this unambiguous act of war.
Albright explained that a [sham] Mideast accord would yield [if not peace for the principals, surely] a Nobel Peace Prize for clinton. Kill or capture bin Laden and clinton could kiss the accord and the Peace Prize good-bye.
If clinton liberalism, smallness, cowardice, corruption, perfidy--and, to borrow a phrase from Andrew Cuomo, clinton cluelessness--played a part, it was, in the end, the Nobel Peace Prize that produced the puerile pertinacity that enabled the clintons to shrug off terrorism's global danger.
I'll put a bookmark in here too.
CLINTON: Good evening.
Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. 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.
Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.
I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq; why we have acted now; and what we aim to accomplish.
Six weeks ago, Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors called UNSCOM. They are highly professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the elimination of Iraq's capability to retain, create and use weapons of mass destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability.
The inspectors undertook this mission first 7.5 years ago at the end of the Gulf War when Iraq agreed to declare and destroy its arsenal as a condition of the ceasefire.
The international community had good reason to set this requirement. Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.
The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.
The United States has patiently worked to preserve UNSCOM as Iraq has sought to avoid its obligation to cooperate with the inspectors. On occasion, we've had to threaten military force, and Saddam has backed down.
Faced with Saddam's latest act of defiance in late October, we built intensive diplomatic pressure on Iraq backed by overwhelming military force in the region. The UN Security Council voted 15 to zero to condemn Saddam's actions and to demand that he immediately come into compliance.
Eight Arab nations -- Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman -- warned that Iraq alone would bear responsibility for the consequences of defying the UN.
When Saddam still failed to comply, we prepared to act militarily. It was only then at the last possible moment that Iraq backed down. It pledged to the UN that it had made, and I quote, a clear and unconditional decision to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors.
I decided then to call off the attack with our airplanes already in the air because Saddam had given in to our demands. I 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, based on existing UN resolutions and Iraq's own commitments. And along with Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain, I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully, we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.
Now over the past three weeks, the UN weapons inspectors have carried out their plan for testing Iraq's cooperation. The testing period ended this weekend, and last night, UNSCOM's chairman, Richard Butler, reported the results to UN Secretary-General Annan.
The conclusions are stark, sobering and profoundly disturbing.
In four out of the five categories set forth, Iraq has failed to cooperate. Indeed, it actually has placed new restrictions on the inspectors. Here are some of the particulars.
Iraq repeatedly blocked UNSCOM from inspecting suspect sites. For example, it shut off access to the headquarters of its ruling party and said it will deny access to the party's other offices, even though UN resolutions make no exception for them and UNSCOM has inspected them in the past.
Iraq repeatedly restricted UNSCOM's ability to obtain necessary evidence. For example, Iraq obstructed UNSCOM's effort to photograph bombs related to its chemical weapons program.
It tried to stop an UNSCOM biological weapons team from videotaping a site and photocopying documents and prevented Iraqi personnel from answering UNSCOM's questions.
Prior to the inspection of another site, Iraq actually emptied out the building, removing not just documents but even the furniture and the equipment.
Iraq has failed to turn over virtually all the documents requested by the inspectors. Indeed, we know that Iraq ordered the destruction of weapons-related documents in anticipation of an UNSCOM inspection.
So Iraq has abused its final chance.
As the UNSCOM reports concludes, and again I quote, "Iraq's conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in the fields of disarmament.
"In light of this experience, and in the absence of full cooperation by Iraq, it must regrettably be recorded again that the commission is not able to conduct the work mandated to it by the Security Council with respect to Iraq's prohibited weapons program."
In short, the inspectors are saying that even if they could stay in Iraq, their work would be a sham.
Saddam's deception has defeated their effectiveness. Instead of the inspectors disarming Saddam, Saddam has disarmed the inspectors.
This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance.
And so we had to act and act now.
Let me explain why.
First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.
Second, if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community -- led by the United States -- has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday -- make no mistake -- he will use it again as he has in the past.
Third, in halting our air strikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance, not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. We will not only have allowed Saddam to shatter the inspection system that controls his weapons of mass destruction program; we also will have fatally undercut the fear of force that stops Saddam from acting to gain domination in the region.
That is why, on the unanimous recommendation of my national security team -- including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of state and the national security adviser -- I have ordered a strong, sustained series of air strikes against Iraq.
They are designed to degrade Saddam's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction, and to degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors.
At the same time, we are delivering a powerful message to Saddam. If you act recklessly, you will pay a heavy price. We acted today because, in the judgment of my military advisers, a swift response would provide the most surprise and the least opportunity for Saddam to prepare.
If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler's report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.
Also, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this weekend. For us to initiate military action during Ramadan would be profoundly offensive to the Muslim world and, therefore, would damage our relations with Arab countries and the progress we have made in the Middle East.
That is something we wanted very much to avoid without giving Iraq's a month's head start to prepare for potential action against it.
Finally, our allies, including Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, concurred that now is the time to strike. I hope Saddam will come into cooperation with the inspection system now and comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. But we have to be prepared that he will not, and we must deal with the very real danger he poses.
So we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction and work toward the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people.
First, we must be prepared to use force again if Saddam takes threatening actions, such as trying to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems, threatening his neighbors, challenging allied aircraft over Iraq or moving against his own Kurdish citizens.
The credible threat to use force, and when necessary, the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression and prevent another Gulf War.
Second, so long as Iraq remains out of compliance, we will work with the international community to maintain and enforce economic sanctions. Sanctions have cost Saddam more than $120 billion -- resources that would have been used to rebuild his military. The sanctions system allows Iraq to sell oil for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people.
We have no quarrel with them. But without the sanctions, we would see the oil-for-food program become oil-for-tanks, resulting in a greater threat to Iraq's neighbors and less food for its people.
The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world.
The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people. Bringing change in Baghdad will take time and effort. We will strengthen our engagement with the full range of Iraqi opposition forces and work with them effectively and prudently.
The decision to use force is never cost-free. Whenever American forces are placed in harm's way, we risk the loss of life. And while our strikes are focused on Iraq's military capabilities, there will be unintended Iraqi casualties.
Indeed, in the past, Saddam has intentionally placed Iraqi civilians in harm's way in a cynical bid to sway international opinion.
We must be prepared for these realities. At the same time, Saddam should have absolutely no doubt if he lashes out at his neighbors, we will respond forcefully.
Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.
And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.
Because we're acting today, it is less likely that we will face these dangers in the future.
Let me close by addressing one other issue. Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans or weaken our resolve to face him down.
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.
In the century we're leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we'll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.
Tonight, the United States is doing just that. May God bless and protect the brave men and women who are carrying out this vital mission and their families. And may God bless America.
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I don't have a ping list for this stuff.
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