In a speech on Monday night in Cincinnati that was followed
around the world, US President Bush argued that the US has
"an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring" since
Saddam Hussein could attack the United States or its allies
"on any given day" with chemical or biological weapons.
In a half-hour indictment of Mr. Hussein, President Bush
likened the threat the US faces from Iraq to the Cuban
missile crisis. The comparison was intended, his aides
acknowledged, to give the confrontation a sense of urgency
and to explain why the United States could wait only weeks or
months to take action.
The president charged that Iraq's fleet of unmanned aerial
vehicles was ultimately intended to deliver chemical and
biological weapons to cities in the United States. The
president also built a case that Mr. Hussein had extensive
ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. He noted that a
very senior unnamed Al Qaeda leader received medical
treatment in Baghdad this year.
"We know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror, and gives
assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle
East peace," Bush said in reference to the $25,000 payments
Saddam distributes to relatives of Palestinian suicide
He said that other means have been tried. "After 11 years
during which we have tried containment, sanctions,
inspections, even selected military action, the end result is
that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons
and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is
moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon."
Mr. Bush called Mr. Hussein a dictator, "a student of Stalin"
and a murderer, and said that the only resolution is Mr.
Hussein's permanent removal from office.
"I hope that this will not require military action, but it
may," he said, warning America that Mr. Hussein could attempt
"cruel and desperate measures" in response. He warned Iraq's
generals to ignore any orders to use weapons of mass
destruction or be treated as war criminals.
Mr. Bush insisted that doing nothing "is the riskiest of all
options," and quoted John F. Kennedy's words during the
missile crisis at length to underscore his point that it
would be foolish to wait for a determined American enemy to
"Facing clear evidence or peril, we cannot wait for the final
proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a
mushroom cloud," president Bush said. He used the image of
September 11 to illustrate that a Saddam equipped with non-
conventional weapons could cause far greater damage.
After Mr. Bush spoke, the White House released spy satellite
photographs showing how extensively a crucial Iraqi nuclear
facility had been rebuilt since the United States bombed it
Mr. Bush sought to answer those who argue that the threat is
not that urgent and that a war now will destabilize the
Middle East and distract from the war on terrorism. He
rejected those contentions and argued that "the threat from
Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers
of our age in one place."
He spoke just as Congress is to vote on a resolution
authorizing US military action, and as the United Nations
Security Council is debating how to confront Baghdad. Mr.
Bush described this as a struggle for the true identity of
the United Nations, and made it clear that if it failed to
disarm Iraq, then he would -- with the help of a coalition of
nations he did not specify.
Mr. Bush stressed that his argument is with Mr. Hussein and
his supporters, but not with the Iraqi people. He spoke of a
free Iraq, in which "the oppression of Kurds, Assyrians,
Turkomans, Shiites, Sunnis and others will be lifted."
He spoke of maintaining a "unified Iraq," and said "if
military action is necessary, the United States and our
allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy and
create the institutions of liberty." He did not offer details
of how the various peoples living in Iraq would be brought
In his speech, Mr. Bush spoke only about Iraq. There were no
references to the other nations Mr. Bush has called members
of an "axis of evil," North Korea and Iran.
Mr. Bush's speech caps a week-long effort to sell his case
against Saddam Hussein. Both houses of Congress are expected
to give the president discretion to attack Iraq when they
vote, probably by the end of this week.
Starting with his speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12,
Mr. Bush began to win support for attacking Iraq, and the
White House used a 1998 Congressional vote calling for regime
change in Iraq to make the case that Mr. Hussein has only
grown more threatening.
"The strategy," one White House official said in recent days,
"is to use the Congress as leverage, leverage to bring around
the public, and leverage to make it clear to the UN that it's
not only George Bush who is prepared to draw a line in the
sand, it's the whole country."
Bush also devoted a chunk of his speech in Cincinnati, Ohio
to the possibility of Saddam teaming up with Palestinian
terrorists or other terrorist groups to distribute deadly