For Immediate Release
January 29, 2003
Excerpts on Iraq From Grand Rapids Speech
Click here for the full transcript
The war on terror is not confined strictly to the al Qaeda that we're chasing. The war on terror extends beyond just a shadowy terrorist network. The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein and his willingness to terrorize himself.
Saddam Hussein has terrorized his own people. He's terrorized his own neighborhood. He is a danger not only to countries in the region, but as I explained last night, because of al Qaeda connections, because of his history, he's a danger to the American people. And we've got to deal with him. We've got to deal with him before it is too late. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, during a period when a lot of us thought oceans would protect us forever from gathering threats far from our land, the thought of containing somebody like Saddam Hussein made sense -- so we could step back in America and say, gosh, well, don't worry, he's only a threat to somebody in the neighborhood, and we might pick or choose whether or not we're going to help in the neighborhood.
But, see, our fellow citizens must understand that September the 11th, 2001 changed the equation. It's changed the strategic outlook of this country, because we're not protected by oceans. The battlefield is here. And therefore, we must address threats today as they gather, before they become acute.
There's a reason why the world asked Saddam Hussein to disarm -- for 12 years. (Laughter.) And the reason why is because he's dangerous. He's used them. He tortures his own people. He's gassed his own people. He's attacked people in the neighborhood.
What's changed for America -- besides the fact that he's still dangerous and can create havoc with friends in the neighborhood -- is that there's now a shadowy terrorist network which he could use as a forward army, attacking his worst enemy and never leave a fingerprint behind, with deadly, deadly weapons. And that's what's changed.
We're having an honest debate in this country, and we should, about peace and how to achieve the peace. It should be clear to you now, though, that in my judgment you don't contain Saddam Hussein. You don't hope that therapy will somehow change his evil mind -- (laughter) -- that you deal with Saddam Hussein. I hope we can do this peacefully.
I went to the United Nations for a reason. One, I wanted the United Nations to be something other than an empty debating society. (Applause.) I wanted it to address this threat. By a 15-0 vote in the Security Council, they said, yes, it's a problem and he must disarm. But the fundamental question is, when. There's a lot of focus on the inspectors, and we wish them well. But the role of the inspectors is not to play hide-and-seek with Saddam Hussein in a country the size of California. There's 108 inspectors running around a country trying to stumble into something; 108 people who are being misled by a person who's made a history of fooling inspectors.
See, the role of the inspectors are not to play "gotcha." He's better at playing "gotcha," obviously -- for 12 years he's played "gotcha." The role of the inspectors are to watch Iraq disarm. That's the role of the inspectors. They're to report back and say, gosh, he's started getting rid of all his mustard gas or sarin gas. He started getting rid of these weapons of mass destruction. He's now getting rid of the biological laboratories. That's the role of the inspectors.
And it's clear he's not disarming. I'm convinced that this still can be done peacefully. I certainly hope so. The idea of committing troops is my last option, not my first. I understand the terrible price of war. I understand what it means to put somebody into combat. I know what it means to hug mothers and wives. But I've got to tell you something. I've thought long and hard about this. The risks of doing nothing, the risks of assuming the best from Saddam Hussein, it's just not a risk worth taking.
So I call upon the world to come together and insist that this dangerous man disarm. But should they choose not to continue to pressure Saddam, and should he continue to defy the world, for the sake of our peace, for the sake of the security, this country will lead a coalition of other willing nations and we will disarm Saddam Hussein. If need be, if war is brought upon us like I said last night, I want to assure you, particularly those who wear the uniform and those who have a loved one in the military, we will commit the full force and might of the United States military. And for the name of peace, we will prevail. (Applause.)
We will free people. This great, powerful nation is motivated not by power for power's sake, but because of our values. If everybody matters, if every life counts, then we should hope everybody has the great God's gift of freedom. We go into Iraq to disarm the country. We will also go in to make sure that those who are hungry are fed, those who need health care will have health care, those youngsters who need education will get education. But most of all, we will uphold our values. And the biggest value we hold dear is the value of freedom. (Applause.) As I said last night, freedom and liberty, they are not America's gifts to the world. They are God's gift to humanity. We hold that thought dear to our hearts.
This is a great nation. America is a strong nation. America is a nation full of people who are compassionate. America is a nation that is willing to serve causes greater than ourselves. There's no question we face challenges ahead of us -- challenges at home, challenges abroad. But as I said last night, history has called the right nation into action. History has called the United States into action, and we will not let history down.