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For Immediate Release
February 10, 2003
President's Remarks on Iraq at "Congress of Tomorrow" Reception
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The issue facing our nation and the world is the extension of the war on terror to places like Iraq. Prior to September the 11th, there was apparently no connection between a place like Iraq and terror. Oh, sure, he had run some terrorist networks out of his country, and that was of concern to us. But it was very difficult to link a terrorist network and Saddam Hussein to the American soil. As a matter of fact, it was very difficult to link any attack on the American soil, because prior to September the 11th, we were confident that two oceans could protect us from harm.
The world changed on September the 11th. Obviously, it changed for thousands of people's lives for whom we still mourn. But it changed for America, and it's very important that the American people understand the change. We are now a battle ground. We are vulnerable. Therefore, we cannot ignore gathering threats across the ocean. It used to be that we could pick or choose whether or not we would become involved. If we saw a threat, it may be a threat to a friend, in which case we would be involved, but never did we realize the threat could be directed at the American people.
And that changed. And therefore, when we hear of stories about weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a brutal dictator, who hates America, we need to take that seriously, and we are. And when we find out there's links between Baghdad and a killer who actually ordered the killing of one of our fellow citizens, we've got to realize the -- what that means to our future.
And that's why this administration and this country is holding the U.N. Security Council and the world to its demands that Saddam Hussein disarm. It is important for the country to realize that Saddam Hussein has fooled the world for 12 years, is used to fooling the world, is confident he can fool the world. He is -- wants the world to think that hide and seek is a game that we should play. And it's over.
You see, our country recognizes, and a lot of other countries now recognize as well, the role of the inspector is to show up and verify whether Saddam Hussein is disarming. That's the role of the inspector. The inspectors -- there's 104 of them -- the role of the inspector is not to go into a state the size of -- a country the size of California and try to find out where this guy has hid things over a 12 year period of time.
And the inspectors have gone to Iraq, and it is clear that not only is Saddam Hussein deceiving, it is clear he's not disarming. And so you'll see us over the next short period of time, working with friends and allies and the United Nations to bring that body along. And it's a moment of truth for the United Nations. The United Nations gets to decide, shortly, whether or not it is going to be relevant, in terms of keeping the peace, whether or not its words mean anything.
But one thing is certain, for the sake of peace and for the sake of security, the United States and our friends and allies, we will disarm Saddam Hussein if he will not disarm himself. (Applause.)
And so we've got a lot to do -- we've got a lot to do to leave behind a safer country and a better country and a safer and better world. But I'm glad history has called this country into action at this point in time, because there's no doubt in my mind, when we make our mind up, we can achieve a lot.
And there's no doubt in my mind, when the United States acts abroad and home, we do so based upon values -- particularly the value that we hold dear to our hearts, and that is, everybody ought to be free. I want to repeat what I said during my State of the Union to you. Liberty is not America's gift to the world. What we believe strongly, and what we hold dear, is liberty is God's gift to mankind. And we hold that value precious. And we believe it is true.
And as we work to make the world a safer place, we'll also work to make the world a freer place. And as we work to make America a freer place, we'll work to make it a more compassionate place. Big obstacles have been placed in our way. Working together, we will achieve what we need to achieve to cross those obstacles.
Thank you all for your interest. May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)
END 11:45 A.M. EST