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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jim Wilkinson
Jim Wilkinson
Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications
February 11, 2004

Jim Wilkinson
Hello everyone. The President just finished his speech so why don't we get started with your questions.

Tom, from Winchester, Virginia writes:
If Saddam had no Weapons of Mass Destruction, no capability to create them, or other dangerous biologicalchemical wepaons then Why did he not let in the United Nations Inspectors over the past 10 years? If "Nothing" was there-if he lets them in-then He and Iraq are left alone.

Jim Wilkinson
Good point. The international community -- including the UN, UN inspectors, and intelligence services from other nations -- stated that Saddam Hussein had large quantities of WMD that he failed to account for. Saddam Hussein repeatedly defied the international community over a decade or more. He defied 17 UN resolutions. He stonewalled UN inspectors, played cat and mouse games with the inspectors, and then he threw the inspectors out of Iraq. War was the President's last option. And that's why he exhausted his diplomatic options, including yet another UN Resolution. However, given a final opportunity to come clean Saddam Hussein chose defiance and war. I would point out that Iraq was a serious threat and our Nation is safer because he is gone.

Seth, from American University, Washington, D.C. writes:
Considering the success of America's War on Terrorism, how much of a threat do we stil face concerning such weapons? How significant are the concessions from Libya and the better cooperation from Iran? Thank you for your time.

Jim Wilkinson
The President spoke today about the new and challenging threats we face from WMD -- especially from the shadowy, secretive, black market of weapons material that we are reading so much about in recent days.

As the President said today, the threat has changed. In the past the enemies of our nation needed large armies, navies and air forces to threaten our nation. And in the Cold War, while we lived under the threat of WMD, we all believed that the foreign policy doctrine of mutually assured destruction and these weapons' deterrent factors would mean these weapons would only be used as a last resort.

What has changed today is that terrorists would seek to use these weapons as their very first resort if given the chance. If the terrorists will use airplanes to attack us, what makes you think they wouldn't use a biological or chemical or nuclear weapon against us if they could?

That's why the President today announced several new policy steps to help meet this threat by modernizing proliferation laws, restricting the sale and transport of nuclear technologies and equipment, closing loopholes that allow regimes to pursue WMD under a false cloak of legitimacy, and by expanding international efforts to secure and destroy weapons materials.

As for Libya, the President welcomed the historic decision by Colonel Qadhafi's regime to end his WMD programs. And he hopes other regimes will follow their example. Taking this WMD "off the streets" is an important success, and I can tell you that 55,000 pounds of Libyan WMD materials is already safely tucked away at Oak Ridge lab down in Tennessee -- safely away from potential use against our nation and the rest of the world.

Important point here. The President's national security strategy gives regimes a choice. They can choose to pursue WMD at great peril and cost. Or they can renounce terrorism and WMD, improve the lives of their citizens and be on a path to better relations with the international community.

Brian, from Hampton, VA writes:
Will we need to prove that specific weapons of mass destruction exists before we combat them, andor better to just put up our defenses in case they do?

Jim Wilkinson
Well, we know they exist.

Pick up most any newspaper these days and you can read all about the shadowy and secret black market weapons networks that the President talked about today. Through infiltration of the AQ Khan Network, for example, we were able to track a shipment of advanced centrifuge parts that were headed for Libya -- and in joint cooperation with our German and Italian allies we were able to seize this shipment filled with several containers of sophisticated centrifuges manufactured in Malaysia.

Also, think back to the pictures from Halabja where Saddam used his WMD on his own people.

President Bush has indeed improved our defenses, through the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state and local agencies and organizations. Our ports, streets, borders and air travel are safer than ever before. America owes a debt of gratitude to those who work the long and lonely hours protecting all of us.

But the President believes we shouldn't only play defense against those who seek to do us harm. That's why he wants to aggressively seek out threats from terror networks and others and take on those threats before they ever reach our defensive systems and networks.

Today's policy announcements to strengthen and modernize nonproliferation regulations and practices are just the latest action by this President to go on offense against these new and complex threats.

Benn, from Washinton writes:
It sounds like the President wants the US to leave the NPT-- a true, multilateral treaty that has been debated and approved by all but three countries of the world-- and instead replace it with the PSI. I'm concerned about that, since the PSI is most of a gentleman's agreement and doesn't carry the force of international will or legitimacy. How does this improve our security?

Jim Wilkinson
On the subject of the NPT, the President was very clear today that he wants to close a glaring loophole that lets regimes develop WMD under the false cloak of legitimacy.

As the President said today, lets remember that the NPT put in place more than 30 years ago to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons beyond the countries that already had them. With the NPT, countries with nuclear weapons agreed to help other nations with peaceful nuclear energy if those nations agreed to forgoe the pursuit of WMD.

But as the President also pointed out today, the NPT has a glaring loophole that has been exploited. For example, regimes like North Korea and Iran have been allowed to produce nuclear substances that can be used to build bombs under the cover of what they would call civilian nuclear programs.

To close this loophole, the President today called on the world's leading nuclear exporters to help ensure that other states who choose to renounce activities -- such as enrichment and reprocessing -- have access to the fuel they need for civilian purposes. The President noted today that activities such as enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for a country that only seeks to harness nuclear energy for peaceful reasons.

Richard, from Pennsylvania writes:
How can anyone say there are no weapons of mass destruction when during the program on the life of Sadam shows pictures of the thousands he killed using such weapons? Thank you Mr President for taking the war out of this Country back to where it started. Now we need to fight the war within this Country with those trying to take our Constitution from us. Let us who served our Nation continue to defend it from within by keeping the right to bear arms alive and well.

I also want to say that I am proud of you having served in the Military and not a draft dodger like Clonton was. Since when has military service been a requirement for the Presidency anyhow? Thank you again for not marching along side Jand Fonda like Kerry did.

Jim Wilkinson
On your question on WMD, I couldn't agree more.

How can anyone argue that Saddam did not seek or have the intent to threaten the world with WMD when the world has seen the 17 or so UN resolutions on the issue - when the world has seen the documentaries on venues like the Discovery Channel or History Channel of Saddam gassing his own people - when the world has seen the pictures of the gas victims at Halabja - and when the world has seen the photos of the mass graves in Iraq.

Jeffrey, from Cherry Hill, NJ writes:
What are the lessons learned from the operational exercises of the 11 nation Proliferation Security Initiative launched last May, and to what extent did those operations play a role in last October's siezure of a shipment of uranium enrichment equipment bound for Libya? How, if at all, did this interdiction effort relate to the network of A.Q. Khan? Does publicity of these efforts help or hurt, like shining a bright light on feasting rats, and then they scatter?

Jim Wilkinson
Let me first tell those who don't speak "Acronym" what the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) actually does. This program was announced by President Bush in May 2003, and it currently focuses on working with our allies to take practical steps to interdict proliferation shipments of WMD, delivery systems and their related materials at sea, in the air, and on land.

The lessons from the PSI initiative are that it is an effective mechanism to take dangerous weapons materials off the streets and out of the hands of those who might seek to do us harm.

The PSI initiative led directly to the seizure of the ship BBC China last year, a ship full of weapons related materials bound for Libya.

The President announced today that he wants to strengthen the PSI to help increase the coordination of law enforcement organizations. As the President said in his remarks today -- which I urge you to read in their entirety on this site -- he wants PSI participants and others to use the Interpol and all other means possible to bring to justice those who traffic in deadly weapons. The President wants to act on every lead to shut down their labs, seize their materials, freeze their assets and get them out of the business of threatening us with WMD.

Abby, from Lyndonville, New York writes:
Mr. Wilkinson, Is it not still possible that Iraq is hoarding Weapons of Mass Destruction? I know that they haven't been found yet, but are there not any more possible places where they can be located?

Is there anything that the Bush Administration can do to calm the Democrats and certain Republicans in the non-WMD scare? Do you this this will affect the elections?

Thank you for taking our questions. This is a wonderful program

Thanks, Abby, ninth grade

P.S. Tell Bush I'd LOVE to meet him :)

Jim Wilkinson
Hello there Abby...

Let me tell you, when I was in the ninth grade I sure didn't know a lot about these issues and these policies. Can I work for you when you become famous? :) Your parents and your teachers must be proud.

As for this program, you have a man named Jimmy Orr to thank. He has made it his personal mission to help give as many citizens across this nation and the world access to this White House.

As for Saddam's WMD, we know he had the intent to use WMD. We know he had used WMD on his own people. We know the UN and their inspectors passed resolution after resolution to attempt to get him to disarm. We know he kicked out the UN inspectors and hid his activities from them. And we know that when given one more chance by the UN Saddam chose war.

You may have recently seen that Dr. David Kay testified that there is still much more work to do on the ground in Iraq. The Iraq Survey Group -- which was created to account for Iraq's WMD -- continues their work and they now have a new leader Charles Duelfer who will continue to work to account for Saddam's WMD.

As David Kay also pointed out in his interim report last October, the facts are clear that Saddam Hussein was in violation of the UN resolutions on WMD.

As for meeting President Bush, can't guarantee that. But tell your parents -- and your teachers -- that if they come down to DC with you then we will make sure that you, your family, and your teachers get a personal White House tour.

Jim Wilkinson
Ok everyone, need to run. Great questions and don't forget to watch my boss, Dr. Condoleezza Rice tonight on Fox News (Special Report with Brit Hume), on CNN (Larry King), and on PBS (Jim Lehrer) ... And don't forget to read the full transcript of the President's remarks today. Talk to you soon.