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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
Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications
October 20, 2004

Jim Wilkinson is here and will start answering your questions soon. Thanks for logging on...

Jim Wilkinson

Cade, from New York writes:
Earlier this month, Charles Duelfer, an American weapons inspector for Iraq, released a report saying that Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpiles just after the 1991 Gulf War and that its ability to produce such weapons had significantly eroded by the time of the American invasion in

2003. Yet, in a New York Times story on the Duelfer report, you were quoted as saying "There is no doubt that Saddam was a threat to our nation, and there is no doubt that he had W.M.D. capability, and the Duelfer report is very clear on these points." Isn't it true that the Duelfer report quite clearly explained that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction at the time of the American invasion? Considering that your administration's primary justification for the invasion was that Iraq possessed WMD, shouldn't it admit to making a mistake?"

Jim Wilkinson

Good to hear from you. And if you are a Yankees fan like me then I hope you are getting ready for the big game tonight.

Cade, sorry in advance for the long answer to your question, but as for the Duelfer report, I urge you to actually go online and read the full report. While the report does show that no stockpiles were found, the Duelfer report provides extensive new documentation that Saddam Hussein was a threat to international peace and security, and was in violation of U.N. resolutions. The report shows that Saddam Hussein (1)retained the intent and capability for WMD; (2) was pursuing an aggressive strategy to subvert the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program and bring down U.N. sanctions through illicit finance and procurement schemes; (3)intended to resume WMD efforts once U.N. sanctions were eliminated; and (4) was in material breach of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions -- including Resolution 1441.

The report provides details and extensive documentation of Saddam Hussein’s efforts to hinder international inspectors, preserve his WMD capabilities, and reconstitute his WMD programs. These efforts included an aggressive strategy to use illicit finance and procurement schemes to subvert and bring down U.N. sanctions. Through these schemes, Saddam Hussein bought illegal materials to better position the regime to restart its WMD programs once sanctions were removed. The report shows that Saddam Hussein directed his Foreign Ministry to formulate and implement a strategy aimed at United Nations Security Council members and international public opinion to end sanctions and undermine the subsequent Oil-For-Food program.

The report shows that Saddam Hussein personally approved the recipients of an oil voucher distribution system designed to influence other nations and individuals to lift U.N. sanctions and help Saddam import prohibited materials.

The report shows that Saddam Hussein created a network of front companies and relationships to help pursue the regime’s military reconstitution efforts, and evade or end U.N. sanctions.

The report shows that United Nations sanctions were eroding and increasingly ineffective. The report shows Saddam Hussein, through illicit streams, amassed about $11 billion in revenue from the early 1990s to 2003 outside U.N.-approved methods.

Duelfer reports that Saddam Hussein intended to reconstitute his WMD programs once sanctions were eliminated. And Duelfer also reports that Saddam Hussein was importing illegal military and dual-use goods in violation of U.N. sanctions.

In some of the more interesting conclusions found in the report -- which I urge you to go online and read in its entirety -- Saddam Hussein believed WMD was essential to his survival. The report shows that Saddam Hussein believed that WMD had saved his regime in two instances. He believed that WMD halted the Iranian ground offensives during the Iran-Iraq war. And he believed WMD deterred Coalition forces from pressing on to Baghdad during the Gulf War.

Other interesting items Duelfer reports are that Saddam Hussein intended to resume his WMD efforts when sanctions were lifted, and he maintained the expertise and knowledge to do so. Between 1991 and 2003, the Iraq Intelligence Service maintained a set of undeclared covert labs to research and test chemicals and poisons, primarily for intelligence operations. The program included the use of human subjects for testing. And the labs were not found by the U.N., or declared to the U.N. At the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam Hussein probably had the capability to produce sulfur mustard within six months, and the capability to produce nerve agents in significant quantities within two years.

The report shows that Saddam Hussein had also worked to preserve the intellectual capital needed to restart his nuclear programs. Saddam Hussein personally directed efforts to hide and preserve documentation associated with Iraq’s nuclear program. And the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) found a number of post-1995 activities that would have aided the reconstitution of the nuclear weapons program once sanctions were lifted.

Finally, the ISG assessed that the regime clearly intended to reconstitute long-range delivery systems, and that the systems were potentially for WMD. Iraq had increased its efforts to build weapons delivery systems, and authorized its scientists to design missiles with ranges in excess of 150 km – in direct violation of UNSCR 687. Although not in production, the ISG uncovered Iraqi plans for ballistic missiles with ranges from 400 to 1000 km, and for a 1000 km range cruise missile.

Cade, sorry again for the long answer, but you asked.... :)

Jeffrey, from Washington writes:
Given that we're engaged in a war on terror, doesn't your boss, Condoleeza Rice, have better things to do than engage in what amount to Bush administration campign stops in the key battleground states, as she has repeadtedly in recent weeks?

Jim Wilkinson

Glad you asked. Here are the facts on Dr. Rice’s travel and speaking engagements.

First, she has preserved the nonpolitical and nonpartisan nature of the National Security Council. However, I will state the obvious that part of the job today of national security adviser is to discuss our nation's national security policy. Dr. Rice has continued the nonpolitical tradition of the post, but being nonpolitical doesn't mean being non-accessible. At a period in U.S. history when national security is on the minds of the American people more than ever, she's proud to discuss the president's foreign policy agenda, and she considers it important to make herself accessible to citizens in their communities who have questions of their own.

She has received more than 4,000 requests since the beginning of the Administration. She has given 68 speeches since the beginning of Administration in 15 states and the District of Columbia, including states like California, New York, Texas, and Kansas. In 2001 she gave 16 speeches; in 2002 she gave 18 speeches; in 2003 she delivered 17 speeches; and this year she has given 17 speeches. She gives these speeches to nonpartisan groups, groups such as World Affairs Councils around the country which have foreign policy experts from all across the spectrum visit often.

Only those who think nothing worthwhile happens outside of Washington would attack the national security adviser for accepting invitations to discuss national security policy with nonpartisan audiences in America's heartland.

Jeri, from Omaha, NE writes:
I would like to get a copy of the speech President Bush gave in New Jersey a couple of days ago. Since many important points in this speech unfortunately weren't made in the first presidential debate, it's important that more people are able to access it. Is this speech posted on the Internet? Where? Thank you.

Jim Wilkinson

All you have to do is click (here). Thanks!

Cheryl, from Citrus Heights, CA writes:
I'm worried about Iraq and my son. He's 24, a college graduate, and I keep hearing the possibility of a draft to send young men and women to Iraq. I feel our forces in Iraq are far too outstretched. How will President Bush deal with Iraq in order to avoid a draft, and for that matter, an armed forces mutiny of those who keep getting recalled?

Jim Wilkinson

The President has spoken clearly on this issue -- There will be no draft. The all-volunteer military is performing admirably. Click here to read the President's recent statement on this issue (here).

Elizabeth, from Detroit writes:
can citzens write letters of encouragement to the soliders in iraq ? and if so wear would we send them too ?

Jim Wilkinson

Thanks so much for your interest in sending notes to the troops. Let me tell you that they appreciate every single note, care package, banner, box of sweets, or CD that is sent over. The conditions on the front lines of freedom can be tough and your encouragement will help make the difference in some soldier's day or week. I recommend that you first contact any local base you may live near that has troops deployed. There is nothing like a letter from someone near your hometown. I would also recommend that you visit the Department of Defense's web site at Their should be information on that site about ways to contact troops. Thanks again for what you do Elizabeth.

Jordan, from oody writes:
My question is about why did we attack Iraq insted of afganistan

Jim Wilkinson

Where have you been?

In case you missed it, we attacked the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 with a mighty coalition in the war against terror. The Taliban regime, you will remember, is the very regime which harbored al Qaeda, sheltered terrorist training camps, etc. We removed that regime and now Afghanistan has just had its first free elections.

Austin, from San Pedro, CA writes:
Why can't WE do more for the tradegy in Sudan?

Jim Wilkinson

Agree with you totally -- Sudan is a tragedy and we are working hard to help the people of Darfur. Sorry for the long answer here, but I want to give everyone else some background on this issue.

First, here is a situation report for you on the diplomatic efforts. The Security Council Resolution on Darfur passed on September 18 with 11 votes in favor and four abstentions. Secretary Powell stated in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 9 that genocide has taken place in Darfur. The leaders of Libya, Chad, Egypt, and Nigeria met in Tripoli, Libya on October 17 to discuss ways to end the fighting and prepare for the resumption of African Union-sponsored peace talks due to resume in Abuja, Nigeria on October 21. The North-South peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya have made progress on several issues, including Joint/Integrated Units, collaborative approach of handling other armed groups, and other aspects of a permanent cease-fire. Talks are continuing at the technical level. SPLM Chairman Garang and Sudanese Vice President Taha ended their own talks on October 16, but pledged to resume after Ramadan.

The Administration has led the effort of the international community to address the Darfur crisis. As the President noted in his statement on September 9, the world cannot ignore the suffering of over one million people. The United States will continue to help relieve suffering, as we demand that the Jinjaweed disarm, and that the Government, Jinjaweed, and Darfur rebels end the violence.

Secretary of State Powell has the overall lead on Sudan, supported by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Natsios who has the lead on humanitarian issues, and Ambassador Danforth who has the lead on U.N. issues.

We are encouraged by the progress being made at the North-South peace talks, which resumed on October 7 in Nairobi, Kenya. The parties resolved several of the cease-fire issues and issued a joint communiqué on October 16. The two parties agreed that technical committees will continue cease-fire discussions and also commence talks on implementation modalities. They also recommitted themselves to finalize and conclude the comprehensive peace agreement.

We see the IGAD peace process as essential to bringing peace and stability to Sudan as well as providing the basis for an enduring political solution to the crisis in Darfur. The African Union (AU)-sponsored Darfur peace talks will resume in Abuja, Nigeria, on October 21. We will have a senior observer at these talks.

The United States remains focused on providing the wherewithal for the AU to dispatch additional forces to the region as quickly as possible. The AU is nearing completion of a deployment plan for its expanded force in Darfur. It continues discussions among its members for troop contributions.

We have contracted to provide logistical support for the expanded African Union force of approximately 3,500 troops, including building camps, maintaining vehicles and radios, procuring office equipment, and providing transport of equipment or personnel. We have now obligated an additional $20.6 million for immediate support of the AU and are urging other donor nations to help according to their expertise and resources.

The United States has been in the forefront of providing assistance to the people of Darfur and will remain so; $302 million has been provided as of now exceeding our pledges through all of 2005. We call on other nations to meet their pledges and dig deeper to meet the basic needs of the victims in Darfur.

Also, we commend the work of the NGOs and UN agencies which, with substantial U.S. funding and support, have reached more than 1.3 million of the displaced civilians in Darfur with life-saving food, shelter, and health services. This is an impressive achievement though much remains to be done.

R.D., from Furman University writes:
Dear Jim Wilkinson, What is the administration doing with regards to the situation in Darfur, Sudan? It just seems like the international community is disregarding the genocide that is taking place there. Why doesn't the State Department really get serious about ending this? thanks for your hard work.

Jim Wilkinson

Thanks for your question and kind words. Please see my answer on Sudan to a previous question.

Jim Wilkinson
Thanks everyone for the great questions today. Talk to you soon.

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