THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Good morning.
Welcome to the White House. I want to thank the members of my Cabinet
who have joined us. I want to thank the members of Congress who are
here on the stage. I want to thank the members of Congress who are
here in the audience. I'm honored to have you here.
The resolution I'm about to sign symbolizes the united purpose of
our nation, expresses the considered judgment of the Congress, and
marks an important event in the life of America. The 107th Congress is
one of the few called by history to authorize military action to defend
our country and the cause of peace.
This is among the most serious and difficult decisions a legislator
can face. Members of both Houses, both political parties, have
deliberated with care, and they have spoken with clarity on behalf of
the American people. We will face our dangers squarely, and we will
face them unafraid.
With this resolution, Congress has now authorized the use of
force. I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force
will not become necessary. Yet, confronting the threat posed by Iraq
is necessary, by whatever means that requires. Either the Iraqi regime
will give up its weapons of mass destruction, or, for the sake of
peace, the United States will lead a global coalition to disarm that
regime. If any doubt our nation's resolve, our determination, they
would be unwise to test it.
The Iraqi regime is a serious and growing threat to peace. On the
commands of a dictator, the regime is armed with biological and
chemical weapons, possesses ballistic missiles, promotes international
terror and seeks nuclear weapons. The same dictator has a history of
mass murder, striking other nations without warning; of intense hatred
for America; and of contempt for the demands of the civilized world.
If Iraq gains even greater destructive power, nations in the Middle
East would face blackmail, intimidation or attack. Chaos in that
region would be felt in Europe and beyond. And Iraq's combination of
weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorist groups and ballistic
missiles would threaten the peace and security of many nations. Those
who choose to live in denial may eventually be forced to live in fear.
Every nation that shares in the benefits of peace also shares in
the duty of defending the peace. The time has arrived once again for
the United Nations to live up to the purposes of its founding to
protect our common security. The time has arrived once again for free
nations to face up to our global responsibilities and confront a
In 1991, Iraq was given 15 days to fully disclose all weapons of
mass destruction. The dictator has successfully defied that obligation
for 4,199 days. The dictator has -- and during this 11-year period
of his dictatorship the regime has become highly skilled in the
techniques of deception. It has blocked effective inspections of
so-called presidential sites -- actually 12 square miles with
hundreds of structures where sensitive materials could be hidden. The
regime has forged documents, disabled surveillance cameras, and
developed mobile weapons facilities to keep ahead of any inspector.
The Iraqi regime has frustrated the work of international
inspectors by firing warning shots, by tapping the telephones,
confiscating their documents, blocking aerial inspection flights and
barring access to sites for hours while evidence is carried away. At
one location, inspectors actually witnessed Iraqi guards moving files,
burning documents, and then dumping the ashes in a river. Aboard U.N.
helicopters, Iraqi escorts have physically struggled with inspectors to
keep them from approaching certain areas.
For Iraq, the old weapons inspection process was little more than a
game, in which cheating was never punished. And that game is over.
The ploys and promises of the Iraqi regime no longer matter. The
regime is free to continue saying whatever it chooses; its fate depends
entirely on what it actually does.
Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq's violations of Security
Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is
to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to
America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do
this without any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military
action by the international community, it has the obligation to prove
compliance with all the world's demands. It's the obligation of Iraq.
Compliance will begin with a accurate and full and complete
accounting for all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons materials,
as well as missiles and other means of delivery anywhere in Iraq.
Failure to make such an accounting would be further indication of the
regime's bad faith and aggressive intent. Inspectors must have access
to any site in Iraq, at any time, without pre-clearance, without delay,
without exceptions. Inspectors must be permitted to operate under new,
effective rules. And the Iraqi regime must accept those rules without
qualification or negotiation.
To ensure that we learn the truth, the regime must allow witnesses
to its illegal activities to be interviewed outside of the country.
These witnesses must be free to bring their entire families with them,
so they're beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein's terror, Saddam
Hussein's torture, Saddam Hussein's murder.
In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass
destruction, Iraq, in accordance with U.N. Security Council demands,
must end its support for terrorism. As the U.N. demands, Iraq must
cease the persecution of its civilian population. As the U.N. demands,
Iraq must stop all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program.
Iraq must also release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including
an American pilot whose fate is still unknown.
The United States takes the resolutions of the Security Council
seriously. We urge other nations to do the same. We're working to
build the broadest possible coalition to enforce the demands of the
world on the Iraqi regime. I've told all the members of the United
Nations, America will play its historic role in defeating aggressive
I hope the good people of Iraq will remember our history, and not
pay attention to the hateful propaganda of their government. America
has never sought to dominate, has never sought to conquer. We've
always sought to liberate and to free. Our desire is to help Iraqi
citizens find the blessings of liberty within their own culture and
their own traditions. The Iraqi people cannot flourish under a
dictator that oppresses them and threatens them. Gifted people of Iraq
will flourish if and when oppression is lifted.
When Iraq has a government committed to the freedom and well-being
of its people, America, along with many other nations, will share a
responsibility to help Iraq reform and prosper. And we will meet our
responsibilities. That's our pledge to the Iraqi people.
Like the members of Congress here today, I've carefully weighed the
human cost of every option before us. If we go into battle, as a last
resort, we will confront an enemy capable of irrational
miscalculations, capable of terrible deeds. As the Commander-in-Chief,
I know the risks to our country. I'm fully responsible to the young
men and women in uniform who may face these risks. Yet those risks
only increase with time. And the costs could be immeasurably higher in
years to come.
To shrink from this threat would bring a false sense of temporary
peace, leading to a future in which millions live or die at the
discretion of a brutal dictator. That's not true peace, and we won't
The terrorist attacks of last year put our country on notice.
We're not immune from the dangers and hatreds of the world. In the
events of September the 11th, we resolved as a nation to oppose every
threat from any source that could bring sudden tragedy to the American
people. This nation will not live at the mercy of any foreign power or
plot. Confronting grave dangers is the surest path to peace and
security. This is the expectation of the American people, and the
decision of their elected representatives.
I thank the Congress for a thorough debate and an overwhelming
statement of support. The broad resolve of our government is now clear
to all, clear to everyone to see: We will defend our nation, and lead
others in defending the peace.