President Says Saddam Hussein Must Leave Iraq Within 48 Hours
Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation
The Cross Hall
8:01 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached
the final days of decision. For more than a decade, the United States
and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm
the Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged to reveal and
destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending
the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of diplomacy. We
have passed more than a dozen resolutions in the United Nations
Security Council. We have sent hundreds of weapons inspectors to
oversee the disarmament of Iraq. Our good faith has not been
The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and
advantage. It has uniformly defied Security Council resolutions
demanding full disarmament. Over the years, U.N. weapon inspectors
have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged, and
systematically deceived. Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime
have failed again and again -- because we are not dealing with
Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt
that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most
lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of
mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.
The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle
East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has
aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al
The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day,
nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could
fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of
thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.
The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or
invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat it. Instead
of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety.
Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this
danger will be removed.
The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use
force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as
Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.
Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress
voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against
Iraq. America tried to work with the United Nations to address this
threat because we wanted to resolve the issue peacefully. We believe
in the mission of the United Nations. One reason the U.N. was founded
after the second world war was to confront aggressive dictators,
actively and early, before they can attack the innocent and destroy the
In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did act, in the early
1990s. Under Resolutions 678 and 687 -- both still in effect --
the United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding
Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a question of
authority, it is a question of will.
Last September, I went to the U.N. General Assembly and urged the
nations of the world to unite and bring an end to this danger. On
November 8th, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441,
finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing serious
consequences if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.
Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it
will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power. For the last
four-and-a-half months, the United States and our allies have worked
within the Security Council to enforce that Council's long-standing
demands. Yet, some permanent members of the Security Council have
publicly announced they will veto any resolution that compels the
disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the
danger, but not our resolve to meet it. Many nations, however, do have
the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a
broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the
world. The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its
responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.
In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have been doing
their part. They have delivered public and private messages urging the
dictator to leave Iraq, so that disarmament can proceed peacefully. He
has thus far refused. All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now
reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48
hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict,
commenced at a time of our choosing. For their own safety, all foreign
nationals -- including journalists and inspectors -- should leave
Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast,
and I have a message for them. If we must begin a military campaign,
it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and
not against you. As our coalition takes away their power, we will
deliver the food and medicine you need. We will tear down the
apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is
prosperous and free. In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of
aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more
executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms. The
tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near.
It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power. It is not
too late for the Iraqi military to act with honor and protect your
country by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to
eliminate weapons of mass destruction. Our forces will give Iraqi
military units clear instructions on actions they can take to avoid
being attacked and destroyed. I urge every member of the Iraqi
military and intelligence services, if war comes, do not fight for a
dying regime that is not worth your own life.
And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen
carefully to this warning. In any conflict, your fate will depend on
your action. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs
to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass
destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people. War crimes
will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no
defense to say, "I was just following orders."
Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can
know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure
will be taken to win it. Americans understand the costs of conflict
because we have paid them in the past. War has no certainty, except
the certainty of sacrifice.
Yet, the only way to reduce the harm and duration of war is to
apply the full force and might of our military, and we are prepared to
do so. If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a
deadly foe until the end. In desperation, he and terrorists groups
might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people
and our friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however,
possible. And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live
under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist threat to America and the
world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.
Our government is on heightened watch against these dangers. Just
as we are preparing to ensure victory in Iraq, we are taking further
actions to protect our homeland. In recent days, American authorities
have expelled from the country certain individuals with ties to Iraqi
intelligence services. Among other measures, I have directed
additional security of our airports, and increased Coast Guard patrols
of major seaports. The Department of Homeland Security is working
closely with the nation's governors to increase armed security at
critical facilities across America.
Should enemies strike our country, they would be attempting to
shift our attention with panic and weaken our morale with fear. In
this, they would fail. No act of theirs can alter the course or shake
the resolve of this country. We are a peaceful people -- yet we're
not a fragile people, and we will not be intimidated by thugs and
killers. If our enemies dare to strike us, they and all who have aided
them, will face fearful consequences.
We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far
greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm
on all free nations would be multiplied many times over. With these
capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the
moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet
that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our
skies and cities.
The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and
undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease
murderous dictators, whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide
and global war. In this century, when evil men plot chemical,
biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring
destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth.
Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair
notice, in formal declarations -- and responding to such enemies only
after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The
security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.
As we enforce the just demands of the world, we will also honor the
deepest commitments of our country. Unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe
the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty. And when
the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle
East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.
The United States, with other countries, will work to advance
liberty and peace in that region. Our goal will not be achieved
overnight, but it can come over time. The power and appeal of human
liberty is felt in every life and every land. And the greatest power
of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence, and turn the creative
gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace.
That is the future we choose. Free nations have a duty to defend
our people by uniting against the violent. And tonight, as we have
done before, America and our allies accept that responsibility.
Good night, and may God continue to bless America.