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'War is Horrible. But...': Speech by US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, January 21

'Remarks, Deputy Secretary Of State Richard L. Armitage, at the US Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. January 21, 2003'; US Department of State, Office of the Spokesman.

I must say that this is a very different audience from one I addressed last week. Last week, I spoke at the US Naval Academy. And while you are not a bad-looking crowd - there is nothing quite like facing 4,000 Midshipmen in uniform. It was an inspiring occasion, actually. It's remarkable to look out at all of those faces and realize that these people - all somewhere between the ages of 18 and 23 or so - these young men and women have chosen to enter the military service at a time when this country is at war, when they can reasonably expect to be involved in some way in operations related to the war against terrorism. And while I was not really aware of what I was getting into when I went to the Naval Academy - a mystery that was not fully cleared up for me until I arrived in Vietnam - these Midshipmen seemed very well aware of just what is at stake for them - and for the nation - and the significance of the choice they have made. They are taking a stand. Of course, they were also well aware of the looming possibility of another confrontation. I sincerely hope that not one of those young men and young women - or any of our other service members - is sent into harm's way in Iraq. That is why we at the Department of State - and indeed, across the government - are working hard to avoid. The next few days - and the next few weeks - will show us if we are going to be able to prevent such a scenario from unfolding. And I wish I were here to tell you that I am optimistic.

The events of the past week can be hard to interpret. It is safe to say that the discovery of 16 chemical warheads and new documents about nuclear and missile programs is an important development. It signals that the inspectors are doing their best to do their jobs - that they are beating in at least some small way the considerable odds Saddam Hussein has stacked against them.

But finding these 16 warheads just raises a basic question: Where are the other 29,984? Because that is how many empty chemical warheads the UN Special Commission estimated he had - and he has never accounted for. And where are the 550 artillery shells that are filled with mustard gas? And the 400 biological weapons-capable aerial bombs? And the 26,000 liters of anthrax? The botulinum, the VX, the Sarin gas that the UN said he has?

We don't know, because Saddam Hussein has never accounted for any of it. Instead, he gave us a three-foot stack of papers devoid of the most important information - making this his third such declaration that has failed to be full, currently accurate and complete, as required by the UN Security Council. As Dr. Blix just said: "We feel the declaration has not answered a great many questions of the past which still remain open...We have some way to go."

This is not about America - and what we may or may not be prepared to do. This is about Saddam Hussein - and what he is prepared to do - and what he is not doing right now. He is not meeting the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, as Dr. Blix said over the weekend. He is not cooperating with the international community. And he certainly is not disarming his nation of the biological and chemical weapons and nuclear capabilities he continues to hold and to develop.

Now, there are those who still call for some kind of "smoking gun." And I would understand if, over the past decade of work, the United Nations had only confirmed the existence of a total of a few dozen warheads - that it might be time to breathe a sigh of relief. But there are thousands and thousands of weapons - tons of materials and precursors - and hundreds of key documents, including a credible list of Iraqi scientists - that remain unaccounted for. And not only has the United Nations documented their existence - the Iraqi regime has, unfortunately, demonstrated it, against Iran and against Iraqi Kurds in Halabja, where the population continues to show severe ill effects of the use of chemical agents.

In the 1980s, the IAEA discovered and attempted to stop Iraq's nuclear weapons program - which was shockingly well advanced by the time of the Gulf War. But since the weapons inspectors and watchdogs were kicked out of Iraq four years ago - everything going on in the country has been in the dark. We have had no choice but to rely on the word of a regime that has rarely told the truth about anything for all of our information about weapons development in the country. If the inspectors are unable to find the physical evidence of what we know Iraq has - that does not mean nothing is there. Unless you believe that those thousands of weapons - and tons of materials - have miraculously gone away.

And keep in mind that the inspectors are not in the country on a scavenger hunt for weapons. They are there to confirm that Iraq has destroyed and dismantled the weapons that we know exist. And that is entirely unlikely - given that Saddam Hussein has not offered any evidence that he has done so. Some people may say there is no smoking gun, but there is nothing but smoke.

To put this fire out, Saddam is going to have to work hard. And what I want to say to all of you is nothing less than what Hans Blix is saying to the world - allowing the inspectors to do their jobs - allowing them to enter palaces and private homes of scientists - that is necessary, but it is by no means sufficient. Such cooperation is not the same as compliance. The inspection process was designed to proceed on the basis of full accounting. It was meant to confirm Iraqi disarmament, not to prove Iraqi noncompliance with UN Security Council resolutions. As Secretary Powell noted last week, if Iraq wanted to get to the truth and wanted to satisfy the mandate, the regime would not be waiting to have the information pulled out of them - pried out of them - dug out of holes. They would be putting it all forward. But they are not.

Given all of these concerns - are we, the United States, sincerely giving this situation a chance to work out with some arrangement short of war? Yes, we are. Unlike Saddam Hussein - who has sacrificed something like one million of his youth to a series of pointless wars for his own personal ambition - we have to answer to the families of every one of those Midshipmen - and I can assure you that they will hold us accountable.

So as a nation, we always prefer a solution short of war. That is why we agreed to a cease-fire with Saddam Hussein 12 years ago. That is why we have given him all the years since to comply. But that does not - that cannot - mean that this nation - or the international community - should stand by with blind faith that Saddam Hussein will do the right thing. Because he never has. He has routinely and he has consistently flouted 16 separate UN Security Council Resolutions.

Now, as our President pointed out in his speech to the General Assembly on September 12th, this is not just about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. It is also about his treatment of his own people. Disappearances - torture, including the use of videotaped rape of sisters, mothers, and daughters as a tool of blackmail - arbitrary arrest and detention and execution - this is the daily reality for the people of Iraq.

This is all well known, but consider this - the United Nations, independent organizations, everyone who is monitoring human rights around the world and in Iraq - they have all reached these same conclusion - they have all issued these same reports. They have all gotten no response from the regime of Saddam Hussein. And not one of them has any idea how to change or even affect the situation. The traditional levers of influence - international pressure and international scrutiny - they simply are not working. This is impunity on a staggering scale. And it doesn't stop with the mistreatment of ordinary Iraqis - it includes the resources and the national wealth that should be their patrimony. In the year 2000, Forbes Magazine estimated Saddam Hussein's personal wealth at $7 billion; and I doubt very much that that came from trading palm-tree dates.

But we not only have a ruler and a regime that appear to be impervious to polite international pressure - they have fed their people and the world on a steady diet of lies and of deception - some of which are laughable but others which are far more sinister. He shows reporters facilities with nothing in them, as though that proves something - and then they broadcast those images. He engineers demonstrations, with supposed spontaneous protestors carrying signs in English - a language few people in Iraq can read. He builds military revetments alongside schools, ammunition dumps in mosques - and civilian bomb shelters inside of military command centers. The document available to you in the back of the room, called "Apparatus of Lies," goes over some of the sordid history of distortion. I commend it to you to the extent that the past is prologue.

But the point is that if you are hanging your hopes on Saddam Hussein's voluntary willingness to comply, and the veracity of his regime, you are engaging in some very dangerous wishful thinking. We have seen this before. The partial results the inspectors say they have and what that means. Inadequate disclosures, reluctant confessions, active evasion rather than active cooperation. No actual weapons destroyed. And then, promises made in the face of danger, only to be abandoned when the pressure is off.

Well, as I said, we have seen this all before. There may be some who cling to the belief that if he is left alone, Saddam Hussein will somehow stay in his "box." A box in which he would have free reign to do as he wishes - a box that he will stay in - right up until the day that he doesn't. That's ludicrous.

The upshot is that for 12 years, the international community has sought to contain Saddam Hussein. For 12 years, we have tried to limit the damage he could inflict - always offering him a way out. And throughout that time, Saddam Hussein has constantly tested and correctly assessed that none of these measures has any real teeth. That he personally need not pay the price for any of it. That he need not change any of his behaviors - or give up any of his ambitions.

Instead, all Iraqis have paid the price for the sanctions their leader has brought on them - while Saddam Hussein builds palaces, massive complexes of marble with miles of out buildings. Coalition forces protect Shia in the South and Kurds in the north - while Saddam Hussein slaughtered his people and shot at our forces. And the United Nations tried to find a way to supply the people of Iraq with food, with medicine, and schoolbooks for their children - while Saddam Hussein spent the money that rightfully belongs to his people on missiles and weapons of mass destruction and palaces built as shrines to himself.

For 12 years, we have tolerated an intolerable situation. For 12 years, we have seen far too many resolutions and far too little resolve. And so to the people who ask, why now? I say that we have already waited too long. This is a dangerous situation and today, right now - time is running out. President Bush has said our patience is running out. Our other options are just about exhausted at this point. This regime has very little time left to undo the legacy of 12 years.

There is no sign - there is not one sign - that the regime has any intent to comply fully with the terms of Resolution 1441 - just as it has failed to comply with any of the other 16 UN Security Council resolutions. It is difficult to hold a scrap of hope that Saddam Hussein will finally comply with the terms of the cease-fire. That the united voice of the international community will finally drive him to comply with his obligations. But even to keep that scrap of hope, the international community must maintain and even increase the pressure.

Now, I know that there are differing points of view in the international community on how to proceed at this point. And that is one reason why the inspectors' report of January 27th is important. We do all need to focus on that report in light of Saddam's pattern of behavior in the past and now. And then we must honestly face facts. If Iraq is disarming peacefully, showing active cooperation, then we can sit back and claim that our UN resolution is successful. If he is not disarming, then we must have the guts to draw that conclusion and take another course. It does none of us any good to let Saddam think he can wear us down into business as usual, as he has practiced it over the past 12 years.

It is no secret that US forces have been moving into the region; and that the British have just dispatched 26,000 more troops, adding to those already in the region. It is no secret that this government is planning for what would happen in the wake of a military operation. But I want to be very clear that President Bush has not made a decision to resort to military operations. The decision he has made is that the international community has an obligation to see that Iraq is disarmed. Peacefully - or forcibly, if necessary. And he has made a decision that if the international community is unwilling to do so - then the United States - and likeminded nations - will have no choice but to step into the breach. We will take a stand.

This decision alone - the fact that it has been made and communicated unequivocally - is the only reason inspectors are now in Iraq. And frankly, if Saddam Hussein does the right thing in the coming days - he makes a full and complete declaration of what he has - begins to take the steps necessary to destroy it - and provides unhindered access to his scientists - it will only be because he believes in the consequences of not doing so.

The mission of this Institute is to strengthen this nation's capabilities to reach peaceful conclusions and resolutions to conflicts - and that's an entirely noble goal. As for the demonstrations held in several of our cities, several of the cities in this nation over the past weekend - the sentiment behind them is quite understandable. No one wants to go to war. War is horrible. But no one wants to see a world in which a regime with no regard whatsoever for international law - for the welfare of its own people - or for the will of the United Nations - has weapons of mass destruction. And that regime would gladly provide those weapons to people of ill intent. So this is not a problem we can turn away from; we must be prepared to face it.

We must not let the sensible reluctance to fight drive us into wishful thinking. We must never let fear of the unknown stop us from defending our nation with force - if that is our only recourse. Indeed, I have far more fear about what will happen to this nation if we do not act decisively to protect our people and our interests. September 11th taught us that there can be a high cost to inaction - or to ineffective action.

If this does come to combat, we will not be in the battle for the sake of the battle. We will be in it to bring peace and stability to the Iraqi people - and to a vital region that has not known peace and stability since Saddam Hussein came to power. In short, we will be in it for a resolution that cannot be reached in any other way. And we hope that resolution means a government for Iraq which is democratic, multi-ethnic, based on the rule of law; one that preserves Iraq's sovereign territorial integrity; is at peace with its neighbors; and one that forswears weapons of mass destruction and abides by UN resolutions.

We would want to see a future government that is as inclusive as possible of Iraqis both outside and inside Iraq today. The US government has already engaged in broad discussions with Free Iraqis and international and regional leaders - regarding the challenges that could be faced by all Iraqis after Saddam Hussein is gone. Those discussions have covered everything from how to rebuild the infrastructure that is today decrepit, to what a transitional system of justice might look like. And while this may turn out to be a long-range plan, there can be no question that millions of Iraqis are today able to see a time in their future when there can be a better Iraq. ...

As...soon as I leave you today, I will be getting on a plane and heading for Moscow - where I will be co-chairing the semi-annual meeting of the US-Russian Counter-Terrorist Working Group. And we plan to discuss, among other things, our mutual efforts to improve the situation in Afghanistan; a shared vision for key strategic issues in Central Asia and in the Caucasus; and a range of concerns about weapons of mass destruction. Now, that last is especially ironic when you consider that the only such issue of concern not so long ago was the real and omnipresent possibility of nuclear Armageddon; never more than about 25 minutes away. It is just remarkable to think that our relationship with Russia has so thoroughly changed so quickly. Certainly, over the last decade and even just within the last year.

But it is not just Russia. Indeed, the Middle East is hardly immune to change. Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a remarkable initiative last week - in which he called for "a comprehensive awakening and development" in the Ummah - the Islamic world. He called for enhanced "political participation." He called for regional economic cooperation. He called for "sustainable development" and the cultivation of the region's "human resources." He also called for "positive integration" into the international system. And Crown Prince Abdullah's is not the only voice raised for change in the region. Bahrain, Qatar and Morocco have embarked on a course of bold political reforms; reaching for, as King Mohammed of Morocco has said, "development, democracy and modernization." Last year's Arab Human Development Report, which was researched and written by some of the brightest minds from across the region, chronicled the fundamental challenges governments in the Middle East face, offering a vision for an "Arab Renaissance."

Now, even in these difficult days, it is reasonable to look at the positive developments of this new century and see room on that horizon for a better future for Iraq. An Iraq for Iraqis - for all Iraqis. For Sunni. For Shia. For Kurds and for Turkmen. For Khaldeans and Assyrians. For the thousands and thousands of others who live and work there. A place to raise a family and to run a business - without living in what the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights called in 1999 in his 1999 report "a climate of fear."

Iraq for Iraqis - no matter what happens in the next few weeks and months, that is a vision worth holding in our minds. An Iraq that can and should and will be part of a brighter future for all Iraqis - and for the international community.

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