Rumsfeld: U.S. goal is disarming Iraq
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a House committee Wednesday that President Bush has made no decision on military action against Iraq and said the goal of U.S. policy is not weapons inspections, but the disarmament of Iraq.
Rumsfeld also raised the specter of a September 11-style attack involving nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and told the House Armed Services committee that Iraq under leader Saddam Hussein is a global threat.
Iraq agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles under U.N. resolutions ending the 1991 Persian Gulf War. After years of complaints about Iraqi obstruction, U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq just ahead of a U.S.-British bombing campaign in 1998.
Bush urged the United Nations last week to force Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions or Washington would take action. But Iraq offer on Monday to allow inspections to resume "without conditions" has split U.N. Security Council members as the administration has sought to build support for action against Baghdad.
Congress also is considering approval of such a plan.
Rumsfeld listed reasons why military action would be pre-emptive, including the possibility that Baghdad either possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical or biological devices.
"No other living dictator matches Saddam Hussein's record of waging aggressive war against his neighbors," Rumsfeld said. "pursuing weapons of mass destruction, using them against his own people, launching missiles against his neighbors, brutalizing and torturing his own citizens, harboring terrorist networks, engaging in terrorist acts including the attempted assassination of foreign officials, violating international commitments, lying and hiding his W.M.D. [weapons of mass destruction] programs from inspectors, deceiving and defying the expressed will of the United Nations over and over again."
Iraq has denied possessing weapons of mass destruction and has invited inspectors to look for themselves, a move which Bush said was a ploy meant to delay any military action against it.
Rumsfeld's testimony was briefly interrupted when a pair of women seated behind the defense secretary stood, unfurled protest signs and began chanting slogans in support of Iraqi weapons inspections and denouncing war. (Full story)
Capitol police escorted the protesters from the hearing room. Rumsfeld noted the interruption with praise for freedom of expression in the United States.
Speaking of a possible war, "What does the future hold for us once victory is achieved?" Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, asked Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld said victory would best come as part of a military coalition led by the United States. "...Iraq should be a single country and not broken up into pieces," Rumsfeld said. "... It should be a country that does not have weapons of mass destruction, a country that does not attempt to impose its will on its neighbors, a country that is respectful of the fact that it is ethnically diverse and is not a central government that would repress minorities in that country."
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