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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Armitage Addresses Institute of Peace

Aired January 21, 2003 - 12:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, has begun speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: ... they have made; they're 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 servicemembers is sent into harm's way in Iraq; that is why we, at the Department of State and indeed across the government, are working to hard to avoid. The next few days and the next few weeks will show us if we're going to be able to prevent such a scenario from unfolding. And I wish I were here to tell you that I am optimistic.

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's how many empty chemical warheads the U.N. Special Commission estimated he had, and he's 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 U.N. says 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 U.N. Security Council.

As Dr. Blix just said: We feel the declaration has not answered a great many questions of the past and still remain open. We've 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 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, as Dr. Blix said over the weekend. He is not cooperating with the international community, and he's certainly 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 breath 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.

Now only has the United States 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 weapon inspectors and watchdogs were kicked out of Iraq four years ago, everything going on in the country has been in the dark.

We've 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 material have miraculously gone away.

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's 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 U.N. Security Council resolutions.

As Secretary of State 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 1 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 U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Now, as our president pointed out in his speech to the General Assembly on September 12, 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 rapes of sisters, mothers and daughters as a tool of blackmail, arbitrary arrests and detention and execution. This is the daily reality of the people of Iraq. This is all well known.

But consider this: The United Nations, independent organization, everyone who is monitoring human rights around the world and in Iraq have all reached the same conclusion, they've all issued the same reports, they've 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 level 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. I doubt very much that that came from trading palm tree dates.

But we not only have a ruler and regime that appeared 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. Then they broadcast those images. Engineers demonstrations with supposed spontaneous protesters carrying signs in English; a language few people in Iraq can read. He builds military revetments alongside schools, ammunition dumps and 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 were hanging your hopes on Saddam Hussein's voluntary willingness to comply and the veracity of his regime, you're engaging in some very dangerous, wishful thinking. We've 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. So as I've said, we've 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've tried to limit the damage that 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-building (ph).

Coalition forces protect Shi'a 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 school books 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. So to the people who ask, "Why now?" I say that, "We've 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 U.N. 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 different points of view in the international community on how to proceed at this point, and that is one reason why the inspector's report of January 27 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 U.N. 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 U.S. 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 like-minded nations will have no choice but to step in to 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. 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 that 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 resource. 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 11 taught us that there can be a high cost to an action 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 the U.N. resolutions.

We would want to see a future government...

BLITZER: Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, making a forceful presentation on behalf of the Bush administration making the case for the possibility of going to war against Iraq even if necessary going to war without United Nations sanctions, without other allies, although he says, of course, the British will be on board and the U.S. will lead a coalition, as the president says, of the willing, if it comes down to that.

The speech by Armitage, the first of several in advance of next Monday's deadline for the U.N. weapons inspectors to come forward with their update, their status report to the U.N. Security Council. Also in advance of the president's address before a joint session of Congress, his State of the Union address next Tuesday.

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