Rice Lays Out Case For War In Iraq

Rice Lays Out Case For War In Iraq
Bush Adviser Cites ‘Moral’ Reasons
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 16, 2002; Page A01

The United States and other nations have little choice but to seek the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview broadcast yesterday, citing “a very powerful moral case” for action.

“This is an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbors and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, on all of us,” Rice told the BBC. “There is a very powerful moral case for regime change. We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing.”

Rice noted that after Sept. 11, the most immediate threat was al Qaeda. But she said Hussein posed a looming threat that could not be ignored. “Clearly, if Saddam Hussein is left in power doing the things that he is doing now, this is a threat that will emerge, and emerge in a very big way.”

Rice’s comments represent one of the strongest and most detailed explanations by a senior U.S. official of the need to oust Hussein, and they follow a drumbeat of news stories about potential U.S. plans for military action in the Persian Gulf. Rice’s remarks came in response to questions by a British reporter and do not appear to be part of a new cMmpaign to convince U.S. allies or the American public that war is necessary or inevitable. But they offer a clear guide to the case the administration will make if President Bush decides to launch a war.

Rice’s comments were disclosed on the same day that Brent Scowcroft, one of her predecessors and a pillar in the GOP foreign policy establishment, offered a detailed critique of a possible rush to war.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Scowcroft said that there was virtually no support among allies for a war against Iraq and that it could “seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorist campaign we have undertaken” and lead to broader conflict in the Middle East.

Other GOP officials, such as House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), have also questioned whether military steps are necessary. The growing concern among some leading Republicans, and the near universal opposition overseas, has focused administration officials on the need to build a case – or risk the consequences of unilateral action.

Rice taped the interview for a BBC special on the Sept. 11 attacks, to be broadcast Sept. 6, and the BBC released portions of the interview yesterday. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the United States’ closest ally on Iraq, has come under intense pressure from some members of his party to speak against an invasion as opinion polls show a majority of Britons oppose participation in a U.S.-led war.

“The president hasn’t decided how he wants to do it or how he intends to make the case for particular methods,” Rice stressed before she began outlining what she called “a very stunning indictment” against Hussein.

“The case for regime change is very strong,” Rice said. “This is a regime that we know has twice tried and come closer than we thought at the time to acquiring nuclear weapons. He has used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors, he has invaded his neighbors, he has killed thousands of his own people. He shoots at our planes, our airplanes, in the no-fly zones where we are trying to enforce U.N. security resolutions.”

Over the weekend, a senior Iraqi official declared the mission of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq “finished,” suggesting Hussein will not allow the inspections to resume. The inspections – mandated by the armistice that ended the Gulf War in 1991 – were suspended in 1998 after Iraq denied access to Hussein’s presidential palaces.

The Bush administration has demanded the inspections resume. “Despite the fact that he lost this war, a war, by the way, which he started, he negotiates with the United Nations as if he won the war,” Rice said.

Rice made a forceful case that Hussein’s removal was a clear example of when the administration’s new doctrine of “preemption” – striking potential enemies first – would be justified.

“History is littered with cases of inaction that led to very grave consequences for the world,” Rice said. “We just have to look back and ask how many dictators who ended up being a tremendous global threat and killing thousands and, indeed, millions of people, should we have stopped in their tracks.”

Although the White House has insisted Bush has not made a decision to proceed with an attack, the administration in recent weeks has moved deliberately to organize Iraqi opposition groups for a post-Hussein era. Last week, administration officials met with key leaders of various opposition groups, and yesterday the State Department said it had resolved an accounting dispute with the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a London-based umbrella group, permitting funds to flow again.

State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker said $8 million would be provided to the INC, permitting it to publish a newspaper, renew anti-Hussein television broadcasts into Iraq, maintain regional offices and operate humanitarian relief programs. Funding for the INC’s covert operations, meanwhile, has been transferred to the Defense Department, resolving a conflict between the two agencies about the effectiveness of the intelligence-gathering operation.

The State Department also disclosed that last month it began accepting bids from nongovernmental organizations to receive $6.6 million in humanitarian assistance, primarily for the Kurdish population in northern Iraq.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

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