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‘We thought he
Bush explains the
pre-emptive war against Iraq
EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEW
WITH PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH BROADCAST SUNDAY, FEB. 8, ON NBC'S 'MEET THE
PRESS.' THE INTERVIEWER IS NBC'S TIM RUSSERT.
The night you took the
country to war, March 17th, you said this: “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.” ... That apparently is
not the case.
RUSSERT: How do you
respond to critics who say that you brought the nation to war under false
BUSH: First of all, I
expected to find the weapons. ... I based my decision on the best intelligence
possible, intelligence that had been gathered over the years, intelligence that
not only our analysts thought was valid but analysts from other countries
thought were valid. And I made a decision based upon that intelligence in the
context of the war against terror.
other words, we were attacked, and therefore every threat had to be reanalyzed.
Every threat had to be looked at. Every potential harm to America had to be
judged in the context of this war on terror. And I made the decision, obviously,
to take our case to the international community in the hopes that we could ...
achieve a disarmament of Saddam Hussein peacefully. ... We remembered the fact
that he had used weapons, which meant he had weapons. We knew the fact that he
was paying for suicide bombers. We knew the fact he was funding terrorist
groups. In other words, he was a dangerous man. And that was the intelligence I
was using prior to the run up to this war,
expected there to be stockpiles of weapons. [Then, weapons inspector] David Kay
goes in and says we haven't found stockpiles yet, and there's theories as to
where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam
and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into
They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country. And
we'll find out.
Kay did report to the American people that Saddam had the capacity to make
weapons. Saddam Hussein was dangerous with weapons. Saddam Hussein was
dangerous with the ability to make weapons. He was a dangerous man in the
dangerous part of the world.
don't think America
can stand by and hope for the best from a madman, and I believe it is essential
that when we see a threat, we deal with those threats before they become
imminent. It's too late if they become imminent. It's too late in this new kind
of war, and so that's why I made the decision I made. ... There was no doubt in
my mind that Saddam Hussein was a danger to America.
RUSSERT: In what way?
BUSH: Well, because
he had the capacity to have a weapon, make a weapon. We thought he had
weapons. The international community thought he had weapons. But he had the
capacity to make a weapon and then let that weapon fall into the hands of a
shadowy terrorist network. ... I'm dealing with a world in which we have gotten
struck by terrorists with airplanes, and we get intelligence saying that there
is, you know, “We want to harm America.”
the worst nightmare scenario for any president is to realize that these kind of
terrorist networks had the capacity to arm up with some of these deadly weapons,
and then strike us. And the President of the United States' most solemn
responsibility is to keep this country secure. And the man was a threat, and we
dealt with him ... because we cannot hope for the best.
can't say, “Let's don't deal with Saddam Hussein. Let's hope he changes his
stripes,” or “Let's trust in the goodwill of Saddam Hussein. Let's kind of, try
to contain him.” Containment doesn't work with a man who is a madman. And
remember, Tim, he had used weapons against his own people.
RUSSERT: But can you
launch a preemptive war without ironclad, absolute intelligence that he had
weapons of mass destruction?
...There is no such thing
necessarily in a dictatorial regime of ironclad absolutely solid evidence. The
evidence I had was the best possible evidence that he had a weapon.
RUSSERT: But it may
have been wrong.
BUSH: Well, but what
wasn't wrong was the fact that he had the ability to make a weapon. That wasn't
RUSSERT: This is an
important point because when you say that he has biological and chemical weapons
and unmanned aerial vehicles...
Which he had.
RUSSERT: And [he]
could come and attack the United States, you are saying to the American people:
“We have to deal now with a man who has these things.”
BUSH: That's exactly
what I said.
RUSSERT: And if
that's not the case, do you believe if you had gone to the Congress and said “He
should be removed because he's a threat to his people but I'm not sure he has
weapons of mass destruction,” Congress would authorize war?
BUSH: I went to
Congress with the same intelligence, Congress saw the same intelligence I had,
and they looked at exactly what I looked at, and they made an informed judgment
based upon the information that I had. The same information, by the way, that
my predecessor [President Clinton] had. And all of us made this judgment that
Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. ... And the world is a safer and better
place as a result of Saddam Hussein not being in power. ...
There is a sense in the
country that the intelligence that was given was ambiguous, and that you took it
and molded it and shaped it -- your opponents have said hyped it -- and rushed
And now, if you,
in the future, say, “We must go into North Korea,” or, “We must go into Iran,
because they have nuclear capability,” either this country or the world will
say, “Excuse you, Mr. President, we want it now in hard, cold facts.”
I and my team took
the intelligence that was available to us. ... I repeat to you what I strongly
believe: that inaction in
would have emboldened Saddam Hussein. He could have developed, you know, a
nuclear weapon over time. I'm not saying immediately, but over time. Which would
then have put us in what position? We would have been in a position of
You can't rely upon a
madman – and he was a madman – making rational decisions when it comes to war
and peace. And it's too late, in my judgment, when a madman who has got
terrorist connections is able to act.
But there are lots
of madmen in the world. Fidel Castro...
... in Iran, in
North Korea, in Burma, and yet we don't go in and take down those governments.
... As I've said
in my speeches, every situation requires a different response and a different
full interview can be found in