- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

CINCINNATI President Bush last night said Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is a "murderous tyrant" who could attack the United States "on any given day" using unmanned aerial vehicles loaded with chemical or biological weapons.
In a prime-time primer on the unique peril posed by Saddam, the president told Americans that if Saddam and his "nuclear holy warriors" can "produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball," Iraq could build a nuclear weapon within a year.
This makes quick, pre-emptive action imperative, Mr. Bush said.
"Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today and we do does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?" Mr. Bush asked in his speech to about 500 supporters at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
"Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," he said in a somber 30-minute address that the audience interrupted for applause just twice.
The speech was not carried live by ABC, CBS or NBC, all of whom deemed the speech a political event.
Laying out his case against Saddam to Americans nationwide for the first time with an eye on Congress and the United Nations, both of whom are debating how to handle Iraq Mr. Bush said the Iraqi dictator has known ties to terrorists, persecutes his own people and has violated international demands that he disarm.
"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliances with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints," he said, his voice echoing in the large, ornate half-dome hall.
Mr. Bush said Saddam has "a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and is capable of killing millions."
The president said U.S. intelligence has discovered that Iraq has "a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States."
"And of course, sophisticated delivery systems are not required for a chemical or biological attack all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it," he said.
The president detailed Saddam's connection to terrorists, including Abu Nidal, who was responsible for more than 90 attacks that killed or injured nearly 900 people, and Abu Abbas, responsible for the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and the slaying of an American passenger.
"We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. And we know that after September 11, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America," he said.
On the first anniversary of the military campaign to destroy the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush repeatedly cited the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as reason to act quickly against Iraq.
"Before that tragic date, we had only hints of al Qaeda's plans and designs. Today in Iraq, we see a threat whose outlines are far more clearly defined, and whose consequences could be far more deadly."
About 1,000 people protested outside the museum center, police told reporters.
Tafari McDade, 11, held a white posterboard on which he had drawn the World Trade Center. "We shouldn't go to war," he said. "I came down here with my mom to tell people that."
Billed by the White House as a vehicle for the president "to answer specific questions many Americans are asking," Mr. Bush methodically set out the U.S. case for taking immediate action, even if that means a pre-emptive strike against Saddam.
"Some have argued we should wait and that is an option. In my view, it is the riskiest of all options because the longer we wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become. We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I am convinced that is a hope against all evidence.
"There can be no peace if our security depends on the will and whims of a ruthless and aggressive dictator. I am not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein," he concluded.
The president said a desperate Iraqi military may "attempt cruel and desperate measures," suggesting that biological and chemical weapons could be used against U.S. troops. He warned that Iraqi commanders would face war-crimes charges if they followed such orders.
"If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side, and we will prevail," he said, drawing applause for the first time.
Continuing to subtly alter the administration's message, the president said approval of a resolution under debate on Capitol Hill does not mean the United States has decided on war with Iraq.
"Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations and all nations that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something," he said.
One leading Democrat, Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, criticized the speech last night as recycled and not providing a rationale for the Iraq resolution before Congress.
"He didn't say anything that was new," Mr. Byrd said on CNN's "Larry King Live." "There was nothing new, nothing that we haven't known for a month, six months or a year. I kept waiting."
Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, disagreed with Mr. Byrd's assessment, saying that "what's new" includes the president's claim that Saddam has been manufacturing biological weapons in mobile facilities.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, praised the speech as making "a compelling case that the combination of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction poses a growing threat to our national security."
Mr. Bush also reiterated a message new to his public speeches during the weekend: If the United Nations fails to act with a new, tougher resolution that Iraq cannot get around, the United States will step in but not alone.
"The time for denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him," Mr. Bush said.


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