- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday laid down a stern warning to Iraqi generals and soldiers not to use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. soldiers.

"Let there be no doubt; the message to anyone in that chain of command, at the highest level or at the lowest level, is: Don't even think about it. Don't go near it. Disobey the orders, because we will — if force is used, and he uses weapons of mass destruction, anybody connected with that process will wish they hadn't been," Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday.

Pressed for details, Rumsfeld said only he meant "just that. Believe me."

Last September, Rumsfeld made a similar statement in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee but clarified his intentions afterward. Rumsfeld told reporters then his threat was not meant to imply the U.S. military would use nuclear weapons in retaliation.

"That is not even a thought," he said. "Clearly (Iraqi) people who defect, people who assist (the United States) are particularly favored. People who do not assist are not. People who do assist in weapons of mass destruction are particularly not favored," Rumsfeld said.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers said at the time Iraqi soldiers who do use chemical or biological weapons would be tried for war crimes.

Neither man offered such details or clarifications Wednesday.

Rumsfeld said Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech Feb. 5 before the U.N. Security Council would reveal new intelligence that explains why the Bush administration believes Iraq is an imminent threat to the United States and the Middle East.

The American public "certainly ought to have as much information as can possibly be given, and they will," he said.

"They don't have to trust their government blindly. The leaders have the responsibility to persuade, and persuasion means you marshal facts and you marshal argumentation, and the combination of the two results in persuasion," he said.

He reiterated the core belief of the Bush administration: that Saddam Hussein's pattern of behavior and the possibility that he could use chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons against the United States — or equip terrorists with the same — makes pre-emptive action necessary.

"I would submit that the hurdle, the bar that one must go over, changes depending on the potential lethality of the act," Rumsfeld said.

If the United States had "perfect knowledge" of Saddam Hussein's intentions and capabilities, the answer would be easy, he said.

"It's not the way the world works," he said. "The only way you get personal knowledge is to wait until Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. That's when you get perfect knowledge. That's after the fact. And after the fact in the 21st century, in the world of weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons that can kill tens of thousands of people, after the fact is too late."

The CIA reported to Congress last summer that the risk that Iraq will use chemical or biological weapons against the United States will actually increase if the United States attacks. Such weapons were not used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Rumsfeld said he believes this conflict might evolve differently.

"He didn't use them in the Gulf War. In the Gulf War, his regime was not being threatened. His regime would be threatened in this instance, and therefore his calculation might be somewhat different," Rumsfeld said.

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