- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

DINUBA, Calif. — President Bush yesterday said the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, declaring the world should have a unanimous reaction to the ouster of the Iraqi dictator: “Good riddance.”

Making a case for his decision to depose Saddam, the president said investigators combing Iraq for evidence of mass-destruction weapons have already turned up enough proof that the Iraqi regime was a threat its neighbors and the world.

“Since the liberation of Iraq, our investigators have found evidence of a clandestine network of biological laboratories, advanced design work on prohibited longer-range missiles, an elaborate campaign to hide illegal programs,” Mr. Bush said.

“It is undeniable that Saddam Hussein was in clear violation of United Nations Security [Council] Resolution 1441, which said he must disarm, prove his disarmament or face serious consequences. It is undeniable that Saddam Hussein was a deceiver and a danger. The United Nations Security Council was right to demand that Saddam disarm, and we were right to enforce that demand,” the president said to applause from hundreds of workers gathered for an outdoor speech at Ruiz Foods Inc., outside Fresno.

While U.S. weapons inspectors have not turned up caches of mass-destruction weapons, Mr. Bush said “we’ve still got more to investigate.”

As he prepares for a six-nation tour of Asia and Australia, Mr. Bush told reporters he would push America’s allies to contribute more troops and more financial aid to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

Mr. Bush noted that circumstances in Iraq — which expelled U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998, severely limiting firsthand knowledge of Saddam’s weapons programs — have changed dramatically.

“We’re making good progress in Iraq. We’re after the killers. We’ve got better intelligence now. The Iraqi citizens are coming forward to help us secure their own country,” he said.

Mr. Bush also sought to explain the nearly daily deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, blaming “Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists [who] are desperately trying to undermine Iraq’s progress … They want to throw the country into chaos.”

Again making his case for pre-emptive strikes to thwart known threats to America, Mr. Bush said Saddam’s refusal to disarm or account for his weapons left no choice.

“I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman. I was not about to stand by and wait and trust in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein,” he said. “Who can possibly think the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power?”

Mr. Bush traveled to California to raise money for his re-election campaign and to huddle with California’s governor-elect, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, before starting his Asian tour.

“I can’t wait to talk to [Mr. Schwarzenegger] about why I believe that America is on the right path — is on the path to making sure this nation is secure and the world is more free and peaceful, is on the right path to make sure our fellow citizens can find a job,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush raised more than $750,000 at a fund-raiser in nearby Fresno before flying to Riverside for an event expected to net another $1 million.

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