Saddam Hussein Must Leave Iraq Within 48 Hours in Address to the Nation
The Cross Hall
The White House
March 17, 2003
8:10 P.M. EST
My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision.
For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient
and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged
to reveal and destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition for
ending the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of diplomacy. We have passed more
than a dozen resolutions in the United Nations Security Council. We have sent
hundreds of weapons inspectors to oversee the disarmament of Iraq. Our good
faith has not been returned.
The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage. It
has uniformly defied Security Council resolutions demanding full disarmament.
Over the years, U.N. weapon inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials,
electronically bugged, and systematically deceived. Peaceful efforts to disarm
the Iraqi regime have failed again and again -- because we are not dealing with
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. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against
Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.
The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a
deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored
terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.
The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons,
obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions
and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country,
or any other.
The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat.
But we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy,
we will set a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come, before
it is too late to act, this danger will be removed.
The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring
its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by
the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.
Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly
last year to support the use of force against Iraq. America tried to work with
the United Nations to address this threat because we wanted to resolve the issue
peacefully. We believe in the mission of the United Nations. One reason the
U.N. was founded after the second world war was to confront aggressive dictators,
actively and early, before they can attack the innocent and destroy the peace.
In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did act, in the early 1990s. Under
Resolutions 678 and 687 -- both still in effect -- the United States and our
allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.
This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will.
Last September, I went to the U.N. General Assembly and urged the nations of
the world to unite and bring an end to this danger. On November 8th, the Security
Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, finding Iraq in material breach
of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences if Iraq did not fully and
Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not
disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power. For the last four-and-a-half months,
the United States and our allies have worked within the Security Council to
enforce that Council's long-standing demands. Yet, some permanent members of
the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution that
compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the
danger, but not our resolve to meet it. Many nations, however, do have the resolve
and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is
now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations Security
Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.
In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have been doing their part.
They have delivered public and private messages urging the dictator to leave
Iraq, so that disarmament can proceed peacefully. He has thus far refused. All
the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and
his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result
in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing. For their own safety,
all foreign nationals -- including journalists and inspectors -- should leave
Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have
a message for them. If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed
against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you. As our coalition
takes away their power, we will deliver the food and medicine you need. We will
tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that
is prosperous and free. In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of aggression
against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents,
no more torture chambers and rape rooms. The tyrant will soon be gone. The day
of your liberation is near.
It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power. It is not too late for
the Iraqi military to act with honor and protect your country by permitting
the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.
Our forces will give Iraqi military units clear instructions on actions they
can take to avoid being attacked and destroyed. I urge every member of the Iraqi
military and intelligence services, if war comes, do not fight for a dying regime
that is not worth your own life.
And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen carefully to this
warning. In any conflict, your fate will depend on your action. Do not destroy
oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey
any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the
Iraqi people. War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished.
And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders."
Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that
every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to
win it. Americans understand the costs of conflict because we have paid them
in the past. War has no certainty, except the certainty of sacrifice.
Yet, the only way to reduce the harm and duration of war is to apply the full
force and might of our military, and we are prepared to do so. If Saddam Hussein
attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end. In desperation,
he and terrorists groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the
American people and our friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are,
however, possible. And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live
under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist threat to America and the world
will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.
Our government is on heightened watch against these dangers. Just as we are
preparing to ensure victory in Iraq, we are taking further actions to protect
our homeland. In recent days, American authorities have expelled from the country
certain individuals with ties to Iraqi intelligence services. Among other measures,
I have directed additional security of our airports, and increased Coast Guard
patrols of major seaports. The Department of Homeland Security is working closely
with the nation's governors to increase armed security at critical facilities
Should enemies strike our country, they would be attempting to shift our attention
with panic and weaken our morale with fear. In this, they would fail. No act
of theirs can alter the course or shake the resolve of this country. We are
a peaceful people -- yet we're not a fragile people, and we will not be intimidated
by thugs and killers. If our enemies dare to strike us, they and all who have
aided them, will face fearful consequences.
We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one
year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would
be multiplied many times over. With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his
terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest.
We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly
in our skies and cities.
The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable
realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators, whose
threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war. In this century,
when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement
could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth.
Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in
formal declarations -- and responding to such enemies only after they have struck
first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The security of the world requires
disarming Saddam Hussein now.
As we enforce the just demands of the world, we will also honor the deepest
commitments of our country. Unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people
are deserving and capable of human liberty. And when the dictator has departed,
they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing
The United States, with other countries, will work to advance liberty and peace
in that region. Our goal will not be achieved overnight, but it can come over
time. The power and appeal of human liberty is felt in every life and every
land. And the greatest power of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence,
and turn the creative gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace.
That is the future we choose. Free nations have a duty to defend our people
by uniting against the violent. And tonight, as we have done before, America
and our allies accept that responsibility.
Good night, and may God continue to bless America.