Iraq as an imminent threat

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

The matter of whether or not the United States rightfully considered Iraq as an imminent threat has been a matter of much international discourse.

The following addresses claims and the spin from the Bush administration, as well as response and commentary from the media.

However, the question was more or less settled May 1, 2005, by revelations found in The secret Downing Street memo, July 23, 2002 and June 12, 2005, in The leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, July 21, 2002: "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action" that the illusion of threat was fabricated by the Bush regime as a justification for its forthcoming invasion of Iraq.


National Security Strategy 2002

The National Security Strategy of September 2002, "outlined the U.S. government's policy for national defense. In it, the Bush administration argued that the concept in international law of 'imminent threat' -- which allows countries to defend themselves against opponents who are poised to attack them - must be given a new meaning in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:[1]

"For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat-most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.
"We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction-weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning...
"...The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction- and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively."

Bush Administration: Iraq is an "imminent threat"

  • The threat comes from Iraq. ... The Iraqi regime ... possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith. ... Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. ...
  • Many Americans have raised legitimate questions: about the nature of the threat; about the urgency of action ... the threat from Iraq stands alone ..
  • Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. ... America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. 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."
  • In the March 15, 2004, Sunday morning edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Condoleezza Rice said that "the overthrow of Saddam had 'greatly served' the fight against terrorism. ... 'I believe to this day that it [Iraq] was an urgent threat,' she said. 'This could not go on and we are safer as a result because today Iraq is no longer a state of weapons of mass destruction concern.'" [2]

Response

  • A comment from Lean Left, October 21, 2003, reinforces the idea that Bush intended to convey a sense of "imminent threat": "Anyone who says things like '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' is arguing that something must be done now. No amount of parsing can change that."
  • On October 8, 2002, the day after the President's speech, Andrew F. Tully, writing for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, commented in his article "Bush Tells Americans Saddam Is An Imminent Threat": "Bush also contended that Hussein works closely with terrorists, including Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's network that has been blamed for the attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001. There has been no evidence, however, that Hussein was in any way involved in those attacks, and Bush offered none last night."
  • From Just Left of Center comes the astute observation that "While the word Imminent is not present, it's clear that's what the message was. ... Here's what Bush has said about Iraq leading up to the war."

Spin

  • Such Iraqi actions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Letter to Congress 7/30/2002.
  • President Bush declared a national emergency with respect to Iraq pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of the Government of Iraq. 8/2/2002.
  • Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at the world. He's a threat to the neighborhood. He's a threat to Israel. He's a threat to the United States of America. And we're just going to have to deal with him. And the best way to deal with him is for the world to rise up and say, you disarm, and we'll disarm you. And if not -- if, at the very end of the day, nothing happens -- the United States, along with others, will act. 10/1/2002.
  • The danger to America from the Iraqi regime is grave and growing. The regime is guilty of beginning two wars. It has a horrible history of striking without warning. In defiance of pledges to the United Nations, Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. Saddam Hussein has used these weapons of death against innocent Iraqi people, and we have every reason to believe he will use them again. 10/5/2002.
  • Saddam Hussein has terrorized his own people. He's terrorized his own neighborhood. He is a danger not only to countries in the region, but as I explained last night, because of al Qaeda connections, because of his history, he's a danger to the American people. And we've got to deal with him. We've got to deal with him before it is too late. 1/29/2003.
  • The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed. The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. 2/26/2003.

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