Iraq as an imminent threat
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.
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:
- "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"
- In his October 7, 2002, remarks at the Cincinnati [Ohio] Museum Center at the Cincinnati Union Terminal -- identified on the White House web site as "President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat" -- President George W. Bush made the following statements:
- 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.'" 
- Donald Rumsfeld's Face the Nation interview regarding Iraq as an imminent threat was featured in film footage by MoveOn in the U.S. presidential election, 2004 campaign ad "Censure President Bush." March 17, 2004.
- 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."
- 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.
- Axis of evil
- Bush administration talking points on Iraq
- Bush doctrine
- clear and present danger
- Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
- emerging threat
- evil ones
- evil doers
- preemptive war
- The alleged linkage of Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction
- weapons of mass destruction investigation
- Patrick Martin, "The twenty lies of George W. Bush", World Socialist Web Site, March 20, 2003.
- A Chart of Bush Lies about Iraq, BuzzFlash Reader Commentary, July 22, 2003.
- Jonathan Steele, The Bush doctrine makes nonsense of the UN charter. In a chilling u-turn, the US claims the right to strike pre-emptively, Guardian/UK, June 7, 2002.
- Jeff Johnson, Democrats: Iraq No Imminent Threat, Bush Wants Hussein's Oil, CNS News, September 16, 2002.
- Joseph Cirincione, A Clear, But Not Imminent Danger, The Globalist, September 18, 2002.
- Roger Simon, Kill the One You Can Find, 'rogersimon.com', January 29, 2003: "We are in no imminent danger from Iraq, which has not attacked the United States. ... We are in imminent danger from terrorists, who have. ... So why are we going after the former and not protecting ourselves from the latter?"
- Maura Reynolds, Bush Calls Iraq Imminent Threat. Trusting in Hussein's Restraint 'Is Not an Option,' President Says, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2003: "A somber and steely President Bush, speaking to a skeptical world Tuesday in his State of the Union 2003 address, provided a forceful and detailed denunciation of Iraq, promising new evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime poses an imminent danger to the world and demanding the United Nations convene in just one week to consider the threat. ... But the president made clear his decision whether to attack Iraq would not hinge on U.N. approval."
- Target Iraq: Imminent Threat Analysis, published in cooperation with Priority Peace, March 7, 2003.
- Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Iraq's WMD Intelligence: Where is the Outrage?. Senate Floor Remarks, June 5, 2003.
- Anthony Westell, Looking through the fog, CBC News (Canada), July 3, 2003: "Nobody can now deny that it was this threat - real, exaggerated or even imagined - that persuaded Congress and a majority of Americans to consent to the attack on Iraq. ... In so doing, they acquiesced in a new and radical Bush doctrine. International law has accepted the right of a country about to be attacked by another to strike first. Bush claimed that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S., but his evidence was not very persuasive, so he went further, claiming that in the age of terrorism, the U.S. couldn't wait for another country to acquire WMD and pose an imminent threat: the U.S. could launch a pre-emptive attack whenever it felt threatened."
- Julian Borger, White House 'lied about Saddam threat', Guardian/UK, July 10, 2003.
- Shane Green, US warned of 'imminent' nuclear peril, The Age, July 16, 2003: "Former United States Defence Secretary William J. Perry has warned that the US and North Korea are drifting towards war, with an 'imminent danger' of nuclear explosions in American cities."
- Charles Krauthammer, Why Did Bush Go to War?, Washington Post posted at Benador Associates, July 18, 2003.
- harry, Fred Barnes, the WSJ, and the imminent myth, Slyblog, August 8, 2003.
- Gary Gibbon,No "imminent threat" from Saddam. Iraq intelligence, channel14.com/UK, August 14, 2003.
- Dan Darling, Special Analysis: The Imminent Threat, Winds of Change, September 4, 2003: "This analysis will attempt to argue that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime and its unmistakeable alliance with al-Qaeda was such that it posed a clear and present danger not only to the United States but also to some of fiercest opponents of the war - the populations of Western Europe."
- Daniel W. Drezner, The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- the final chapter!!, danieldrezner.com, October 18, 2003.
- "Imminent Danger", Reason of Voice, October 20, 2003: "No matter how well the Kay report can be spun by the administration, proclaiming proof of ongoing experimentation with WMD's in programs, the truth is that no readily launchable WMD's have been found. No ready-launchable weapons, therefore, no imminent threat."
- SharkBlog: A Brief History of The Imminent Threat Canard, October 21, 2003. Begins with "Al Gore September 23, 2002: "President Bush now asserts that we will take preemptive action even if the threat we perceive is not imminent."
- Ben Fritz, Sorting out the "imminent threat" debate, Spinsanity, November 3, 2003. Comprehensive analysis of "who" "what" "when".
- Josh Marshall, Silly word games and weapons of mass destruction, The Hill, November 5, 2003.
- Eric Rosenberg, Rumsfeld retreats, disclaims earlier rhetoric. Rumsfeld denies he ever made several pre-war statements, Hearst Papers, November 9, 2003.
- Jim Garamone, Bush signs Defense Authorization, American Forces Press Service, November 24, 2003: "... $250 per month for hazardous duty/imminent danger pay and separation pay." Also here.
- Joseph Cirincione, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, George Perkovich, with Alexis Orton, WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2004. Includes links to full pdf text or links to chapters/sections, as well as 2003 report.
- Iraq WMD not imminent threat, China Daily, January 8, 2004: "Bush administration officials 'systematically' misrepresented the danger of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, which were not an immediate threat to the United States and the Middle East, a report from a U.S. think tank said on Wednesday. ... The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in its study, 'WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications,' that there was 'no convincing evidence' Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program and that U.N. weapons inspectors had discovered that nerve agents in Iraq's chemical weapons program had lost most of their lethal capability as early as 1991."
- Jim Lobe, Report: White House 'Systematically Misrepresented' Prewar WMD Claims, antiwar.com, January 9, 2004.
- Imminent Threat, Live Journal, January 11, 2004.
- US denies 'imminent' threat warning, Herald Sun (Australia) (also here), January 28, 2004: "The White House today denied it ever warned that Saddam Hussein posed an 'imminent threat to the United States. ... It is already smarting from the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. ... 'I think some in the media have chosen to use the word 'imminent'. Those were not words we used. We used 'grave and gathering' threat,' spokesman Scott McClellan said. ... But if US President George W. Bush never called Saddam's Iraq an 'imminent threat' in so many words, he said it was 'urgent'. ... Vice President Dick Cheney called it 'mortal' and it was 'immediate' to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld."
- In Their Own Words: Iraq's 'Imminent' Threat, Center for American Progress, January 29, 2004. Lists quotes from President Bush and members of the Bush administration regarding the Iraq "threat".
- Russ Baker, The Definition Of 'Imminent, Tom Paine, January 30, 2004: "Meanwhile, if the White House didn't itself introduce 'imminent' into the lexicon of war-boosting, it certainly didn't mind hearing it used. On Jan. 26, 2003, when a CNN reporter asked, 'Is he [Saddam Hussein] an imminent threat to U.S. interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?' White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett answered: 'Well, of course he is.' ... Even after the conflict, this imminence continued to be acceptable. On May 7, 2003, a reporter posed this question: 'We went to war, didn't we, to find these [WMD]--because we said that these weapons were a direct and imminent threat to the United States? Isn't that true?' And White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer responded: 'Absolutely. One of the reasons that we went to war was because of their possession of weapons of mass destruction. And nothing has changed on that front at all.'"
- Joseph Cirincione, Powell Proved Deception, But Not Imminent Threat, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 4, 2004. Originally posted February 5, 2003.
- Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Bush Administration's Misstatement of the Day: IRAQ and Imminent Threat, January 5, 2004. Cites Center for American Progress compilation (see above) of Bush administration quotes.
- Tom Engelhardt, Daddy's Boys, TomDispatch.com, February 4, 2004: "In the meantime, the urge to get the now-embarrassing question of 'intelligence' off the table until 2005 has moved to the top of the administration agenda. As we watch this farce unfold, let's keep in mind what we learned from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill the other week. In this administration's first National Security Council meetings in February 2001, the subject of al Qaeda wasn't even on the table, but the taking down of Saddam Hussein and war in Iraq was. From the beginning, the issue was never 'intelligence.' The people who took power that January had been writing and lobbying on the subject of toppling Saddam's Iraq and transforming the Middle East since the early 1990s and already thought they had intelligence enough with plenty to spare. What was at stake was never more or better or more accurate intelligence, but finding an opening, the right moment that would sweep Congress and the American people up in war fever. They weren't waiting for information about, say, an 'imminent' threat; they were waiting for the necessary excuse to mobilize a nation around a desired war. Thank you, Osama bin Laden."
- Katherine Pfleger, CIA Boss: Iraq Not Called Imminent Threat, AP, February 5, 2004: "In his first public defense of prewar intelligence, CIA Director George J. Tenet said Thursday U.S. analysts never claimed before the war that Iraq posed an imminent threat. ... Tenet said analysts had varying opinions on the state of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and those differences were spelled out in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate given to the White House."
- CBS Paints Tenet as Anti-Bush, Nets Insist Bush Said "Imminent", February 6, 2004.
- David Sirota, Christy Harvey and Judd Legum, Progress Report: Iraq: We Want Answers (dubbed by one commentator as "'Imminent' Symantics"), Center for American Progress, February 6, 2004.
- G. Jefferson Price III, In Case for War, Imminent Threat Was Implied, Baltimore Sun, February 8, 2004.
- Editorial: Bush cried 'wolf' on Iraq's threat, Toronto Star, February 10, 2004.
- Molly Ivins, Setting the record straight. Time to draw a line against the rewriting of history, Working for Change, February 10, 2004: "Last week, CIA director George J. Tenet said intelligence analysts never told the White House 'that Iraq posed an imminent threat.' ... Let's start with the absurd quibble over the word imminent. The word was, in fact, used by three administration spokesmen to describe the Iraqi threat, while Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld variously described it as 'immediate,' 'urgent,' 'serious and growing,' 'terrible,' 'real and dangerous,' 'significant,' 'grave,' 'serious and mounting,' 'the unique and urgent threat,' 'no question of the threat,' 'most dangerous threat of our time,' 'a threat of unique urgency,' 'much graver than anybody could possibly have imagined,' and so forth and so on. So, could we can that issue?"
- Douglas Jehl, Iraq Threat Deliberately Inflated, Kennedy Says, New York Times, March 5, 2004: "Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts today delivered a blistering indictment of President Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, accusing Mr. Bush of deliberately exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime. ... The speech by Mr. Kennedy to the Council on Foreign Relations was the most detailed Democratic assault to date on the issue. He has played a high-profile role in Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign, and the tone and timing of his remarks suggested that Democrats see merit in opening a new election-year challenge on the issue of Mr. Bush's credibility."
- Face the Nation: Bob Schieffer interviews Donald Rumsfeld (pdf), CBS News, March 14, 2004. Scroll down to page 4 for discussion on "Iraq as an imminent threat." Rumsfeld was reminded what he said in testimony before Congress in September, 2002: "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."  (Connection thanks to Cursor.) See Rumsfeld Video Clip on Face the Nation provided by American Progress.
- David Sirota, Christy Harvey and Judd Legum, Sunday Show Stonewall, American Progress, March 15, 2004: "On the one year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the Bush Administration deployed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to the Sunday talk shows to defend their eroding credibility on the Iraq war. The trio refuses to admit any mistakes were made."
- "Poll: Growing Doubts On Iraq," CBS News, April 28, 2004.