Remarks by Chairman Henry J. Hyde

Committee on International Relations

U.S. Policy Toward Iraq: Administration Views

September 19, 2002, 3:30 p.m.

Mr. Secretary, it is a pleasure to welcome you once again to our Committee. We have heard from a very distinguished panel of experts this morning on the subject of Iraq, and we look forward to your testimony.

The United States is once again confronted with the specter of Saddam Hussein armed with an arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons. This is a sobering prospect, but we should not focus our attention solely on his instruments of destruction. Instead, we must recognize that the threat lies in Saddam himself. The record could not be more stark. In 1980, he attacked Iran and initiated a decade of warfare that killed and wounded over one million people, a conflict that included his use of chemical weapons on Iranian troops. In 1990, he invaded Kuwait and imposed a brutal occupation upon that country, laying waste to everything within reach when his forces were finally driven out. He has indiscriminately used chemical weapons on unarmed civilians in his own country and has slaughtered any who have opposed him. Given this record, there can be no doubt that, once armed with weapons of even greater destructive power, he will have little reluctance to use them.

The threat to U.S. interests is obvious, but we are not the only target. The entire world should understand the danger that Saddam poses to everyone and should welcome any opportunity to end it before he is ready to strike. Despite the extensive criticism that has been directed at the Administration, I believe that the President and you, Mr. Secretary, have gone to extraordinary lengths to enlist the cooperation of the world community, including that of our allies and the United Nations.

The response, however, has been a disappointing one. You will forgive me if I say that many of our critics apparently refuse to recognize the danger for what it is or have decided that this is a problem they can leave to the U.S. while they limit their contribution to commenting safely from the sidelines.

We can see this attitude once again in the eager reaction to Saddam’s latest promise of cooperation which has, at least initially, accomplished its purpose of undermining the fragile beginnings of a consensus that at long last something must be done.

But we would be fools indeed if we believed that Saddam can be trusted. He has cynically broken all of his previous promises of cooperation, and there is no reason to believe that his latest statement is anything more than an attempt to delay and divide us. He will only use the time the world grants him to further his plans and preparations.

To those who advocate a more trusting approach, I need only remind them that Britain and France once waited hopefully while Germany armed itself, with results that were catastrophic to all.

This is a stark reality, but we are confronted with an even greater danger than Saddam himself. Despite clear and repeated warnings, it appears that much of the world does not understand that we have entered a wholly new and increasingly perilous era.

Through repeated usage, the term, "Weapons of Mass Destruction," has become almost banal, but the unimaginable destructive power these weapons represent requires our constant focus and a determination to do what we must to defend ourselves.

The problem is not merely that a murderous tyrant such as Saddam may be in possession of these weapons. In the aftermath of September 11th, we must accept that he has been joined by many others of an even more fanatical purpose. Terrorists willing to commit suicide in order to kill large numbers of innocents cannot be stopped by the familiar conventions of deterrence. Their possession of weapons of mass destruction must be equated with a certainty that these will be used against us.

To assume that these terrorists and others will remain unarmed by Saddam is an assumption with a deadly potential. A first strike could well be the last strike.

We should not guess the world into annihilation.

Given the leadership role of the United States in the world and the recognition that only we can defend our own interests, we do not have the luxury of pretending not to see the danger confronting us. All of our choices are difficult ones, but our only real option is to act.

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