Under Saddam Hussein's rule, Iraq is a direct threat to the United States, its interests, and international peace and stability throughout the world.
Saddam Hussein's hostility to U.S. interests, proven intent to act against those interests, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) acquisition, continued pursuit of WMD, history of using WMD to achieve foreign policy objectives, and ties to international terrorists combine to make him uniquely dangerous to the United States.
When his behavior is juxtaposed with the lessons learned through the September 11 attacks, it becomes clear that Saddam poses a threat that must be dealt with immediately.
The foregoing lessons apply to Iraq in the following ways:
Warnings have not deterred Iraq from overtly hostile actions that threaten the United States and its interests. A recent video, released by the U.S. Department of Defense, showing Iraqi missiles firing on U.S. aircraft enforcing the United Nations no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq demonstrates Saddam's belligerence.
Iraq's ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction means that the United States or its interests could be the targets of an attack with little or no warning. Iraq has a 30-year history of WMD programs.
Iraq's history of using WMD demonstrates the likelihood that it will use them in the future.
- In 1982, Iraq used riot-control agents against Iranian attacks.
- Iraq used mustard gas in 1983 and tabun in 1984.
- The State Department lists 10 incidents of Iraqi chemical attacks between August 1983 and March 1988. All were launched against Iranian and Kurdish populations, resulting in casualty tolls in the tens of thousands.
Iraq's aggression and ties to international terrorism comprise a deadly combination that must be confronted.
- Iraq shelters and supports terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments.
- Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder.
- In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President.
- Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th.
- Al Qaeda terrorists who escaped from Afghanistan are known to be in Iraq.
Iraq's blatant disregard for its 1991 cease-fire agreement makes it clear that its vision of the future is incompatible with America's security. Saddam Hussein has flagrantly violated at least 16 Security Council resolutions, including the terms of the 1991 cease-fire that should have ended hostilities between the U.S.-led United Nations coalition and Iraq.
On September 11, 2001, America came to a new awareness of its own vulnerability and the nature of the threats that now face the nation. No longer can the United States wait passively while hostile regimes foment terrorism, build weapons of mass destruction, and propagate hatred for America. The war on terrorism will be long and difficult, but the President has the authority to prosecute this just war and the responsibilities to do so, using whatever means are at his disposal.
This WebMemo is excerpted from Jack Spencer's Backgrounder: Presidential Authority in the War on Terrorism: Iraq and Beyond. Full footnotes and analysis are available there.