The Downing Street Memo title
top of sign post
Home nav link
The Memo nav link
Why Care
Take Action nav link
News nav link
Related nav link
Timeline
sign post
Why Care?

Public comments vs. Secret realities
Facts of the Memo:
Minutes of
the Secret Meeting
July 23, 2002
Public Statements
of the
Bush Administration
Leading Up to War in Iraq
Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.

“No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.”

We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force.”

- George W. Bush,
Mar. 8, 2003 Radio Address

“I think that that presumes there's some kind of imminent war plan. As I said, I have no timetable.”

- George W. Bush,
Aug. 10, 2002 while golfing

“But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy

[and don't forget...]

“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD

“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.”

- George W. Bush,
Mar. 17, 2003,
the War begins two days later

"I want you to keep focused on what you are doing here," [...] "This war came to us, not the other way around."

- Condoleeza Rice
May 15, 2005,
Rice makes surprise visit to Iraq

“The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record”

"He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route."

I don't like war. [...] That's why I first went to the United Nations to begin with, on September the 12th, 2002, to address this issue as forthrightly as I knew how. That's why, months later, we went to the Security Council to get another resolution, called 1441...

I've not made up our mind about military action. [sic] Hopefully, this can be done peacefully...”

- George W. Bush,
Mar. 6, 2003,
White House Press Conference

"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."

- George W. Bush,
Mar. 17, 2003,
the War begins two days later

“There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”

"Any military presence, should it be necessary, will be temporary and intended to promote security and elimination of weapons of mass destruction; the delivery of humanitarian aid; and the conditions for the reconstruction of Iraq."

- The White House,
March 16, 2003, Statement
of the Atlantic Summit

"I can't imagine anyone here wanting to spend another $30 billion to be there for another 12 years."

-Paul Wolfowitz
February 28, 2003
House subcommittee on Iraq testimony

"The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq is real and serious.... [Without an 'overwhelming' effort to prepare for the U.S. occupation of Iraq] the United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."

-Army War College report,
February 2003,
Postwar planning for Iraq 'ignored'

"You are going to get serious resistance. This idea that everyone will join you is baloney. But it was dismissed."

-Senior Defense Department official
February 2003,
Postwar planning for Iraq 'ignored'

"Liberated people don't misbehave."

- Former Secretary of Army
Thomas White,
(on Cheney and Rumsfeld's
post-war views
prior to invasion)
July 7, 2003, War in Iraq's
aftermath hits troops hard

Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.” "The President has made no decisions about what the next step will be. Clearly, we will continue to talk to the United Nations about the inspection process."

- Ari Fleischer,
Oct. 10, 2002,
White House press briefing

"This is about disarmament and this is a final opportunity for Saddam Hussein to disarm. If he chooses not to do so peacefully, then the United States is prepared to act, with our friends, to do so by force. And we will do so forcefully and swiftly and decisively, as the President has outlined. But the President continues to seek a peaceful resolution. War is a last resort."

- Scott McClellan,
Nov. 12, 2002,
White House
press briefing

"And now they must demonstrate that commitment to peace and security is the only effective way, by supporting the immediate and unconditional disarmament of Saddam Hussein.

The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations. He is a danger to his neighbors. He's a sponsor of terrorism. He's an obstacle to progress in the Middle East."

- George W. Bush,
Mar. 16, 2003, in the Azores

"The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region..."

- George W. Bush,
Jul. 14, 2003,
White House
press conference

[emphasis added]

Go to the News & Media page to see the
White House response to the Downing Street Memos

Go to top of page link 


Phase I
Iraq has not acquired WMD:

How the United States should react if Iraq acquired WMD

"These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. The first line of defense... should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence—if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration."

Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Advisor
2/1/2000
January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs


"I think we ought to declare [the containment policy] a success. We have kept him contained, kept him in his box." He added [Saddam] "is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors" and that "he threatens not the United States."

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Enroute to Egypt
2/23/2001
Enroute to Egypt


"We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions—the fact that the sanctions exist—not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq..."

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Feb. 24, 2001
Press conference, Cairo Egypt


"VICE PRES. CHENEY: There is--in the past, there have been some activities related to terrorism by Saddam Hussein. But at this stage, you know, the focus is over here on al-Qaida and the most recent events in New York. Saddam Hussein's bottled up [contained], at this point, but clearly, we continue to have a fairly tough policy where the Iraqis are concerned.

MR. RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to this operation [9/11]?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No."

Dick Cheney, Vice President
Sept., 2001
Interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press


Phase II
There is no doubt Iraq has acquired WMD:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

Dick Cheney, Vice President
8/26/2002
Speech to VFW National Convention


"There is already a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons for the purpose of using them. And adding additional information is like adding a foot to Mount Everest."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
9/6/2002
White House Press Briefing


"And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought—maybe six months from a crude nuclear device...

The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Advisor
9/8/2002

CNN Interview


Phase III
We’ve got detailed and specific information about Iraq’s WMD:

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."

George W. Bush, President
9/12/2002
Speech to UN General Assembly


“...It [Iraq] is seeking nuclear weapons. [...]

The [Iraqi] regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas.  [...]

And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons...." 

“Knowing these realities, 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."

George W. Bush, President
10/7/2002
Remarks by the President on Iraq (Cincinnati)


"We estimate that once Iraq acquires fissile material -- whether from a foreign source or by securing the materials to build an indigenous fissile material capability—it could fabricate a nuclear weapon within one year. It has rebuilt its civilian chemical infrastructure and renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, and VX. It actively maintains all key aspects of its offensive BW [biological weapons] program."

John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control
11/1/2002
Second Global Conference on Nuclear, Bio/Chem Terrorism: Mitigation and Response


If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
12/2/2002
White House Press Briefing


"The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
12/5/2002
Response to Question From Press


"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
1/9/2003
White House Press Briefing


"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. [...]

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."

George W. Bush
1/28/2003
State of the Union Address


Phase IV
Iraq is an imminent threat to attack the world with WMD:

"There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction. If biological weapons seem too terrible to contemplate, chemical weapons are equally chilling."

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
2/5/2003
Addresses the U.N. Security Council


"Let's talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We know that, based on intelligence, that [Saddam] has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He's had years to get good at it, and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Dick Cheney, Vice President
3/16/2003
Meet The Press


"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."

George W. Bush
3/17/2003
Address to the Nation


"With each passing day, Saddam Hussein advances his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and could pass them along to terrorists. If he is allowed to do so, the result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but of 30,000 or 300,000 or more innocent people."

Donald Rumsfeld
3/20/2003
Remarks to American Troops, Defense Department


Phase V
We will soon reveal the WMD:

"We'll find them. It'll be a matter of time to do so."

George W. Bush
3/3/2003
Remarks to Reporters-Crawford, Texas


"Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly... all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
3/21/2003
White House Press Briefing


"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And... as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them."

General Tommy Franks
3/22/2003
Press Briefing, Doha, Qatar


"I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction."

Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board member
3/23/2003
Washington Post


"One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites."

Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clark
3/22/2003
Department of Defense News Briefing


"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
3/30/2003
ABC Interview


"I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found... But make no mistake—as I said earlier—we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
4/10/2003
White House Press Briefing


Phase VI
We were never really sure where they were, but we hope soon to locate WMD:

"We’re not going to find anything until we find people who tell us where the things are. And we have that very high on our priority list, to find the people who know. And when we do, then we'll learn precisely where things were and what was done."

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
4/13/2003
Meet the Press


"We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them."

George W. Bush, President
4/24/2003
NBC Interview


"There are people who in large measure have information that we need... so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country."

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
4/25/2003
Department of Defense Press Briefing


"I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We're just getting it just now."

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
5/4/2003
Meet the Press


"We never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country."

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
5/4/2003
Fox News Interview


"I'm not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein -- because he had a weapons program."

George W. Bush
5/12/2003
Remarks to Reporters


"U.S. officials never expected that 'we were going to open garages and find' weapons of mass destruction."

Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Advisor
5/12/2003
Reuters Interview


"I just don't know whether it was all destroyed years ago—I mean, there's no question that there were chemical weapons years ago -- whether they were destroyed right before the war, (or) whether they're still hidden."

Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne
5/13/2003
Press Briefing-Mosul, Iraq


"We said all along that we will never get to the bottom of the Iraqi WMD program simply by going and searching specific sites, that you'd have to be able to get people who know about the programs to talk to you."

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
5/13/2003
Interview with Australian Broadcasting


"Before the war, there's no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found."

Gen. Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps
5/21/2003
New York Times interview


"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction [as justification for invading Iraq] because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
5/28/2003
Vanity Fair interview


"It was a surprise to me then — it remains a surprise to me now — that we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal sites. Believe me, it's not for lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there."

Lt. Gen. James Conway, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force
5/30/2003
USA Today interview


Phase VII
We’ve found WMD:

"The President is indeed satisfied with the intelligence that he received. And I think that's borne out by the fact that, just as Secretary Powell described at the United Nations, we have found the bio trucks that can be used only for the purpose of producing biological weapons. That's proof-perfect that the intelligence in that regard was right on target."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
5/29/2003
White House Press Briefing


"We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them."

George W. Bush, President
5/29/2003
Interview with TVP, Poland


"You remember when [Secretary of State] Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons ...They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two...And we'll find more weapons as time goes on."

George W. Bush, President
5/30/2003
Press Briefing-Poland visit


"Q: The fact that there hasn't been substantial cache of weapons of mass destruction—is that an embarrassment?
Wolfowitz: No. Is it an embarrassment to people on the other side that we've discovered these biological production vans, which the defector told us about?"

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
5/31/2003
CNN Interview


"I would put before you Exhibit A, the mobile biological labs that we have found. People are saying, "Well, are they truly mobile biological labs?" Yes, they are. And the DCI, George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence, stands behind that assessment."

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
6/8/2003
Fox News Interview


Phase VIII
We can’t be blamed for whatever we got wrong about WMD:

"No one ever said that we knew precisely where all of these agents were, where they were stored."

Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Advisor
6/8/2003
Meet the Press


"The biological weapons labs that we believe strongly are biological weapons labs, we didn't find any biological weapons with those labs. But should that give us any comfort? Not at all. Those were labs that could produce biological weapons whenever Saddam Hussein might have wanted to have a biological weapons inventory."

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
6/12/2003
Associated Press


"My personal view is that their intelligence has been, I'm sure, imperfect, but good. In other words, I think the intelligence was correct in general, and that you always will find out precisely what it was once you get on the ground and have a chance to talk to people and explore it, and I think that will happen."

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
6/18/2003
Department of Defense Press Briefing


Phase IX
Our critics are being unreasonable about WMD:

"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
7/9/2003
White House Press Briefing


If we had had that information and ignored it, if we'd been told, as we were, by the intelligence community that he was capable of producing a nuclear weapon within a year if he could acquire fissile material and ignored it... we would have been derelict in our duties and responsibilities."

Vice President Dick Cheney
10/3/2003
Luncheon for Congressman Jim Gerlach, White House


Phase X
What difference does it make what we said about WMD?

"DIANE SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still—"

PRESIDENT BUSH: So what's the difference?"

12/16/03
Interview with Diane Sawyer

Go to top of page link

  


"Q: Mr. President, your advisors have long said that there needs to be regime change in Iraq. Are you looking at military action to achieve that goal? How could Saddam be toppled?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Ron [Ron Fournier, Associated Press], I meant what I said the other night, that there are some nations in the world which develop weapons of mass destruction with one intention, and that is to hold America hostage and/or harm Americans and/or our friends and allies. And I also meant what I said, that I look forward to working with the world to bring pressure on those nations to change their behavior. But make no mistake about it, if we need to, we will take necessary action to defend the American people.

And I think that statement was clear enough for Iraq to hear me. And I will reserve whatever options I have, I'll keep them close to my vest."

George W. Bush, President
February 13, 2002
White House Press Conference


"Mr. McDonald. So what you are calling on Saddam Hussein to do is to let the inspectors back in----

The President. Yes, of course. That's what he said he would do.

Mr. McDonald. And that's the way he can avoid----

The President. But this is not an issue of inspectors. This is an issue of him upholding his word that he would not develop weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. McDonald. So whether he allows the inspectors in or not, he is on the list to be attacked; he's the next target?

The President. You keep trying to put--you're one these clever reporters that keeps trying to put words in my mouth.

Mr. McDonald. Far from that, Mr. President.

The President. Well, I'm afraid you do, sir. But nevertheless, you've had my answer on this subject. And I have no plans to attack on my desk. A policy of my Government is for Saddam not to be in office."

George W. Bush, President
April 4, 2002
Interview with ITV Television


"Q: One way or the other?

THE PRESIDENT: One way or the other, absolutely.

Now, I'm not going to -- I have no military plans on my desk that calls for -- that plots out a military operation. I'm looking at all options."

George W. Bush, President,
May 21, 2002
Interview of the President by Claus Kleber of Ard


"CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER: ...I have taken notice of the fact that His Excellency, the President, does think about all possible alternatives. But despite what people occasionally present here in rumors, there are no concrete military plans of attack on Iraq."

Chancellor Schrodeder of Germany,
May 23, 2002
President Bush Meets with German Chancellor Schroeder


"PRESIDENT BUSH: ...Let me start with the Iraqi regime. The stated policy of my government is that we have a regime change. And as I told President Chirac, I have no war plans on my desk. And I will continue to consult closely with him. We do view Saddam Hussein as a serious, significant -- serious threat to stability and peace."

George W. Bush, President,
May 26, 2002
President Bush Meets with French President Chirac


"Q: Mr. President, you've got a lot going on foreign policy wise right now, the Middle East meetings later this week, the continued efforts here. Is this all moving Iraq to the back burner?

THE PRESIDENT: The war on terror is -- and my strong desire to protect our homeland is of paramount importance to me. [...]

And one option, of course, is the military option. But as we've said repeatedly, I have no plans on my desk at this point in time."

George W. Bush, President,
June 4, 2002
Remarks by the President/NSA Operations Center


"Q: Do you think the American people are prepared for casualties in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that that presumes there's some kind of imminent war plan. As I said, I have no timetable."

George W. Bush, President,
August 10, 2002
Remarks by the President before and after golf/Crawford, Texas


And I want to thank members of both parties in the United States Congress for working to develop a strong resolution and strong signal to the world that this nation is determined. We love peace. Military is not our first choice. But, nevertheless, we will not let the challenges that we face go unheeded. We understand the reality. We understand the nature of the man with which we deal. Everybody matters. Every life counts, including those who have been -- who have been tortured and killed and suppressed in Iraq.

George W. Bush, President,
September 24, 2002
Remarks by the President at John Thune for Senate Reception


For the sake of peace, for the sake of peace not only in our -- in his neighborhood, but in ours, he must disarm. And if he does not, it's his choice to make. It's his and the United Nations' choice to make.

George W. Bush, President,
September 27, 2002
Remarks by the President at Flagstaff, Arizona Welcome


There's no negotiations, by the way, for Mr. Saddam Hussein. There's nothing to discuss. He either gets rid of his weapons and the United Nations gets rid of his weapons -- (applause) -- he can either get rid of his weapons and the United States can act, or the United States will lead a coalition to disarm this man. (Applause.)

I'm willing to give peace a chance to work. I want the United Nations to work. I want him to do what he said he would do. But for the sake of our future, now's the time, now's the time. For the sake of your children's future, we must make sure this madman never has the capacity to hurt us with a nuclear weapon, or to use the stockpiles of anthrax that we know he has, or V-X, the biological weapons which he possesses.

George W. Bush, President,
September 27, 2002
Remarks by the President at Bob Beauprez for Congress Luncheon


THE PRESIDENT: ...All of us recognize military option is not the first choice.

George W. Bush, President,
October 1, 2002
Remarks by the President After Meeting with Members of Congress


THE PRESIDENT: None of us here today desire to see military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war. Our country values life, and never seeks war unless it is essential to security and to justice.

SENATOR MCCAIN: And I am convinced that an overwhelming, significant majority of both Houses of Congress, speaking for their constituents, will provide the President of the United States with the endorsement and the support that he needs, if necessary, as a last resort, to preserve America's security by a regime change in Iraq.

George W. Bush, President,
October 2, 2002
President, House Leadership Agree on Iraq Resolution


The military option is my last choice, not my first. It's my last choice. But Saddam has got to understand, the United Nations must know, that the will of this country is strong.

George W. Bush, President,
October 3, 2002
Remarks by the President to Hispanic Leaders


The United States does not desire military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war. Our country values life, and we will never seek war unless it is essential to security and justice. We hope that Iraq complies with the world's demands. If, however, the Iraqi regime persists in its defiance, the use of force may become unavoidable. Delay, indecision, and inaction are not options for America, because they could lead to massive and sudden horror.

George W. Bush, President,
October 5, 2002
President: Iraqi Regime Danger to America is "Grave and Growing"


The use of our military is my last choice, not my first. I take my responsibilities very seriously as the Commander in Chief. The use of force is not my first choice, it's my last. But my first choice, as well, is not to allow the world's worst leader to blackmail, to harm America with the world's worst weapons.

George W. Bush, President,
October 5, 2002
Remarks by the President at John Sununu for Senate Reception


Powell: War should never be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It should always be a deliberate act by people acting rationally, hopefully. And in this case, as the president said the other night, we are trying to see war as a last resort.

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
October 9, 2002
CNN/ Larry King


I hope this will not require military action, but it may. And military conflict could be difficult...

There is no easy or risk-free course of action. Some have argued we should wait -- and that's an option. In my view, it's the riskiest of all options, because the longer we wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become...

Later this week, the United States Congress will vote on this matter. I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable...

We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it.

George W. Bush, President,
October 11, 2002
President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat


But I am very firm in my desire to make sure that Saddam is disarmed. Hopefully, we can do this peacefully. The use of the military is my last choice, is my last desire.

George W. Bush, President,
October 14, 2002
Remarks by the President Upon Departure for Michigan


But for the sake of security of our country, their [U.N.] choice to make. I hope it's done peacefully. I hope we never use a military -- one military troop in Iraq.

George W. Bush, President,
October 14, 2002
Remarks by the President in Michigan Welcome


Military option is my last choice. It's not my -- it's the last thing I want to do, is commit our military.

George W. Bush, President,
October 14, 2002
Remarks by the President at Thaddeus McCotter for Congress Dinner


With this resolution, Congress has now authorized the use of force. I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary. [...]

Like the members of Congress here today, I've carefully weighed the human cost of every option before us. If we go into battle, as a last resort, we will confront an enemy capable of irrational miscalculations, capable of terrible deeds.

George W. Bush, President,
October 16, 2002
President Signs Iraq Resolution


It is for that reason that I sought an additional resolution of support from the Congress to use force against Iraq, should force become necessary.

George W. Bush, President,
October 16, 2002
Statement by the President


THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I have told the Prime Minister that my hope is, is that we could achieve a disarmament of the Iraqi regime peacefully. I haven't given up on the fact that we can achieve it peacefully. We have no plans to use our military until -- unless we need to. I explained to the Prime Minister, just like I explain to every citizen who is interested in this, the military is my last choice, not my first choice.

George W. Bush, President,
October 16, 2002
President Bush Welcomes Prime Minister Sharon to White House


Q Why you threaten military action against Iraq, but you believe that Korea's nuclear weapons program only merits diplomatic efforts?

THE PRESIDENT: Saddam Hussein is unique, in this sense: he has thumbed his nose at the world for 11 years...

We've tried diplomacy. We're trying it one more time. [...]

Q If you can explain this in a way that they and the rest of us will understand. There is some hints over the weekend, the possibility that taking weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq is our goal, raising the possibility or the implication that he could somehow remain in power.

THE PRESIDENT: The stated policy of the United States is regime change because, for 11 years, Saddam Hussein has ignored the United Nations and the free world...

However, if he were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I've described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed.

George W. Bush, President,
October 21, 2002
Remarks by the President and NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson


Saddam Hussein has a choice to make. We've made it clear that nobody likes war, nobody likes what could happen during war. But for the sake of peace, Mr. Hussein, get rid of your weapons. You said you wouldn't have them, get rid of them.

George W. Bush, President,
October 31, 2002
Remarks by the President at West Virginia Welcome


And war is not my first choice, don't -- it's my last choice. But nevertheless, it is a -- it is an option in order to make the world a more peaceful place. [...]

I'm not willing to take those kind of risks. People understand that. I think a lot of people are saying, you know, gosh, we hope we don't have war. I feel the same way, I hope we don't have war. I hope this can be done peacefully. It's up to Saddam Hussein, however, to make that choice.

George W. Bush, President,
November 7, 2002
President Outlines Priorities


The outcome of the current crisis is already determined: the full disarmament of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq will occur. The only question for the Iraqi regime is to decide how. The United States prefers that Iraq meet its obligations voluntarily, yet we are prepared for the alternative.

George W. Bush, President,
November 8, 2002
President Pleased with U.N. Vote


MR. MCCLELLAN: . . .This is about disarmament and this is a final opportunity for Saddam Hussein to disarm. If he chooses not to do so peacefully, then the United States is prepared to act, with our friends, to do so by force. And we will do so forcefully and swiftly and decisively, as the President has outlined. But the President continues to seek a peaceful resolution. War is a last resort.

Scott McClellan, Press Secretary
November 12, 2002
White House Press Briefing


And if, in fact, military action is needed, we'll consult with them and everybody will be able to make a decision that they're comfortable with. But I wouldn't preclude a peaceful settlement. I hope it happens peacefully.

George W. Bush, President,
November 18, 2002
Interview of the President in European Print Roundtable


Q. You will certainly talk about Iraq. Will the United States, if it decides to go to war with Iraq, seek the support of NATO as an alliance?

The President. Well, first, I hope we don't have to go to war with Iraq. I mean, my first choice is not to commit our troops to regime change.

George W. Bush, President,
November 18, 2002
Interview With Czech Television


And my answer, as far as Iraq goes, is exactly what I've said previously: If the decision is made to use military force, we will consult with our friends, and we hope that our friends will join us.

George W. Bush, President,
November 20, 2002
President Bush, President Havel Discuss Iraq, NATO


America's goal, the world's goal is more than the return of inspectors to Iraq. Our goal is to secure the peace through the comprehensive and verified disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Voluntary, or by force, that goal will be achieved.

George W. Bush, President,
November 20, 2002
Remarks by the President to Prague Atlantic Student Summit


PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, my expectation is, is that we can do this peacefully, if Saddam Hussein disarms. That's my expectation. This is -- Saddam Hussein has got a decision to make: Will he uphold the agreement that he has made. And if he chooses to do so by disarming peacefully, the world will be better off for it. If he chooses not to disarm, we will work with our close friends, the closest of which is Great Britain, and we will disarm him. But our first choice is not to use the military option. Our first choice is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. And that's where we'll be devoting a lot of our energies.

George W. Bush, President,
November 21, 2002
President Bush, Prime Minister Blair Meet in Prague


Americans seek peace in this world. We're a peaceful nation. War is the last option for confronting threats.

George W. Bush, President,
December 2, 2002
President Signs National Defense Authorization Act


MR. FLEISCHER: . . . The international community and many of these nations that we are working most closely with see it the same way the President does. They, too, don't want war. They believe war should be a last resort, and they hope that Saddam Hussein will disarm so it can be averted.

Ari Fleisher, Press Secretary
December 5, 2002
White House Press Briefing


Americans seek peace in the world. War is the last option for confronting threats. Yet the temporary peace of denial and looking away from danger would only be a prelude to a broader war and greater horror. America will confront gathering dangers early.

George W. Bush, President,
December 7, 2002
Radio Address


Q Ari, on Iraq, as this build-up continues, the military build-up continues, Americans can only draw one conclusion, and that is, though it's the last resort, this country is very much readying itself for war. So why isn't it time to clarify for the American people why exactly we would take such action, what evidence the administration possesses to link Saddam Hussein with an imminent threat against the country?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has made it very clear that the role of the inspectors is a very important part of this process. The inspectors need to be in Iraq to do the job that the world has asked them to do. And they're in the middle of their work. The President understands, and is the first one to understand, that in the event he reaches this conclusion that Saddam Hussein has refused to disarm, Saddam Hussein continues to defy the inspectors and to hide his weapons, and that if the only way to achieve disarmament is through military action, the President is the first to understand the need to communicate that message to the American people. And indeed, he is prepared to do so, if it gets to that point.

It has not reached that point at this time. And so I think your question is a good one; it's just not at the time that the President has decided it is that time. This is the course of the inspections.

Q But why hold out? I mean, what we're seeing every day in our newspapers and on television are troops being deployed to the region and very pointed language towards Saddam Hussein. And yet, we can't know the real payoff here, which is why exactly we are readying ourselves to go to war -- what we know, what the government knows, that the public doesn't.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, because the President is the one who has to make the ultimate decision about whether or not Saddam Hussein has brought the world to the point where the world has no choice but to take military action. The President has not reached any conclusions. And so, it's not a question of why isn't the President saying anything today. At the appropriate time and in the President's judgment, he, of course, will. It's a solemn obligation on the President and he knows that.

Ari Fleisher, Press Secretary
January 13, 2003
White House Press Briefing


THE PRESIDENT: First, let me echo the comments of my National Security Advisor, who the other day in commenting about this process said this is a matter of weeks, not months. In other words, for the sake of peace, this issue must be resolved. Hopefully, it can be done peacefully. Hopefully the pressure of the free world will convince Mr. Saddam Hussein to relinquish power. And should he choose to leave the country, along with a lot of the other henchmen who have tortured the Iraqi people, we would welcome that, of course.

I will tell my friend, Silvio, that the use of military troops is my last choice, not my first. The commitment of young men and Americans into battle is a difficult decision, because I understand the cost of war.

George W. Bush, President,
January 30, 2003
President Bush Meets with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi


We face an outlaw regime in Iraq that hates our country. A regime that aids and harbors terrorists and is armed with weapons of mass murder. Before September the 11th, 2001, there's a lot of good folks who believe that Saddam Hussein can be contained. Before September the 11th, 2001, we thought oceans would protect us forever; that if we saw a gathering threat somewhere else in the world, we could respond to it if we chose -- so chose to do so. But that all changed on that fateful day.

Chemical agents, lethal viruses, and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a threat to the United States of America. He's a threat to some of our closest friends and allies. We don't accept this threat. (Applause.)

As a matter of fact, the world saw this as a threat 12 years ago. Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein was told to disarm -- for a reason: he's a dangerous man. And he hadn't disarmed. We've tried economic sanctions; he hasn't changed. Over the years, we've tried limited strikes against military facilities. It didn't work. We've offered Iraq the path of voluntary disarmament and inspections. The Iraqi regime is rejecting it.

Saddam Hussein has broken every promise to disarm. He has shown complete contempt for the international community. Last fall the international community spoke, with united voice. It said: this is your last chance, Mr. Saddam Hussein, to do what you said you would do, which is, in the name of peace, disarm; destroy your weapons of mass destruction. The role of the inspectors is not to play hide-and-seek, in a country the size of California, with 104 people. The role of inspectors is to verify whether or not Mr. Saddam Hussein is keeping his word; whether or not he's showing up with his weapons and destroying them. The weapons, by the way, he says he doesn't have.

My attitude is that we owe it to future generations of Americans and citizens in freedom-loving countries to see to it that Mr. Saddam Hussein is disarmed. (Applause.) It's his choice to make as to how he will be disarmed. He can either do so -- which it doesn't look like he's going to -- for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition of willing countries and disarm Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)

If war is forced upon us -- and I say "forced upon us," because use of the military is not my first choice. I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom. I take my responsibilities incredibly seriously about the commitment of troops. But should we need to use troops, for the sake of future generations of Americans, American troops will act in the honorable traditions of our military and in the highest moral traditions of our country.

We will try in every way we can to spare innocent life. The people of Iraq are not our enemies. (Applause.)

George W. Bush, President,
February 10, 2003
President's Remarks at Religious Broadcasters' Convention


Q Mr. President, there are many Australians -- there are many Australians and others who are still not convinced that they should be going with you to war. At this late stage what's your personal message to them?

THE PRESIDENT: My personal message is that I want to keep the peace and make the world more peaceful. I understand why people don't like to commit the military to action. I can understand that. I'm the person in this country that hugs the mothers and the widows if their son or husband dies. I know people would like to avoid armed conflict. And so would I.

George W. Bush, President,
February 10, 2003
President Bush Meets with Prime Minister Howard of Australia


MR. FLEISCHER: . . . I think there is universal agreement that force is a last resort. That is absolutely valid for the United States. And the President remains hopeful that Iraq will, indeed, disarm and therefore avert the need for force to be used to disarm him.

Q Ari, what does the President want the Security Council to do now? Does he want another resolution specifically authorizing force? Or is he willing to settle for something watered down that everybody can agree on?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President wants the world to study carefully what Mr. Blix said. There are important things that Mr. Blix revealed to the world this morning, that the United Nations Security Council has to consider, the members of the Security Council have to consider. And I think it's likely that they will.

Q Is he not going to -- or is Secretary Powell not going to come forward at some point with a resolution asking for specific authority to use force?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President has made it clear the United States will welcome a second resolution from the Security Council.

Ari Fleisher, Press Secretary
February 14, 2003
White House Press Briefing


Force should always be a last resort. I have preached this for most of my professional life, as a soldier and as a diplomat, but it must be a resort. We cannot allow this process to be endlessly strung out as Iraq is trying to do right now-- string it out long enough and the world will start looking in other directions, the Security Council will move on, we'll get away with it again.

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
February 14, 2003
Remarks to the United Nations Security Council


Q Ari, on that point, about this humanitarian relief. If the administration is interested in going through the steps of what relief will be offered, why isn't the President giving the American people more information about what an American-led occupation of Iraq would look like, would entail, the sort of sacrifice, the potential danger? Don't we have, as a society, the right to have that conversation before military action begins, if it begins?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think there is no question that you will, in the case the President decides that the use of force is necessary. If the President makes the decision that the use of force is necessary, you can anticipate a series of additional conversation with the President about this matter. These are important questions that you raise. The humanitarian issue is an important question, and they all are important questions. And I anticipate that you will hear from the President on this.

MR. FLEISCHER: The President views the use of military force as a last resort, which he hopes can be avoided. But it's a last resort that if he makes the decision that it's necessary to engage in, he will do so to protect the people of the United States from attack.

Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
February 24, 2003
White House Press Briefing


If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force, even as a last resort, free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks. The attacks of September the 11th, 2001 showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction. [...]

Q [Jim Angle) Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, if you haven't already made the choice to go to war, can you tell us what you are waiting to hear or see before you do make that decision? And if I may, during the recent demonstrations, many of the protestors suggested that the U.S. was a threat to peace, which prompted you to wonder out loud why they didn't see Saddam Hussein as a threat to peace. I wonder why you think so many people around the world take a different view of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses than you and your allies.

I recognize there are people who -- who don't like war. I don't like war. [...]

And that creates a certain sense of anxiety; I understand that. Nobody likes war. The only thing I can do is assure the loved ones of those who wear our uniform that if we have to go to war, if war is upon us because Saddam Hussein has made that choice, we will have the best equipment available for our troops, the best plan available for victory, and we will respect innocent life in Iraq.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. How would -- sir, how would you answer your critics who say that they think this is somehow personal? As Senator Kennedy put it tonight, he said your fixation with Saddam Hussein is making the world a more dangerous place.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to protect America, and that is exactly what I'm going to do. People can ascribe all kinds of intentions. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution; that's what I swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath, and that's exactly what I am going to do.

I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat to the American people. I believe he's a threat to the neighborhood in which he lives. And I've got a good evidence to believe that. He has weapons of mass destruction, and he has used weapons of mass destruction, in his neighborhood and on his own people. He's invaded countries in his neighborhood. He tortures his own people. He's a murderer. He has trained and financed al Qaeda-type organizations before, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. I take the threat seriously, and I'll deal with the threat. I hope it can be done peacefully.

Q Thank you, sir. May I follow up on Jim Angle's question? ... May I ask, what went wrong that so many governments and people around the world now not only disagree with you very strongly, but see the U.S. under your leadership as an arrogant power?

THE PRESIDENT: ...I think you'll see when it's all said and done, if we have to use force, a lot of nations will be with us. [. . .]

He's a master at deception. He has no intention of disarming -- otherwise, we would have known. There's a lot of talk about inspectors. It really would have taken a handful of inspectors to determine whether he was disarming -- they could have showed up at a parking lot and he could have brought his weapons and destroyed them. That's not what he chose to do.

Q Mr. President, good evening. If you order war, can any military operation be considered a success if the United States does not capture Saddam Hussein, as you once said, dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I hope we don't have to go to war, but if we go to war, we will disarm Iraq. And if we go to war, there will be a regime change. And replacing this cancer inside of Iraq will be a government that represents the rights of all the people, a government which represents the voices of the Shia and Sunni and the Kurds.

Q [Bill Plante] Mr. President, to a lot of people, it seems that war is probably inevitable, because many people doubt -- most people, I would guess -- that Saddam Hussein will ever do what we are demanding that he do, which is disarm. And if war is inevitable, there are a lot of people in this country -- as much as half, by polling standards -- who agree that he should be disarmed, who listen to you say that you have the evidence, but who feel they haven't seen it, and who still wonder why blood has to be shed if he hasn't attacked us.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Bill, if they believe he should be disarmed, and he's not going to disarm, there's only one way to disarm him. And that happens to be my last choice -- the use of force.

Q Mr. President, if you decide to go ahead with military action, there are inspectors on the ground in Baghdad. Will you give them time to leave the country, or the humanitarian workers on the ground or the journalists? Will you be able to do that, and still mount an effective attack on Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Of course... I've not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully. Hopefully, that as a result of the pressure that we have placed -- and others have placed -- that Saddam will disarm and/or leave the country.

George W. Bush, President
March 6, 2003
White House Press Conference


The attacks of September the 11, 2001 showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terror states could do with weapons of mass destruction. We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. And, as a last resort, we must be willing to use military force. We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq.

George W. Bush, President
March 8, 2003
Radio Address


Q So there might be a need to go back to the U.N. because you still don't have the necessary nine votes, and the French veto threat still stands?

DR. RICE: Well, right now we're continuing to work on it. We really do believe that if the Security Council can bring itself to do this, that would be the very best.

...And if we have to use force, we will do everything that we can to attend to the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.

...But let me be very clear, if we have to use military force in Iraq, it is our intention to help the Iraqi people to liberate themselves, to be there, as the President said, as long as we're needed but not one minute longer, and to very early on, put in place with Iraqis -- from outside the country and inside the country -- an Iraq authority that can administer and run the country.

Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor
March 14, 2003
Interview by Al Jazeera Television


The United States, Great Britain and Spain continue to work with fellow members of the U.N. Security Council to confront this common danger...

And we must recognize that some threats are so grave -- and their potential consequences so terrible -- that they must be removed, even if it requires military force.

As diplomatic efforts continue, we must never lose sight of the basic facts about the regime of Baghdad.

...If force is required to disarm him, the American people can know that our armed forces have been given every tool and every resource to achieve victory.

George W. Bush, President
March 15, 2003
Radio Address
  

  

Go to top of page link

Send email to a friend about this page:


Go here for images to use in linking to this site
About the DowningStreetMemo.com team