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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Article in Newsweek Magazine of March 2, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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"It's Up to Iraq"

Last week I traveled to college campuses to discuss U.S. policy towards Iraq with the American people. The experience brought me back to my days as a college professor. In Ohio, we met on a basketball court. Having taught at Georgetown, I should have remembered how loud a basketball court can be!

During my travels, I found strong support for our policy towards Iraq—but I also heard some good, serious questions. It seemed to me that there were two general concerns: first, there was a strong desire to see the crisis settled peacefully; second, if a peaceful resolution proves impossible, many people seemed to want a military outcome that ends with Saddam Hussein’s removal from power.

Let me discuss each of these in turn.

First and foremost, President Clinton and his entire national-security team share the desire for a peaceful, diplomatic solution. The United States has worked long and hard to achieve that end. Last week, we backed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s mission to Baghdad. But we must be very clear: a peaceful solution is in the hands of Saddam alone. Our standard for a solution is, and has always been, very simple. Iraq must abide by the obligations it accepted in 1991 after the gulf war. Saddam must end his defiance of the U.N. Security Council and give U.N. weapons inspectors the unfettered access they need to do their jobs.

Why do we care so much about access for weapons inspectors? Because Saddam has a long track record of aggression and deception. Unlike any other modern leader, he has used chemical weapons against other countries and even against his own people. He has started two wars. And he has lied again and again about Iraq’s weapons programs. We need a tight inspection program to make sure that Saddam cannot continue building and developing these weapons.

If Saddam refuses to accept full access for U.N. inspectors, we are prepared to use military force to contain the threat posed by him and his weapons of mass destruction. If diplomacy fails, we will deliver a serious blow that will significantly diminish the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and reduce his ability to threaten his neighbors.

Second, if diplomacy fails, why don’t we use military force to remove Saddam from power? The answer: the threat posed by Saddam is the threat of a dictator armed with chemical and biological weapons, and a track record of suing them. But toppling Saddam requires a far vaster commitment of military force and a far greater risk to American lives then we need to contain that threat.

Some have suggested that, instead of military strikes, we should arm and encourage the Iraqi opposition to initiate a civil war. That option sounds-- but is not--simple. We have worked with Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein in the past, and we are ready to work with them more effectively in the future. But the opposition is currently divided, and it would be wrong to create false or unsustainable expectations that could end in bloodshed and defeat.

If President Clinton does order military strikes against Iraq, we will do everything we can to minimize the harm to civilians. We care about the Iraqi people. We have led U.N. efforts to permit Iraq to sell oil so it can buy food and medicine; we voted to double the size of this program last Friday. It is Saddam who has squandered Iraq’s resources on weapons of mass destruction and palaces.

The bottom line? We want a peaceful solution, but it must be a principled one that gives weapons inspectors full and unfettered access. If Saddam prevents that, we will act to counter the threat he poses. We will do it in a way that minimizes the risk to the lives of Americans and Iraqi civilians alike, and we will have the support of many nations around the world.

The ball is in Saddam’s court.

[End of Document]

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