Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Colin Powell

On the occasion Powell's visit to Cairo, during a press conference on 24 February 2001, he answered a question about the adequacy of US-led sanctions against Iraq:
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...
Furthermore, on 15 May 2001, Powell testified before the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Later scrubbed from State Department site, Lexus-Nexus salvaged the content. Here are some extracts. Senator Bennett asked:
Mr. Secretary, the U.N. sanctions on Iraq expire the beginning of June. We've had bombs dropped, we've had threats made, we've had all kinds of activity vis-a-vis Iraq in the previous administration. Now we're coming to the end. What's our level of concern about the progress of Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programs?
Secretary Powell:
The sanctions, as they are called, have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction. The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn't have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained. And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful. There's no question that they have some stockpiles of some of these sorts of weapons still under their control, but they have not been able to break out, they have not been able to come out with the capacity to deliver these kinds of systems or to actually have these kinds of systems that is much beyond where they were 10 years ago.

So containment, using this arms control sanctions regime, I think has been reasonably successful. We have not been able to get the inspectors back in, though, to verify that, and we have not been able to get the inspectors in to pull up anything that might be left there. So we have to continue to view this regime with the greatest suspicion, attribute to them the most negative motives, which is quite well-deserved with this particular regime, and roll the sanctions over, and roll them over in a way where the arms control sanctions really go after their intended targets -- weapons of mass destruction -- and not go after civilian goods or civilian commodities that we really shouldn't be going after, just let that go to the Iraqi people. That wasn't the purpose of the oil-for-food program. And by reconfiguring them in that way, I think we can gain support for this regime once again.

When we came into office on the 20th of January, the whole sanctions regime was collapsing in front of our eyes. Nations were bailing out on it. We lost the consensus for this kind of regime because the Iraqi regime had successfully painted us as the ones causing the suffering of the Iraqi people, when it was the regime that was causing the suffering. They had more than enough money; they just weren't spending it in the proper way. And we were getting the blame for it. So reconfiguring the sanctions, I think, helps us and continues to contain the Iraqi regime.

Thus, four to seven months before 9/11--and just 15 to 18 months before the drive to attack Iraq seriously revved up--the Secretary of State trumpeted that Iraq had a decimated military, no "significant capabilities" regarding WMD, and was so feeble that it couldn't even threaten the countries around it with conventional military power. Before the U.N., (5-Feb-03) Powell said,
What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. . . .

Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction. . . . .

Iraq's goal was to give us, in this room, to give those us on this council the false impression that the inspection process was working. . . . .

My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. . . . .

Our sources tell us that, in some cases, the hard drives of computers at Iraqi weapons facilities were replaced. Who took the hard drives. Where did they go? What's being hidden? Why? There's only one answer to the why: to deceive, to hide, to keep from the inspectors. . . . .

We must ask ourselves: Why would Iraq suddenly move equipment of this nature before inspections if they were anxious to demonstrate what they had or did not have?

. . . . Ladies and gentlemen, these are not assertions. These are facts, corroborated by many sources, some of them sources of the intelligence services of other countries.

The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world. Let me now turn to those deadly weapons programs and describe why they are real and present dangers to the region and to the world.

Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets.

Even the low end of 100 tons of agent would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory, an area nearly 5 times the size of Manhattan.

. . . . The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.
In September 2005, Powell said of his U.N. speech that it was a “blot” on his record. He went on to say, [ABC News, (9-Sept-05):
It will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now.

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