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Fact Sheet

Bush Administration Statements on Iraq's Prohibited Weapons

Below are selected quotes from Bush administration officials, including the president, regarding Iraq and the status of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Included are remarks made before and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which began with military strikes March 19, 2003. The quotes appear in chronological order and are grouped under three categories: overarching WMD threat posed by Iraq, nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons.

Overarching WMD Threat Posed by Iraq

Vice President Dick Cheney
August 26, 2002
Veterans Of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors-confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.

President George W. Bush
October 7, 2002
Cincinnati, OH

[The Iraqi regime] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people…While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place…The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today-and we do-does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?…Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them or provide them to a terror network…America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of our peril, we cannot wait for the final proof-the smoking gun-that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton
November 1, 2002
Speech to the Hudson Institute

Iraq, despite U.N. sanctions, maintains an aggressive program to rebuild the infrastructure for its nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs. In each instance, Iraq's procurement agents are actively working to obtain both weapons-specific and dual-use materials and technologies critical to their rebuilding and expansion efforts, using front companies and whatever illicit means are at hand. 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.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
January 15, 2003
Defense Department Briefing

The intelligence community of the United States of America has assessed not that they have nuclear weapons, but that they have an active, ongoing nuclear program. That's public. There's an NIE, a National Intelligence Estimate, on that. And if it weren't public, it now is. They have assessed that they have chemical and biological weapons.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
January 20, 2003
Speech to Reserve Officers Association

There are a number of terrorist states that are pursuing weapons of mass murder today. But as President Bush has made clear, Iraq poses a threat to the security of our people, and to the stability of the world, that is distinct from any other. Consider the record: Saddam Hussein possesses chemical and biological weapons. He has used chemical weapons against foreign forces and his own people, in one case killing some 5,000 innocent civilians in a single day…His regime has large, unaccounted for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, including VX, sarin, mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox, and he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons…No other living dictator has shown the same deadly combination of capability and intent-of aggression against its neighbors; pursuit of weapons of mass destruction; the use of chemical weapons against his own people as well as against his neighbors; oppression of his own people; support of terrorism; and the most threatening hostility to its neighbors and to the United States-as has Iraq. In both word and deed, Iraq has demonstrated that it is seeking the means to strike the United States, and our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction for a reason: so that it can acquire the territory and assert influence over its neighbors.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
January 23, 2003
"Why We Know Iraq Is Lying," The New York Times

Instead of a commitment to disarm, Iraq has a high-level political commitment to maintain and conceal its weapons, led by Saddam Hussein and his son Qusay, who controls the Special Security Organization, which runs Iraq's concealment activities…And instead of full cooperation and transparency, Iraq has filed a false declaration to the United Nations that amounts to a 12,200-page lie. For example, the declaration fails to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad…

Secretary of State Colin Powell
February 3, 2003
"We Will Not Shrink From War," The Wall Street Journal/

We will, in sum, offer a straightforward, sober and compelling demonstration that Saddam is concealing the evidence of his weapons of mass destruction, while preserving the weapons themselves…Iraq continues to conceal deadly weapons and their components, and to use denial, deception and subterfuge in order to retain them.

President George W. Bush
March 6, 2003
National Press Conference

Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people. 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. We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons…So more time, more inspectors, more process, in our judgment, is not going to affect the peace of the world.

President George W. Bush
March 17, 2003
Speech to the Nation

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.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
March 30, 2003
Interview on ABC's "This Week"

[T]he area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
April 10, 2003
White House Press Briefing

The fact of the matter is we are still in a war, and not everything about the war is yet known. 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.

President George W. Bush
May 29, 2003
Interview on Polish Television

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.

Nuclear Weapons

President George W. Bush
October 7, 2002
Cincinnati, OH

The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen"-his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

Vice President Dick Cheney
March 16, 2003
Interview on NBC's "Meet the Press"

But we also have to address the question of where might these terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons? And Saddam Hussein becomes a prime suspect in that regard because of his past track record and because we know he has, in fact, developed these kinds of capabilities, chemical and biological weapons. We know he's used chemical weapons. We know he's reconstituted these programs since the Gulf War. We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization…We know that based on intelligence that he 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. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
July 7, 2003
White House Press Briefing

I'm sorry, I see what David is asking. Let me back up on that and explain the President's statement again, or the answer to it. The President's statement [during his January 2003 State of the Union address regarding Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from an African country] was based on the predicate of the yellow cake from Niger. The President made a broad statement. So given the fact that the report on the yellow cake did not turn out to be accurate, that is reflective of the President's broader statement, David. So, yes, the President's broader statement was based and predicated on the yellow cake from Niger.
Q: So it was wrong?
FLEISCHER: That's what we've acknowledged with the information on --
Q: The President's statement at the State of the Union was incorrect?
FLEISCHER: Because it was based on the yellow cake from Niger.

Chemical and Biological Weapons

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
January 7, 2003
Defense Department Briefing

With respect to chemical weapons, we know they not only have had them but that they've used them. And with respect to biological weapons, we have clearly -- the Central Intelligence Agency has said what it has said, and there's no doubt in my mind but that they currently have chemical and biological weapons.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
February 23, 2003
Interview with Detroit News

He may do something that will fool some people but if it's the old game of cheat and retreat, it's not acceptable. And just fiddling around on the edges while you continue to threaten scientists with talk of death while you continue to hide your anthrax and your botulism, that's not cooperation, and you can't say well they're cooperating more when in fact they're fundamentally obstructing the whole process.

President George W. Bush
March 6, 2003
National Press Conference

Iraqi operatives continue to hide biological and chemical agents to avoid detection by inspectors. In some cases, these materials have been moved to different locations every 12 to 24 hours or placed in vehicles that are in residential neighborhoods.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
March 11, 2003
Defense Department Briefing

[Saddam Hussein] claims to have no chemical or biological weapons, yet we know he continues to hide biological and chemical weapons, moving them to different locations as often as every 12 to 24 hours, and placing them in residential neighborhoods.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
March 21, 2003
White House Press Briefing

Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly. This was the reason that the President felt so strongly that we needed to take military action to disarm Saddam Hussein, since he would not do it himself.

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

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