National Review Online, December 5, 2002                   
MSNBC.com, December 6, 2002      
By Alan W. Dowd

On or before December 8, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is required to release a master list of his hidden weapons. If the past is any guide, he will miscalculate and attempt instead to play games or buy time. Soon thereafter, President George W. Bush must be prepared to end the games by ending Saddam's regime.

Like the first Gulf War, the onset of U.S. military operations won't come as a shock. The president's war of words against Iraq began in January with his "Axis of Evil" speech. And Saddam's regime has been in America's crosshairs ever since. Indeed, while American pundits and politicians digested the midterm elections and diplomats squabbled over synonyms at the United Nations, the U.S. military used the last month to gather strength around Iraq. Bound for Kuwait, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit transited the Suez Canal. Tank-killing Apache helicopter squadrons were deployed from Germany to Kuwait. The USS George Washington is now roaming the eastern Mediterranean; the USS Abraham Lincoln is prowling the Arabian Sea; the USS Constellation and USS Harry S. Truman will join them in short order. B-2 Stealth Bombers are being deployed to Great Britain and Diego Garcia. The Pentagon has transferred much of its Central Command headquarters to Qatar, a tiny country midway between the mouth and head of the Persian Gulf. And perhaps most remarkably, what was once a tripwire force of a few thousand troops scattered across the desert now numbers at least 60,000. Using pre-positioned hardware held in reserve after the last war, they have been training for months in the sands and skies of Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan — and, yes, Iraq. In addition to the almost-daily air strikes against Iraq's antiaircraft sites and communications bunkers, covert operations are even now underway in the deserts of Iraq, laying the groundwork for war, just as they did in Afghanistan.

However, in both its ends and methods, George W. Bush's war against Iraq will be far different than his father's foreshortened blitzkrieg or his predecessor's distracted and disjointed attempts at containment. And as a consequence, his war address will need to be different as well. Like the war itself, the speech must deal with the present while looking ahead to the future. And it must prepare the American people for new sacrifices and new burdens. Fresh from the rout in Afghanistan, we may not fully grasp the sacrifices that this phase of the war and its aftermath will demand. And in an odd sort of way, the shock, enormity and carnage of September 11 have left many Americans with the false impression that nothing could be worse than that awful Tuesday morning. In his war address, the president must disabuse us of these notions. Awful events and heavy burdens lie ahead, and President Bush must brace us for this reality.

The timing of the speech — and of the war it will unleash — are unknown. But one thing seems certain: The war of words will soon give way to words of war.

My fellow Americans:

I come to you tonight at an hour of great peril for our country and indeed our world. In the long, hard months since our country was attacked without warning or cause, I have often spoken about a gathering danger — a danger to our way of life, to our freedom, to our cities and suburbs and farms, to our children and their future. We caught a glimpse of what that danger can spawn on September 11, 2001, but sadly it was only that — a glimpse. Armed with nothing more than box cutters and an insidious imagination for destruction, the enemy pierced our sense of security, killed 3,000 of our own, and forever maimed our country.

To contemplate what the enemy will unleash once he is armed with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons is to live a nightmare. But this much we know: the death and destruction would dwarf September 11.

The sad and chilling truth is that our enemies are racing to build, buy or steal these very weapons. Coming together at what I have called the crossroads of terror and technology, terrorist groups like al Qaeda are teaming with rogue governments to mete out revenge against their common enemies — the United States, the family of nations and civilization itself.

We have been at war for just over a year and a half now. And we have made great progress in uprooting the poison weed of terrorism. From Afghanistan to America, and from Europe to Yemen, we have attacked terror's sponsors, soldiers, secret cells and safe havens. But the enemy is resilient and cunning, and he will not be defeated in the span of 18 months. As we have witnessed in Islamabad, Bali, New Delhi, Kuwait, Tunisia and Israel, he will not simply surrender or sue for peace. He must be hunted down and destroyed. The wartime words of Winston Churchill are instructive: "We must convince the enemy, not by words, but by deeds, that we have both the will and the means not only to go on indefinitely but to strike heavy and unexpected blows." Tonight, we are doing exactly that.

Because we stand tall for freedom, America has many friends and many enemies. But one government is set apart from all others in its contempt for America's special position of leadership, in its capacity for violence, and in its drive for regional domination. Only one government blends all of these with an unquenchable thirst for weapons of mass destruction and an open willingness to shelter, aid and train the foot soldiers of terror. Only one government presents such a clear and present danger to the United States of America, and our friends and interests. And that is the government of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

As I report to you, a U.S.-led coalition of air, land and naval forces is attacking military and leadership targets throughout Iraq. As our troops go into battle, our prayers go with them, for we know that some of them will never return. There is no greater form of sacrifice than this, to willingly risk life and limb in defense of the weak and innocent. Their cause is just, and they will prevail. Their mission is difficult, but their objectives are clear: to dislodge Saddam Hussein and his henchmen from power, to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, to dismantle the machinery of Saddam's brutal regime, and to assist the Iraqi people in building a free, independent Iraq. Our military campaign is designed to achieve these goals — not to conquer Iraq, not to harm innocent civilians, not to cripple the already-battered Iraqi economy, not even to destroy Saddam's imprisoned conscript army, most of which fights at the point of a gun.

Saddam's neighbors can relate well to this feeling of dread. For years they, too, have lived at the point of a gun. The two previous administrations worked tirelessly to disarm Saddam and prevent him from reloading his arsenal and threatening his neighbors yet again. But Saddam still possesses vast stores of chemical and biological weapons. Along with our allies, we have concluded that, barring military action, Saddam Hussein would be able to build and deploy a nuclear weapon in as little as 1 to 2 years. Armed with a nuclear device, Saddam could blackmail America and our allies, destabilize the world, and kill tens of thousands in a single blow. We cannot allow this to happen. I will not allow the American people to live at the point of a gun.

As we strike where the roots of terror reach as deep as anywhere else on earth, we should expect the enemy to strike back — both here at home and overseas. We must be vigilant and prepared, as we have been since that awful Tuesday in September. But we must continue living life as we know it.

As we work to eliminate the threat posed by the regime of Saddam Hussein overseas, know that we are doing everything possible to protect our homeland. Toward that end, we are deploying key military units near seaports, at air ports, outside nuclear-power plants, around hydro-electric dams, and in the skies over many of our cities. They will remain in place as long as the situation calls for it, but at the very least until Saddam Hussein has been removed from power.

As we have learned in the past decade, that goal simply cannot be achieved through sanctions, inspections or isolated air strikes. Saddam preys on the goodwill of peace-loving peoples. He used the time we debated at the United Nations not to come clean, but to brace for war. And he has cynically turned UN sanctions against his own people: Rather than using oil revenue to feed his subjects, he has diverted it to new palaces, yachts and military hardware.

Some might ask, why Iraq? Other countries have terrible weapons. Other countries have brutal dictators. Other countries deal in terror. The answer is simple: Those other countries aren't ruled by Saddam Hussein.

Saddam is the only leader on earth who has used weapons of mass destruction. In the early 1980s, he deployed chemical weapons to kill and maim thousands of Iranian troops. In 1988, he used chemical weapons against his own people, killing thousands of Kurds and causing birth defects that haunt and scar the Kurdish people to this day.

Saddam has shown himself to be a persistent threat to his region. In the span of just two decades, Saddam attacked no less than four of his neighbors — Iran, Kuwait, Israel and Saudi Arabia. He has used ballistic missiles against civilian populations in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. He set fire to the Kuwaiti oil fields, pumped raw petroleum into the ocean, and scorched vast stretches of desert, triggering long-term health problems throughout the region and crippling the Gulf's fragile ecosystem.

While other leaders yield to the will of the family of nations, Saddam remains defiant. He has shifted his nuclear-weapons program into high gear, developed new poison-gas delivery systems, fired on allied patrol and reconnaissance planes, sent his army on raids into Kuwait, and refused to return American, Kuwaiti, and allied prisoners of war. All of this has occurred since 1992.

And in the global campaign against terror, we know which side Saddam is on. Even as other nations change their behavior and expel terrorists from their territory, Saddam has offered shelter to al Qaeda, funded suicide bombers, sponsored terrorism against the United States, and deceived U.N. weapons inspectors.

As horrible as this record is, Saddam wants to do much worse. He dreams of reconstituting an ancient empire and bringing the entire Middle East under his boot. He openly talks about annihilating Israel. He vows revenge against the United States. And as we have witnessed throughout his reign of terror, he views weapons of mass destruction not as weapons of last resort, but as weapons of choice.

Sadly, Saddam Hussein's regime is beyond reform or repair. He is a repeat offender, and justice has finally caught up with him. He is a relic of an ugly past where the strong brutalized the weak, and his regime will soon become part of history. He is a lingering threat to the peace and security of an entire world, and America will now do what others cannot or will not do. I call upon the Iraqi people to join us in this struggle, and I repeat my warnings to the Iraqi military: Those who deploy or order the use of chemical or biological weapons against American or coalition forces will be found, tried as war criminals in U.S. military courts, and punished accordingly.

We move against Saddam on solid legal ground. Recognizing the dire threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the Congress has spoken repeatedly on this subject, most recently in October when the House and Senate overwhelmingly endorsed the use of force against the Iraqi dictator. I salute the Congress for its quick action, and like so many others I had hoped that congressional support for military action would persuade Saddam of the futility of his course. But remaining true to form, Saddam was defiant — and our hopes were dashed.

When America's interests are threatened, we must act forcefully and resolutely. That may require preemptive military action of the sort we are now taking against Saddam Hussein. This is something new for America, but in an age of terror — when mass murderers scramble to build weapons of mass destruction — the only other alternative is to cower in fear. And we will not live in fear. The old methods of deterrence and containment simply don't work with an enemy like this.

We also act under the umbrella of international law. In addition to the litany of U.N. resolutions he has broken, including the latest weapons-inspection resolution, Saddam Hussein is in violation of the Gulf War ceasefire. The Gulf War, it pays to recall, ended not with a peace treaty but with an armistice. That armistice makes clear that failure to abide by its provisions could trigger the resumption of hostilities. Saddam has not lived up to this agreement. We act to enforce that armistice and all relevant U.N. resolutions, and in doing so to bring about a lasting peace to the region.

On the issue of the morality of this war, I can only say that our cause is just. War is an awful plague, but there are some things worse than war. We come to Iraq as liberators this time, as we did in Afghanistan in 2001, as we did in Africa and Europe and the Pacific more than half-a-century ago. We will be freeing the Iraqi people from a Stalinist prison. We will be freeing the region from its single greatest threat to peace. And we will be freeing mankind from the whims of a madman.

Tonight, we are opening a new chapter in the Middle East, which has been pock-marked by war and stunted by poverty precisely because it is dominated by dictators. As they embrace democracy, the Iraqi people will become tangible evidence for their neighbors of the hope that lies beyond terror and oppression. And freedom will advance in a corner of the world where it is in short supply.

But even after Iraq is liberated, our work will not end. As we have in Germany, Japan and Afghanistan, we will help build a new architecture of freedom to replace the machinery of terror. Freedom is our greatest export. It is our greatest ally. It is our strongest weapon. And it is always in our interests.

Like us, President Lincoln was forced to make decisions that defied convention and overturned precedent. When his critics challenged his course of action midway through the war and called on him to take the path of least resistance, he simply replied, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present." Like us, he lived in a time of great peril and great promise. And like us, he summoned forth the courage to face the storm. We did not contrive this danger. We did not seek this war. But we will win it. And in so doing, we will build a better world and a better tomorrow.

Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.