Clinton rallies domestic support for strike at Iraq
Iraq, International, 2/17/1998
Even while insisting that the US is exhausting diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the current Iraqi crisis, US President Bill Clinton spoke at the Pentagon in an effort to drum up domestic support for possible US military strikes against Iraq.
Clinton said the US stands in opposition to the "reckless acts of outlaw nations" and an "unholy axis" of terrorists, drug dealers, and organized crime. While the US would greatly prefer a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Clinton reiterated that the US is ready to use force.
"There can be no dilution" of "the essence" of the UN resolutions, which call for unfettered access, Clinton said. He said that a solution must meet a "clear, immutable, reasonable, simple standard," which is the "free, full, unfettered access" to disputed "presidential sites" in Iraq, access the US has repeatedly called for. "We seek to finish the job" of the UN weapons inspectors, Clinton said.
Clinton admitted that the potential military strikes, which have met with widespread international opposition, would not destroy Iraq's capacity to create weapons of mass destruction, they would, "seriously reduce his [Saddam Hussein's] capacity to threaten his neighbors." Clinton said the strikes would leave Saddam Hussein "worse off" than he is now.
US Vice-President Al Gore said the US is "working around the clock to pursue a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis," but warned "When it comes to protecting our vital national interests, Americans will stand as one."
Clinton said Iraq had repeatedly submitted evaluations of its weapons that were refused by UNSCOM, including six declarations on biological weapons and four on nuclear weapons. He said that when Iraqi reports of weapons capacities were disproven, the Iraqis simply amended the old reports in light of the new evidence. Clinton also said that UNSCOM was effective, although the Iraqis tried to place "debilitating conditions" on their work.
Iraq has called UNSCOM's impartiality and professionalism into question and has proposed an offer -- which the US rejected -- that special teams be formulated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to inspect the presidential sites for a period of two months. The teams could include UNSCOM members.
"Force can never be the first answer, but sometimes it's the only answer," Clinton said.
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