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Open Letter to the President

April 2, 2002

 

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush,

We are writing as Americans, who happen to be Democrats, to let you know that we share your concern over the fundamental and continuing challenge to American interests posed by the Baathist regime in Baghdad.

The combination, as you pointed out in your State of the Union address, of Saddam's growing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and his continued involvement in international terrorism, pose an intolerable threat not only to our friends and allies in the region, but to our homeland as well.  There can be no doubt that Saddam has chemical and biological weapons and, according to published intelligence and defector reports, it appears to be only a matter of time before he also acquires nuclear weapons.  Having used such weapons in the past, not only against his enemies but his own people, we must prudently assume that he is fully prepared to use them again.

While conclusive proof of Saddam's involvement in the terrible and tragic events of September 11 does not appear to exist, we do know that one of the men indicted for his participation in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center has successfully sought shelter in Iraq; that Saddam was behind the unsuccessful plot to assassinate former President Bush in 1993; and that Mohammed Atta, the ring leader of the September 11 attacks and the pilot of one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague a few months prior to September 11. Reports have also appeared in the press indicating that two of the other terrorists who piloted the hijacked planes on September 11 met with Iraqi intelligence personnel in the United Arab Emirates during the last year as well.

We do not, of course, need September 11 to remind us of the threat posed by Saddam.  It may well be that Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon or the use of anthrax against our people afterwards. Yet Saddam's capacity to use weapons of mass destruction through terrorist cutouts, under circumstances where it may not be possible to definitively prove he was behind it, underscores the necessity of eliminating his weapons of mass destruction before he uses them against us and/or our friends elsewhere in the world.

If Saddam continues to refuse to permit international inspectors into Iraq, with absolutely unrestricted and fully effective access to whatever sites they wish to inspect whenever they wish to inspect them, including mobile facilities and equipment, we and many other Democrats would be fully prepared to support you should you conclude we need to undertake military action to liberate the Iraqi people from the clutches of his tyrannical regime and to destroy Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons stockpiles and programs.  Should it come to this, we trust that you will endeavor to muster as much support as possible from our friends and allies both in the region and elsewhere in the world, while recognizing that where vital American interests are involved we must be prepared to act without broad-based international support if necessary.

We acknowledge that there is virtually no dispute over the importance of eliminating Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and the benefits of a regime change in Iraq.  The real issue is how best to accomplish these demonstrably desirable objectives.  We do not underestimate the difficulty of that task.  While the regime might collapse quickly if challenged, we cannot count on such an easy solution.  While we have different views on what approaches are most promising, we are agreed that once we start an operation to oust Saddam, the United States cannot afford to see it fail. We cannot, therefore, rely on the hope that external or internal Iraqi opposition can carry the burden with only limited US support or that Saddam's security apparatus will defect at the first sign of serious challenge.  The US must do what needs to be done, but for an operation to be feasible, support from key allies will be essential, if only for bases and for help with building a stable post-Saddam Iraq.  We must be ready to commit very substantial numbers of US air and ground forces to insure success and consequently we must be ready to accept significant casualties if resistance is greater than expected.  The stakes are so high, however, that both the potential costs and the necessary diplomatic preparations are justified.

The war against terrorism, as you have pointed out, will be neither short nor easy. Difficult days lie ahead and the campaign against Al Qaeda remains a priority.  But as you contemplate the further actions that will need to be taken against Iraq should it continue to reject unfettered international inspections, we believe that you will have bi-partisan support for the effort to deprive Saddam of the weapons of mass destruction he so obviously covets and for a change of the regime in Iraq.

Sincerely,

 

Peter Galbraith
Michael O'Hanlon
Marc Ginsberg
Charles S.Robb
Max Kampelman
Peter R. Rosenblatt
Edward I. Koch
Walter B. Slocombe
Ann F. Lewis
Stephen J. Solarz
Robert J. Lieber
Richard Swett
Will Marshall
R. James Woolsey
Joshua Muravchik

 

 

 

 


 

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