(IRAQ to SEPTEMBER 2003 – continued)
On 14 February 2003, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Bilks asked the UN Security Council for more time for weapons inspections. He said that cooperation by Saddam Hussein's regime was improving.
Britain's Prime Minister Blair said: "If we show weakness now, if we allow the plea for more time to become just an excuse for prevarication until the moment for action passes, then it will not only be Saddam who is repeating history.
Blair was dismissive of recent concessions by the Iraqi dictator, warning: "The concessions are suspect. Unfortunately, the weapons are real."
On 24 February, the United States, Britain and Spain submitted to the UN Security Council a joint resolution that "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441" and that it is time to authorize use of military force. France, Germany and Russia submitted a counter-resolution that called for inspections to be intensified and extended to ensure that there is "a real chance to the peaceful settlement of this crisis." They added that "the military option should only be a last resort." The US, British and Spanish proposal failed to gain needed support and was withdrawn.
By March, the US had an estimated 200,000 troops in Kuwait. Hans Bilks had declared Iraq's Al Summed 2 missiles (a scaled-down SCUD missile) in violation of UN Security Council resolution and had given the Hussein regime until March 1 to destroy them. On that day, Iraq started to destroy them. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain called on Saddam Hussein to step down to avoid war. Also on March 1, President Bush's press secretary stated:
We salute the brave members of the Iraqi opposition and all Iraqis now suffering in silent captivity. Many freedom-loving nations throughout the world look forward with them to the day of their liberation.
In a radio address on 8 March, Bush said,
Unfortunately, it is clear that Saddam Hussein is still violating the demands of the United Nations by refusing to disarm. Iraqi's dictator has made a public show of producing and destroying a few prohibited missiles. Yet, our intelligence shows that even as he is destroying these few missiles, he has ordered the continued production of the very same type of missiles. Iraqi operatives continue to play a shell game with inspectors, moving suspected prohibited materials to different locations every 12 to 24 hours. And Iraqi weapons scientists continue to be threatened with harm should they cooperate in interviews with UN inspectors.
On 15 March in a radio address, Bush called Hussein a "patron and protector of terror." He spoke of "Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Lie Diesel" that week having said, " 'We have a moral obligation to intervene where evil is in control. Today, that place is Iraq.' " Bush added that "Crucial days lie ahead for the free nations of the world."
On March 17, in an 11th hour attempt against a US invasion, Saddam Hussein spoke of having had weapons of mass destruction but that he no longer did. According to Iraqi television he spoke of having needed such weapons "when we were at war with Iran for eight years and when the Zionist entity was threatening us." He added: "I confirm here that we do not have weapons of mass destruction." He ended that the US would be defeated if it invaded.
On 19 March the US launched what it called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Massive anti-war demonstrations erupted around the world.
On 20 March, President Bush reported to Congress that,
Pursuant to section 204(b) of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 USC. 1703(b) (IEEPA), and section 301 of the National Emergencies Act, 50 USC. 1631, I hereby report that I have taken additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 12722 of August 2, 1990, by exercising my statutory authority to confiscate and vest certain property of the Government of Iraq and its agencies, instrumentalities, or controlled entities.
On 22 March, President Bush addressed the nation, beginning as follows:
Good morning. American and coalition forces have begun a concerted campaign against the regime of Saddam Hussein. In this war, our coalition is broad, more than 40 countries from across the globe. Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.
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