Posted 5:53 p.m. March 18
by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
President Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or they will face “military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing.”
This ultimatum came after British and U.S. diplomats withdrew a U.N. resolution that would have cleared the path for war. The resolution was sure to face defeat with as many as 11 of 15 Security Council members opposed to the resolution even after major pressure for weeks by President Bush to persuade other nations to support the United States.
President Bush cited these members in his address saying that, “For the last four and one-half months, the United States and our allies have worked within the Security Council to enforce that council’s long-standing demands. Yet some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it.”
Bush argued that the United States and the world had tried 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq and more than a dozen resolutions were passed in the Security Council calling for the disarmament of the country.
“The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage,” Bush said. “Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraq regime have failed again and again because we are not dealing with peaceful men.”
“The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours,” Bush said.
The President also linked Hussein to terror operations around the world saying, “[The Iraqi regime] has a deep hatred of America and our friends and it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.”
“Using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other.”
The president cited this threat as a major reason to remove Hussein and his top aides.
“The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it,” Bush told the world. “The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security.”
The President also had a message for the Iraqi people, who could listen to the translated speech over the radio. Bush told Iraqi citizens that the United States had their best interest at hand and the military attacks would be aimed “at the lawless men who rule your country and not against you.”
Bush told the Iraqi people that the United States would deliver food and water and would be committed to “build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free.”
Soldiers in the Iraqi military were urged to allow the United States and its allies to enter the country peacefully. “Our forces will give Iraqi military units clear instructions on actions they can take to avoid being attacked and destroyed,” Bush said.
Bush also told Iraqi military and civilian personnel that if they do not cooperate with the United States they would face consequences. “War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished, and it will be no defense to say, ‘I was just following orders.'”
The president’s ultimatum persuaded the Department of Homeland Security to raise the national terrorism alert to “code orange”, the second highest level of danger. Bush told Americans that increased security would be in place at airports, borders, and seaports.
Bush is likely to make another address to the nation after the 48-hour ultimatum expires on Wednesday. Bush is also expected to ask Congress for $80 billion for initial military actions and first phases of the build up of Iraq.