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Context of 'February 24, 2001: Powell Says Iraq Poses No Threat'

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1942: UN Formed

United Nations logo.United Nations logo. [Source: United Nations]The United Nations is formed. Article 51 of the charter states that a country has the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations,” but otherwise prohibits the use of force in international affairs. [United Nations, 6/26/1945]

Entity Tags: United Nations

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

During a National Press Club Newsmakers luncheon, outgoing Defense Secretary William Cohen says: “Well, Saddam Hussein’s forces are in a state where he cannot pose a threat to his neighbors at this point. We have been successful, through the sanctions regime, to really shut off most of the revenue that will be going to build his—rebuild his military.” [US Department of Defense, 1/10/2001; Jordan Times, 2002]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, William S. Cohen

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

During a press briefing held aboard a plane en route to Cairo, Egypt, Colin Powell says: “Though [the Iraqis] may be pursuing weapons of mass destruction of all kinds. It is not clear how successful they have been. We ought to declare [sanctions] a success. We have kept [Saddam Hussein] contained, kept him in his box.” [US Department of State, 2/23/2001; Time, 3/24/2003; Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 1/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Secretary of State Colin Powell travels to Cairo and meets with his counterpart Amre Moussa. Following up on his statements from the day before (see February 23, 2001), Powell says sanctions against the Iraqi government: “[F]rankly they have worked. [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq….” Powell adds, “[H]e threatens not the United States.” [US Department of State, 2/24/2003; Mirror, 9/22/2003; Associated Press, 9/25/2003] Some nineteen months later, when Powell is asked to explain why his assessment of Iraq had so drastically changed over such a short span of time, Powell will say, “… I did not say he (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) didn’t have weapons of mass destruction…. He was a threat then. The extent of his holdings were yet to be determined. It was early in the administration and the fact of the matter is it was long before 9/11 (the date of the 2001 attacks on the United States)…. A lot changed between February 2001 (and the invasion), but I don’t find anything inconsistent between what I said then and what I’ve said all along.” [US Department of State, 9/25/2003; Associated Press, 9/25/2003; Washington Post, 9/26/2003]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, Colin Powell, Amre Moussa

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

In an interview broadcast by BBC Radio 4’s Today Program, Condoleezza Rice says: “This is an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbors and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, on all of us. There is a very powerful moral case for regime change. We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing…. Clearly, if Saddam Hussein is left in power doing the things that he is doing now, this is a threat that will emerge, and emerge in a very big way…. The case for regime change is very strong. This is a regime that we know has twice tried and come closer than we thought at the time to acquiring nuclear weapons. He has used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors, he has invaded his neighbors, he has killed thousands of his own people. He shoots at our planes, our airplanes, in the no-fly zones where we are trying to enforce UN security resolutions…. History is littered with cases of inaction that led to very grave consequences for the world. We just have to look back and ask how many dictators who ended up being a tremendous global threat and killing thousands and, indeed, millions of people, should we have stopped in their tracks.” [Reuters, 8/15/2002; Guardian, 8/15/2002; Daily Telegraph, 8/16/2002; London Times, 8/16/2002] Interestingly, Rice does not say Iraq has chemical, biological or nuclear arms. Instead, she speaks of the danger Saddam would pose, “if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.” [USA Today, 8/15/2002]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Aerial photo of Iraqi chemical munitions facility.Aerial photo of Iraqi chemical munitions facility. [Source: CIA]Secretary of State Colin Powell appears on “Fox News Sunday,” and asserts that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons stocks and that Saddam Hussein is intent on building a nuclear weapon. He cites a recent article in the New York Times by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon (see September 8, 2002) as evidence of Hussein’s nuclear ambitions. “There’s no doubt that he has chemical weapon stocks. We destroyed some after the Gulf War with the inspection regime, but there’s no doubt in our mind that he still has chemical weapon stocks and he has the capacity to produce more chemical weapons. With respect to biological weapons, we are confident that he has some stocks of those weapons, and he’s probably continuing to try to develop more. And biological weapons are very dangerous because they can be produced just about in any kind of pharmaceutical facility. With respect to nuclear weapons, we are quite confident that he continues to try to pursue the technology that would allow him to develop a nuclear weapon. Whether he could do it in one, five, six or seven, eight years is something that people can debate about, but what nobody can debate about is the fact that he still has the incentive, he still intends to develop those kinds of weapons. And as we saw in reporting just this morning, he is still trying to acquire, for example, some of the specialized aluminum tubing one needs to develop centrifuges that would give you an enrichment capability. So there’s no question that he has these weapons, but even more importantly, he is striving to do even more, to get even more.” Tony Snow, the program’s host, asks Secretary of State Colin Powell to respond to comments by former UN Chief Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter in a speech he recently made to Iraq’s parliament, in which the former weapons inspector stated: “The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government and others has not to date been backed up by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for attacking the United States. Void of such facts, all we have is speculation.” Powell responds: “We have facts, not speculation. Scott is certainly entitled to his opinion but I’m afraid that I would not place the security of my nation and the security of our friends in the region on that kind of an assertion by somebody who’s not in the intelligence chain any longer… If Scott is right, then why are they keeping the inspectors out? If Scott is right, why don’t they say, ‘Anytime, any place, anywhere, bring ‘em in, everybody come in—we are clean?’ The reason is they are not clean. And we have to find out what they have and what we’re going to do about it. And that’s why it’s been the policy of this government to insist that Iraq be disarmed in accordance with the terms of the relevant UN resolutions.” [Fox News, 9/8/2002; Associated Press, 9/8/2002; NewsMax, 9/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Michael Gordon, Scott Ritter, New York Times, Colin Powell, White House Iraq Group, Tony Snow, Judith Miller, Fox News

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda

Arab League ministers meeting in Cairo pass a resolution declaring the war on Iraq to be a “violation of the United Nations Charter (see 1942)” and a “threat to world peace.” They demand an unconditional withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq. The resolution is adopted unanimously by the 22-member League except for key US ally Kuwait. [BBC, 3/25/2003] The Bush administration has repeatedly claimed that one of the reasons for invading Iraq was because Saddam Hussein’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to its neighbors (see January 10, 2001, February 24, 2001, August 15, 2002, and September 8, 2002).

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, formerly head of the US Central Command, criticizes the Bush administration’s occupation strategy for Iraq, saying that the administration has never put together a coherent strategy, never created a plan for achieving its goals, and has not allocated the resources needed to achieve those goals. “There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together,” he says, and so “we’re in danger of failing.” Speaking to several hundred Marine and Navy officers and others, Zinni, who was badly wounded in Vietnam, says: “My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice. I ask you, is it happening again?… We can’t go on breaking our military and doing things like we’re doing now.” A focus of his criticism is the choice by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to have the Defense Department, and not the State Department, oversee postwar efforts in Iraq. “Why the hell would the Department of Defense be the organization in our government that deals with the reconstruction of Iraq?” he asks. “Doesn’t make sense.” Another area of criticism is the Bush administration’s cavalier treatment of the United Nations, particularly in failing to secure a UN resolution that several nations said was a prerequisite for their contributing to the peacekeeping force (see October 21, 2002, October 27, 2002, November 8, 2002, December 31, 2002, February 5, 2003, and March 25, 2003). “We certainly blew past the UN,” he says. “Why, I don’t know. Now we’re going back hat in hand.” Zinni is given a warm reception by his audience, some of whom buy recordings of his remarks to share with friends and fellow soldiers. [Washington Post, 9/5/2003]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Anthony Zinni, Bush administration (43), Donald Rumsfeld, US Central Command, US Department of Defense, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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