Last updated on: 6/2/2008 10:25:00 AM PST
Was the phrase "imminent threat" used by the Bush Administration to reference Iraq before the war?



PRO (yes)

The Bush administration's Sep. 17, 2002 National Security Strategy (aka the Bush Doctrine), stated the following about imminent threats to the United States:

"For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction—weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning..."


Sep. 17, 2002 - National Security Strategy 2002 (359 KB)  



George W. Bush, MBA, US President said in his Jan. 28, 2003 "State of the Union" address:

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intention, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late."

Jan. 28, 2003 - George W. Bush, MBA 



Ted Kennedy, LLB, US Senator (D-MA), stated in a Mar. 21, 2004 interview with NBC's Meet the Press with Tim Russert:

"MR. RUSSERT: You said 'imminent threat.' The president says he never said 'imminent threat.' Scott McClellan, who was then deputy press secretary, used the words 'imminent threat,' but for the record and it's important to be clarified, he was referring that Turkey was under imminent threat from Iraq, not the United States. That's an important distinction.

SEN. KENNEDY: It's a semantic denial. 'Grave,' 'unique,' 'immediate threat.' Synonym with 'imminent threat,' 'immediate threat.' And then a 'mushroom cloud.' 'Mushroom cloud.' What does that mean? That means imminent threat. And the fact is there was a distortion, a misrepresentation all the way through."


Mar. 21, 2004 - Ted Kennedy, LLB 



Joseph Biden, JD, US Senator (D-DE), stated in a Feb. 1, 2004 interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:

"BIDEN: And if you notice, what you had the president on a moment ago in a clip, and he said, and I quote, there is -- he is convinced, quote, 'There is a grave and gathering threat.' That's fundamentally different than what he said before the war. He said there was an imminent threat. If you noticed, Wolf, he dropped 'imminent' for 'gathering'.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you for one second. Some of his aides repeatedly used the word 'imminent,' but the president, in his defense, he repeats he never used, personally, the word 'imminent,' though some of his top aides used that word. He used the word 'gathering,' if you will. It might be nitpicking, but that's just a point that the White House makes.

BIDEN: Well, I don't think it's nitpicking. I think it's important. And if that's correct, then I stand corrected...

But everybody I spoke to, everybody that came before our committee, all the administration officials, talked about an imminent threat.

If it was a gathering threat, Wolf, then there was no need to move when we did without the help of the world."


Feb. 1, 2004 - Joe Biden , Jr, JD 



CON (no)

Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, commented on Jan. 27, 2004 in a news conference:

"Q: Does the President now believe that, in fact, while the threat was gathering, while the threat may have been grave, that, in fact, it was not imminent?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've said all along that it was a grave and gathering threat. And that in a post-September 11th world, you must confront gathering threats before it's too late.

I think some in the media have chosen to use the word 'imminent.' Those were not words --

Q: The President himself never used that word?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those were not words we used. We used 'grave and gathering threat.' We made it very clear that it was a gathering threat, that it's important to confront gathering threats in this post-September 11th world, because of the new dangers and new threats that we face."


Jan. 27, 2004 - Scott McClellan 



Colin Powell, MBA, former US Secretary of State, in an Oct. 15, 2003 interview with Mr. Matt Frei of BBC Television:

"MR. FREI: Let me ask you about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Earlier this year, in February, you gave a presentation at the United Nations in which you talked about the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Eight months later, we still haven't found anything of substance. And now, one of your former senior intelligence officials in your own department is claiming that you basically misled this nation and the world in that presentation.

SECRETARY POWELL: That's nonsense. I don't think I used the word 'imminent' in my presentation on the 5th of February. I presented, on the 5th of February, not something I pulled out of the air. I presented the considered judgment of the intelligence community -- the coordinated judgment of the intelligence community of the United States of America. And the information I presented -- some of which has already been validated by David Kay.

And the investigation continues. We have found clear indications that Saddam Hussein maintained the infrastructure for chemicals -- weapons of mass destruction. We found some evidence of them. We haven't found stockpiles yet. The work continues. The investigation continues. There is an individual, I guess, who is going on a television show to say I misled the American people. I don't mislead the American people and I never would. I presented the best information that our intelligence community had to offer."


Oct. 15, 2003 - Colin Powell, MBA 



George Tenet, MA, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, stated in a Feb. 5, 2004 speech given at Georgetown University:

"They never said there was an imminent threat. Rather, they painted an objective assessment for our policy-makers of a brutal dictator who was continuing his efforts to deceive and build programs that might constantly surprise us and threaten our interests."

Feb. 5, 2004 - George Tenet, MA 



Jonah Goldberg, Editor of National Review Online, stated in his Oct. 17, 2003 article "'Imminent Threat' is Revisionist Spin," published on Townhall.com:

"Teams of rhetoric inspectors have been pouring over Bush's comments, utterances, speeches and gesticulations for about as long as we've been looking for WMD in Iraq and, to date, nobody has found a shred of proof that the president - or anybody in his Cabinet - ever once said Iraq or Saddam Hussein posed an 'imminent' threat to the United States."

Oct. 17, 2003 - Jonah Goldberg