Did Saddam Hussein and his regime pose an immediate or imminent threat?

PRO (yes)

George W. Bush, MBA, the 43rd US President, stated in a Nov. 11, 2002 speech to the Atlantic Youth Council:

"Today the world is also uniting to answer the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq. A dictator who has used weapons of mass destruction on his own people must not be allowed to produce or possess those weapons."

Nov. 11, 2002 - George W. Bush, MBA 

George P. Shultz, PhD, US Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, wrote in a Sep. 10, 2002 Washington Post Op-Ed article titled "Act Now":

"The danger is immediate. The making of weapons of mass destruction grows increasingly difficult to counter with each passing day. When the risk is not hundreds of people killed in a conventional attack but tens or hundreds of thousands killed by chemical, biological or nuclear attack, the time factor is even more compelling.

The moment is racing toward us when Hussein's possession of nuclear weaponry could transform the regional and international situation into what, in the Cold War, we called the balance of terror. Some argue that to act now might trigger Hussein's use of his worst weapons. Such self-imposed blackmail presumes easier judgements when he is even better equipped than now. Time is his ally, not ours."

Sep. 10, 2002 - George P. Shultz, PhD 

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense at the time of the quote, stated in a Sep. 18, 2002 testimony before the US House Armed Services Committee:

"There are a number of terrorist states pursuing weapons of mass destruction - Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, to name but a few. But no terrorist state poses a greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people, and the stability of the world, than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq...

Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent-that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons.

I would not be so certain. Before Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the best intelligence estimates were that Iraq was at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. The experts were flat wrong. When the U.S. got on the ground, it found the Iraqi's were probably six months to a year away from having a nuclear weapon - not 5 to 7 years."

Sep. 18, 2002 - Donald Rumsfeld 

John Edwards, JD, US Senator (D-NC) at the time of the quote, stated in a Feb. 24, 2002 interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:

"... we have three different countries (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea) that, while they all present serious problems for the United States -- they're dictatorships, they're involved in the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- you know, the most imminent, clear and present threat to our country is not the same from those three countries. I think Iraq is the most serious and imminent threat to our country."

Feb. 24, 2002 - John Edwards, JD 

Dan Bartlett, Deputy to the Counselor to President George W. Bush at the time of the quote, stated in a Jan. 26, 2002 interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:

"Blitzer: But the question is, he's a threat based on what the information you're suggesting, to his own people, to his neighbors. But is he an imminent threat to U.S. interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?

Bartlett: Well, of course he is. He has made it very clear his hatred for the United States of America. He's made it very clear through the past years and since he's been in power his desire to dominate the region."

Jan. 26, 2002 - Dan Bartlett 

The Sep. 2002 US National Security Strategy, also known as the Bush Doctrine, had the following:

"At the time of the Gulf War, we acquired irrefutable proof that Iraq’s designs were not limited to the chemical weapons it had used against Iran and its own people, but also extended to the acquisition of nuclear weapons and biological agents...Other rogue regimes seek nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well. These states’ pursuit of, and global trade in, such weapons has become a looming threat to all nations.

We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends...

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."

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

CON (no)

Jacques Chirac, President of France at the time of the quote, stated in an interview in a Feb. 16, 2008 TIME magazine article titled "France Is Not a Pacifist Country":

"In its current situation, does Iraq - controlled and inspected as it is - pose a clear and present danger to the region? I don't believe so."

Feb. 16, 2003 - Jacques Chirac 

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, in a Mar. 1, 2003 Arms Control Today article titled "At the Crossroads on Iraq," wrote:

"Currently, there is no imminent threat that justifies a full-scale invasion of Iraq and the many risks and casualties such a course entails. The return of the inspectors and the presence of U.S. troops are, for now, effectively containing the potential threat posed by Iraq. The ability of the United States to maintain the diplomatic and military pressure needed to sustain this process over the next several months exceeds its ability to absorb the political, monetary, and human costs of a precipitous military invasion."

Mar. 1, 2003 - Daryl Kimball 

Ted Kennedy, LLB, US Senator (D-MA), stated in an Associated Press (AP) interview, as reported on Sep. 18, 2003 by CNN in an article titled "Kennedy's 'Texas' Remark Stirs GOP Reaction":

"There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud."

Sep. 18, 2003 - Ted Kennedy, LLB 

Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a Sep. 17, 2002 e-mail to John Scarlett, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, wrote:

"The dossier [Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government] is good and convincing for those who are prepared to be convinced.

I have only three points, none of which affect the way the document is drafted or presented.

First the document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam. In other words it shows he has the means but it does not demonstrate he has the motive to attack his neighbours let along the West.

We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat."

Sep. 17, 2002 - Jonathan Powell 

Howard Dean, MD, former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), stated in a Mar. 14, 2004 interview with Tim Russert on National Broadcasting Corporation's (NBC) Meet the Press:

"There was no evidence that Iraq was ever an imminent threat to the United States, the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] director has said so, there was no evidence that Iraq ever had--was about to acquire nuclear weapons, as Vice President Cheney said. The administration admitted that wasn't true. There was no evidence, as President Bush said a year ago, that Iraq was buying uranium from Africa. They subsequently admitted that wasn't true. This administration did not tell the truth about why we went to Iraq."

Mar. 14, 2004 - Howard Dean, MD 

Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD, Director of National Security Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in his 2002 book The Threatening Storm:

"Although Saddam is a daily menace to the people of Iraq, for the United States and the rest of the world, he is a somewhat longer-term, threat and probably several years away from being an irremediable danger. This is a matter of both capabilities and intentions. Iraq's conventional armed forces remain weak as a result of their drubbing in the Gulf War and the protracted period under sanctions.

Although the oil-for-food deal has allowed Baghdad to begin to revive some parts of its conventional military, it would likely require about five years and the lifting of the military embargo for Iraq to regain even the level of capability it possessed before the Gulf War, let alone move beyond it. Iraq has retained ballistic missiles, as well as chemical and biological warfare munitions. Its current force, however, is probably small and intended principally as a deterrent against efforts to topple the regime by enemies foreign and domestic."

2002 - Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD