US denies 'imminent' threat warning
January 28, 2004
THE White House today denied it ever warned that Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent" threat to the United States.
It is already smarting from the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"I think some in the media have chosen to use the word 'imminent'. Those were not words we used. We used 'grave and gathering' threat," spokesman Scott McClellan said.
But if US President George W. Bush never called Saddam's Iraq an "imminent threat" in so many words, he said it was "urgent".
Vice President Dick Cheney called it "mortal" and it was "immediate" to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
In an October 7, 2002 televised speech to the nation, Bush likened the standoff with Iraq to the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when Soviet missiles were revealed to be based just 145km off US shores.
In that same speech, he warned that Saddam "could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists" like the al-Qaeda network behind the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq," Rumsfeld testified to lawmakers in September 2002.
Other senior Bush aides shied away from using the word "imminent" but agreed with that characterisation in exchanges with reporters.
On January 26, 2003, CNN television asked White House communications director Dan Bartlett "is he (Saddam) an imminent threat to US interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?"
"Well, of course he is," Bartlett replied.
On May 7, 2003, a reporter asked then White House spokesman Ari Fleischer: "We went to war, didn't we, to find these Ã¢?? because we said that these weapons were a direct and imminent threat to the United States? Isn't that true?"
"Absolutely. One of the reasons that we went to war was because of their possession of weapons of mass destruction. And nothing has changed on that front at all," the spokesman replied.
"Another way to look at this is if Saddam Hussein holds a gun to your head even while he denies that he actually owns a gun, how safe should you feel?" Fleischer told reporters on October 9, 2002.