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Benjamin Netanyahu Testifies About Iraq to Congress

Aired September 12, 2002 - 14:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Live to Capitol Hill now, where former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is testifying before the House Government Reform Committee. They're holding a hearing entitled Conflict With Iraq, an Israeli Perspective.
Right now the former prime minister is talking about Saddam Hussein.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: ... form our own judgment today.

Did Israel launched that preemptive strike because Saddam had committed a specific act of terror against us? Did we coordinate our actions with the international community? Did we condition this operation on the approval of the United Nations? No, of course no. Israel acted because, it understood, we understood, that a nuclear- armed Saddam would place our very survival at risk. And today the United States must destroy the same regime because a nuclear-armed Saddam will place the security of our entire world at risk.

And make no mistake about it: If and once Saddam has nuclear weapons, the terror network will have nuclear weapons. And once the terror network has nuclear weapons, it is only matter of time before those weapons will did he used. You cannot prevent a dictator who has used terrorism in the past, who cavorts are and supports and encourages terror organizations from using this weapon by giving it to someone, by having them threaten to use it against his enemies. Once one of the terror regimes, once one of the principal regimes in the terror network, has nuclear weapons, you cannot prevent the terror network from having nuclear weapons.

Two decades ago, it was possible to thwart Saddam's nuclear ambitions by bombing the single installation. But today, nothing less than dismantling his regime will do because Saddam's nuclear program has fundamentally changed in those two decades. He no longer needs one large reactor to produce the deadly material necessary for atomic bombs. He can produce it in centrifuges the sizes of washing machines that wan be hidden throughout the country.

And I want to remind you that Iraq is a very big country. It is not the size of Monte Carlo; it is a big country. And I believe that even free and unfettered inspections will not uncover these portable manufacturing sites of mass death.

So knowing this, I ask all the governments and others who oppose or question the president's plan to look at it from the other end of the logic: Do you believe that action can be taken against Saddam only after he builds nuclear bombs and uses them? And do the various criticism, specially overseas, believe that a clear connection between Saddam and September 11 must be established before we have a right to prevent the next September 11? Well, I think not.

I'll try to try give analogy. All analogies are imperfect, but here's one. If you try to defeat the mafia, you don't just go after the foot soldiers who carried out the last attack or even stop with the apprehension of the particular don who sent them. You go after the entire network of organized crime -- all the families, all the organizations -- all of them. Likewise, if you intend to defeat terror, you don't just go after the terrorists who carried out the last attack, or even the particular regime that sent them. You go after the entire network of terror. All the regimes that support terror, all the organizations that they harbor -- all of them.

And doing this always entails the need to act before additional attacks are carried out. When the security of a nation is endangered, a responsible government has to take the actions that are necessary to protect its citizens and eliminate the threat that confronts them. And sometimes, this requires preemption.

I have to say that in the history of democracies, preemption has been, in my mind, the most difficult choice for leaders to make, because at the time of the decision you could never prove the critics wrong, you could never show them the great catastrophe that was avoided by preemptive action. And yet we now know that had the democracies taken preemptive action to bring down Hitler in the 1930s, the worst horrors in history could have been avoided.

PHILLIPS: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu testifying there before the House Government Reform Committee. A hearing is taking place entitled Conflict With Iraq, an Israeli Perspective. The former prime minister basically coming out and saying that weapons inspections have been ineffective. He believes they would continue to be ineffective, and that if Iraq were to even attack Israel, Israel would respond -- making the final point that if you intend to defeat terror, you go after the entire network of terror, and that includes Saddam Hussein.

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