By Glen Rangwala, Lecturer in Politics at University of Cambridge, UK - See also Links to the more polemic articles written by Glen Rangwala.

    This is a set of quotes from UK and US leaders assessing the likelihood that prohibited weapons would be quickly found in Iraq after an invasion. Quotes in section 1 are a few of the various statements among many expressing the certainty that weapons exist. Quotes in section 2 express the certainty that weapons will quickly be found upon the ousting of the Iraqi regime. By mid-April, this had changed to claims that they never expected weapons to be found quickly - and these are the quotes in section 3.

    All emphases are added. The web location is after the quote.

1. Claims about the certainty of weapons

Tony Blair, foreword to the dossier of 24 September 2002:

"What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons".

Tony Blair, statement opening Iraq debate in the House of Commons (18 March 2003):

"We are now seriously asked to accept that in the last few years, contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence, he [Saddam Hussein] decided unilaterally to destroy the weapons. Such a claim is palpably absurd."

George Bush, address to the nation (18 March 2003):

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

2. Claims about the certainty of weapons finds

General Tommy Franks, first Centcom press conference after the commencement of the invasion (22 March 2003):

"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And at -- and as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them. And of course there is no doubt about that. It will come in the future."

Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board; former assistant to Don Rumsfeld and Reagan's arms control director; quoted in the Washington Post (23 March 2003):

..the weapons are likeliest to be found near Tikrit and Baghdad, "because they're the most protected places with the best troops. [..] I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction ... One thing we may find is Saddam Hussein ordered them to be used and soldiers didn't follow the orders".

Tony Blair, press conference (25 March 2003):

"I have always said to people throughout that our aim has not been regime change, our aim has been the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. [...] The idea that we can suddenly discover this stuff is a lot more difficult in a country the size of Iraq, but of course once the regime is out then there will be all sorts of people that will be willing to give us the information that we seek. [...] We have absolutely no doubt at all that these weapons of mass destruction exist".

Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld (30 March 2003, to ABC's George Stephanopoulos):

"we know where they [the weapons] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Tony Blair, interview with Abu Dhabi Television (4 April 2003):

"We have got absolutely no doubt that these weapons exist. But there has been a campaign of concealment by Saddam ever since he knew that UN inspectors were coming back into the country, and I have got absolutely no doubt that those weapons are there. But we were never going to be able to find them until the conflict is at a stage where the Iraqi scientists and experts working on these programmes are prepared to talk about them. [...]. You can never find these things unless you have the cooperation of the regime itself, and once we have the cooperation of the scientists and the experts, I have got no doubt that we will find them."

Geoff Hoon, statement to the House of Commons (7 April 2003):

"The destruction of weapons of mass destruction continues to be our priority. We are continuing to search the areas that have been freed, but our first priority must be an end—a successful end—to the military conflict. Thereafter, we will certainly pursue the location of weapons of mass destruction."

"We have been aware for some time that the regime had removed many of the more obvious elements of its weapons of mass destruction and had sought to hide them in the more remote parts of the country as well as to keep them mobile. I have no doubt that those weapons of mass destruction will be found."

Tony Blair, press conference with President George Bush (8 April 2003)

"On weapons of mass destruction, we know that the regime has them, we know that as the regime collapses we will be led to them. We pledged to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and we will keep that commitment."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (10 April 2003)

"make no mistake -- as I said earlier -- we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found."

Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board; former assistant to Don Rumsfeld and Reagan's arms control director; from report in the Washington Post (10 April 2003):

With fear of Saddam almost gone, "people will step forward pretty fast" and identify Iraq's weapons stores, said former Reagan administration arms official Kenneth Adelman, who serves on a Pentagon advisory panel. "It should be pretty soon, in the next five days."

3. Claims about the lack of weapons finds

Tony Blair, statement to the House of Commons (14 April 2003):

"On weapons of mass destruction, of 146 possible sites known to us, investigations have begun in seven but, in any event, we know that for six months before the return of UN inspectors, Saddam put in place a systematic campaign of concealment of weapons of mass destruction. Until we are able to interrogate the scientists and experts who worked on the programmes, and the UN has a list of some 5,000 names, progress is bound to be slow. A specialised team, however, is beginning work and we are in discussion with allies and the UN as to what the future role of the UN in such a process may be."

Tony Blair, monthly press conference (28 April 2003):

"It is true that we are interviewing scientists and others, but our first priority has got to be to stabilise the country, the second is the humanitarian situation, and the third - and we can take our time about this and so we should - is to make sure that we investigate the weapons of mass destruction, and we will do that. And as I say every time I am asked, I remain confident that they will be found. [...]

"[...] prior to the inspectors coming back in because there was a 6-month period if you like when it was clear the United States and ourselves were going to take action, and also clear that inspectors might be coming in, there was a 6-month campaign of concealment of these weapons. That is our intelligence, borne out by sufficient intelligence that there is no doubt in my mind that is what happened, and as I think I said to you either before the conflict started or possibly even in the course of it, one benefit of that was that it was going to be far more difficult for them to reconstitute that material to use in a situation of conflict, and in any event as you know, we were giving very strong warnings to the commanders in the field as to what would happen if they did. But I suggest to people - before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I suggest they wait a little bit because there is a very deliberative process in place here"

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice from report (1 May 2003):

According to Dr Rice, the weapons programs are "in bits and pieces" rather than assembled weapons. "You may find assembly lines, you may find pieces hidden here and there," she said. Ingredients or precursors, many non-lethal by themselves, could be embedded in dual-use facilities. She had a new explanation too for Iraq's ability to launch these weapons that were not assembled. "Just-in-time assembly" and "just-in-time" inventory, as she put it.

Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board; former assistant to Don Rumsfeld and Reagan's arms control director; from report in the Washington Post (17 May 2003):

"It's just very strange," said Kenneth Adelman, a member of a Pentagon advisory board who had predicted weapons would be found a month ago. "There will certainly not be the quantity and proximity that we thought of before." Adelman says Hussein may even have launched "a massive disinformation campaign to make the world think he was violating international norms, and he may not have been."

Jack Straw, interview on BBC Radio 4 Today programme (14 May 2003), as reported in The Independent (15 May 2003):

"I hope there will be further evidence of literal finds." Significantly, Mr Straw used the past tense to describe Iraq's arsenal, saying: "It certainly did exist. There is no question about that, and the Blix report suggested that it still existed."

Challenged on the importance of a fresh weapons find, he said: "It's not crucially important for this reason ... The evidence in respect of Iraq was so strong that the Security Council on the 8th of November said unanimously that Iraq's proliferation and possession of the weapons of mass destruction and unlawful missile systems, as well as its defiance of the United Nations, pose – and I quote – 'a threat to international peace and security'."

Reprinted at:

Geoff Hoon, evidence to the Defence Select Committee (14 May 2003):

"I believe very strongly that the way in which the initial operations were organised and conducted made it almost impossible for the regime in the appropriate time to reassemble their weapons and to be able to use them against our forces. [...]

"What we are engaged on now is identifying potential locations where that evidence may be found, given of course that we were aware from the moment the weapons inspectors went into Iraq that Iraq had been engaged in a very determined programme of concealment, of dissembling weapons, of hiding material around the country. It will inevitably take some time in a country the size of France to locate that equipment but I am confident we will do so."

Donald Rumsfeld, speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (27 May 2003):

"Now if the speed and the way that plan was executed surprised them, it may very well be that they didn't have time to blow the dams, or use chemical weapons. It is also possible that they decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict. I don't know the answer. And I suspect we'll find out a lot more [...] It's a country the size of California. It is not as though we've managed to look everyplace. There are hundreds and hundreds of suspect chemical or biological or nuclear sites that have not been investigated as yet. It'll take time. [...] We do know that they bury things. They bury things all over the country. They've buried airplanes. They've buried tanks. They've buried weapons."

Tony Blair, press conference in Poland (30 May 2003):

"We have only just begun the process now of investigating all the various sites. We have already found two trailers, both of which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons, but this is a process that is going to go on over the coming weeks and months. It is not the most urgent priority now for us since Saddam has gone. So you are just going to have to have a little bit of patience. I have absolutely no doubt at all, when we present the full evidence after we have investigated all the sites, after we have interviewed all the experts and scientists, and this will take place as I say over the coming weeks and months, that evidence will be found. And I have absolutely no doubt it exists".

Jack Straw, interview on BBC Breakfast with Frost (1 June 2003):

"on your other question about did Saddam destroy some of this evidence, yes he almost certainly did do. And my own opinion about this is that he unquestionably had these weapons systems but that he'd also asserted and lied to the international community that he hadn't got them and I believe that there was therefore a pretty substantial effort being put in, in the run up to military action, to disperse, to hide a lot of this stuff and to deceive the international community even after military action was over. So will the search reveal things? Yes I think it will. Will the search be difficult? Also yes."