WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee supports President Bush's determination that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must go, but he is advising caution.
``We want Saddam to go, obviously, but before there's any kind of an attack, there's got to be a reason for it,'' Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Sunday.
A reason, he said, would be either proof that Saddam had a hand in the Sept. 11 attacks or that he was on the verge of using a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon.
And, Levin said, the Bush administration might consider that Saddam ``might not use a weapon of mass destruction if we don't attack him.''
``As a matter of fact, the intelligence community, I think for the most part, thinks he would not initiate it, because it would lead to his own destruction. And he loves himself more than he hates us,'' Levin said.
``His own survival is first and foremost in his mind.''
Another key lawmaker who advocates getting rid of Saddam, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said he plans hearings by his Foreign Relations Committee to assess the threat level and what should follow any military action.
Biden said he plans to bring in expert witnesses ``to lay out the question of `What is the nature of the threat? How immediate is the threat? What's the threat of inaction? And what happens the day after we take down Saddam?' These are major, major issues.''
Eventually, Biden said on Fox News Sunday, Bush should take his plans to get the support of Congress before making his move, ``and I think he'd get everybody on board.''
That would not be necessary, however, if Bush determined that Saddam poses an immediate threat to the United States, or his government is found to be linked to the Al Qaeda terror network. Unlike Levin, Biden thinks the United States should retaliate in that case even without a direct Iraqi role in Sept. 11.
``The president has the authority right now if, in fact, he has reason to believe that we're under a threat of imminent attack. No one's has made that case yet,'' Biden said.
``And this will be the first time ever in the history of the United States of America that we have essentially invaded another country pre-emptively to take out a leadership, I think justifiably given the case being made.''
Biden cautioned, however, if ``we go in and take out Saddam, and we don't decide to stay there and help reconstruct a situation that's stable, then we may be worse off than we were before.''
Levin, the Armed Services chairman, also wants the administration to be more careful with how its officials handle plans for potential battle.
``Our rhetoric has got to be much more complex, our thought processes more complex,'' he said. ``There are a lot of real problems here, and the first ones to recognize that ... are the uniformed military leaders, who are very cautious. Much more cautious than the president's rhetoric.''