Published September 19, 2002
WASHINGTON – Lawmakers must authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein if they want to maintain world peace, Bush told reporters Thursday, hours before he was scheduled to send Congress a proposed resolution on Iraq.
"That will be part of the resolution -- authorization to use force," Bush said.
"This is a chance for Congress to indicate support ... to send a clear message that we expect Saddam to disarm," he added.
"And if the United Nations Security Council won't deal with the problem, the United States and some of our friends will."
Bush declined to name any of the allies he's counting on for support, saying only that "time will tell."
As he spoke, White House advisers were behind the scenes telephoning congressional leaders with notice that Bush's proposed resolution was on its way to Capitol Hill.
Bush said he wanted Congress to give him not only the power to make war with Saddam, but also an explicit restatement of U.S. policy that Saddam must be overthrown.
"That's the policy of the government," Bush said, adding that he wanted Congress' approval before lawmakers adjourn to campaign for the Nov. 5 elections.
Three senior White House aides familiar with the resolution's draft said it would give Bush maximum flexibility to confront the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including an explicit OK to use military force.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said that in the past Bush "has been very respectful of the prerogatives of Congress" and would likely give Congress a draft that outlines his major points. "He will expect us to make the formal drafts," Armey said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that Congress must act before the Security Council does.
"Delaying a vote in the Congress would send a message that the U.S. may be unprepared to take a stand, just as we are asking the international community to take a stand and as we are cautioning the Iraqi regime to consider its options," Rumsfeld said.
"There are a number of countries afraid of Saddam Hussein" and therefore reluctant to let their cooperation be known publicly, Rumsfeld added.
The Iraq resolution was expected to win overwhelming support from both parties in the House and Senate, possibly within two weeks. Although some prominent Democrats have called for caution, both Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said they supported Bush on the issue.
"We want to make sure that whatever we do, we make the right decision," said Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas.
While U.N. officials in New York prepared for the inspectors' return, U.S. and British officials began working on a new U.N. resolution aimed at authorizing use of force should Baghdad fail to comply with Security Council resolutions.
Western diplomats said the U.S.-British draft likely would include new instructions for weapons inspectors and a timetable for disarmament that would be tighter than one laid out in an existing resolution passed in December 1999.
Britain, which helps the United States patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, has been the staunchest public ally for Bush's threats of war. Rumsfeld said several other U.S. allies have said privately they would support a military strike against Iraq, but he declined to say which countries or how many.
The gap between Russian and American viewpoints was underlined Thursday in comments by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Upon arriving at the Pentagon to meet with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Ivanov said he believed U.N. weapons inspectors will succeed in settling the question of whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
"Being experienced in that sort of business -- both Americans and Russians -- I think we can easily establish [whether] there exist or not weapons of mass destruction technology," Ivanov said.
Rumsfeld, who stood by silently as Ivanov spoke, has said repeatedly that inspections cannot be 100 percent reliable because Iraq has a long history of deceiving inspectors.
Although Rumsfeld told the House committee that Bush had not decided whether to wage war against Iraq, his comments left little room for any other option.
Removing Saddam, Rumsfeld said, was the only way to ensure that Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs were completely destroyed -- and not secretly given to terrorists.
"Our job today -- the president's, the Congress' and the United Nations' -- is to ... anticipate vastly more lethal attacks before they happen and to make the right decision as to whether or not it's appropriate for this country to take action," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld suggested that Iraq had concealed evidence of its weapons programs in a labyrinth of tunnels and other elaborate hiding places, certain to complicate and prolong any new inspection effort.
"The goal is not inspections, the goal is disarmament," Rumsfeld said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.