Powell on the Hill, as Iraq Rhetoric Heats Up

Published September 27, 2002

| FoxNews.com

The world is not the same since Sept. 11, 2001, and Iraq cannot be left unchecked as it has been allowed to do since weapons inspectors were evicted in 1998, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate panel Thursday.

"It is Iraq that is in the dock, and we cannot lose sight of that simple, clear fact," Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Powell is trying to shore up Senate support for a resolution on Iraq that would give President Bush "all means that he determines to be appropriate," including use of force, to deal with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Powell told lawmakers that a strong congressional resolution would help convince the United Nations that a new resolution is needed to demand Iraqi disarmament.

"We are a long way from getting an agreement, but there are points of agreement, and we are working hard to resolve the differences," Powell said.

As the U.S. and Britain continued efforts to pass a new U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military force if Baghdad does not comply with previous demands, Russia, one of five Security Council members with veto power, reaffirmed its doubts Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said British Prime Minister Tony Blair's dossier of evidence against Iraq didn't convince him that a new resolution was needed.

"If the United Nations is not able to act and act decisively, and I think that would be a terrible indictment of the United Nations, then the United States will have to make its own decision as to whether the danger posed by Iraq is such that we have to act in order to defend our country and our interests," Powell said on the Hill. "I believe strongly that our diplomatic efforts at the United Nations would be helped enormously by a strong, congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to take necessary and appropriate action."

Powell is just one cog in the administration's wheel to turn Senate sentiment toward supporting the U.N. resolution.

Bush applied additional pressure Thursday, when he met with House lawmakers to demonstrate solidarity on confronting Iraq.

During a hastily organized Rose Garden press conference, Bush said the United States "will soon speak with one voice" on the Iraq situation.

"Democrats and Republicans refuse to live in a future of fear," Bush said, flanked by lawmakers from both parties.

The president's language lacked much of the partisan fervor that sent Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to the Senate floor Wednesday, to chide the president for politicizing discussions over national security.

"The security of the country is a commitment of both political parties and the responsibility of both elected branches of government," the president said Thursday. "We are moving toward a strong resolution. And all of us, and many others in Congress, are united in our determination to confront an urgent threat to America."

Bush used the photo-op to play up differences between House and Senate Democrats, who have diverged significantly on the Iraq issue. A group of House Democrats has broken away from the Democratic caucus and is working directly with the White House on the resolution.

In fact, administration officials say privately that there is so much support among House Democrats for going to war with Iraq, they can't accommodate all the requests from Democrats to be photographed with the president.

However, about a third of Senate Democrats oppose going to war with Iraq outright. Another third want military action to wait until the U.N. weapons-inspections process has run its course.

No Senate members were invited to the Rose Garden meeting Thursday.

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, told reporters after the meeting that Bush was very serious and cooperative about Iraq, adding that the president wanted war to be a last resort.

"This meeting began to put behind us the rancor of yesterday. We will wage war and peace on a non-partisan basis," Edwards said, noting that debate on Iraq should mirror the discussion that surrounded "Desert Storm, not Vietnam."

We will not "poison debate on the eve of a decision on war and peace," he added.

Daschle wants to adjust the language of the congressional resolution to narrow the scope of the president's ability to use force against Iraq and other unnamed enemies.

On Thursday, Daschle said a trusting relationship must be restored with the White House before the Senate can move on the resolution, which the administration had hoped to see done next week.

Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., both said that they could no longer commit to having the votes to pass a resolution, nor present a time frame.

"I think that most of my colleagues are preparing ideas with an expectation that the resolution may be subject to an amendment," said Daschle. "It may be subject to alternative approaches. But at this point, I don't think anyone's made that decision, come to any conclusion about the approach they'll take."

On Wednesday, Daschle said in a Senate floor speech that Bush was politicizing the Iraq issue by suggesting that Democrats don't care about national security.

"Our founding fathers would be embarrassed by what they see going on right now. We've got to be better than this, our standard of deportment ought to be better. Those who died gave their lives for better than what we're giving now.

"You tell those who fought in Vietnam and World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people" because they are Democrats, Daschle said. "That is outrageous."

Daschle was referring to an article in Wednesday's Washington Post, in which Bush was quoted as saying, "Democrats are not interested in the security of the American people."

The president's actual comments -- made during a New Jersey GOP fund-raiser --concerned the bill creating a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, which includes language removing standard governmental-job protections from the proposed department's employees.

Senate Democrats want to restore those civil-service protections, which Bush maintains would stymie the executive's efforts to maintain an effective department.

"The House responded" to the White House version of the bill, Bush said in New Jersey, "but the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people."

"I will not accept a Department of Homeland Security that does not allow this president and future presidents to better keep the American people secure," Bush added.

After the White House tried to clarify Bush's comments, Daschle returned to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to blast the administration once more.

"I want all the apologies at the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, all of these explanations about 'context' to be taken for what they are worth," Daschle said. "They are not worth the paper they are printed on."

Republicans on Thursday said that Senate Democrats are perhaps stalling on homeland security because they don't know how to stand up to special interests.

"They have not been willing to choose between their friends, the big labor bosses, and national security," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

Among the administration, the belief is that a homeland security bill and the Iraq resolution can be resolved quickly.

"Americans expect the new Department of Homeland Security to be able to respond quickly to the new threat," said Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. "I know lines have been drawn in the sand, but I'm still hopeful. We're so close."

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said facts should compel the Senate to pass a resolution.

"We have what we consider to be credible evidence that Al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction. Iraq provided unspecified training relating to chemical and/or biological matters for Al Qaeda members," Rumsfeld said, repeating comments first laid out Wednesday evening by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Appearing on PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Rice said there is evidence of "contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of Al Qaeda going back for quite a long time."

The Pentagon is preparing to train at least 1,000 Iraqi opponents of Saddam to assist U.S. troops in the event of an Iraqi assault, and is waiting for Bush to sign a directive that would authorize the training under the 1998 Iraq Liberation act. The official said Bush was expected to sign it, but not Thursday.

An Iraqi opposition spokesman, Francis Brooke, said earlier that the Pentagon had "dramatically intensified" planning for the training of opponents of Saddam. Brooke is the Washington representative of the Iraqi National Congress.

Fox News' Wendell Goler and Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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