Published September 29, 2002
CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush, declaring that "soon we will speak with one voice," said Saturday he is confident of winning congressional approval of a resolution authorizing force against Iraq.
"We refuse to live in this future of fear," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "We are determined to build a future of security and peace for ourselves and for the world."
In recent days, as a few Democratic voices have arisen to counsel caution, the president and his aides have sought to portray White House concessions made earlier in the week to limit the resolution's scope as essentially the last word. A successful vote now is a done deal, the Bush administration is insisting, and will give the president a strong showing on Capitol Hill and aid the more difficult search for international consensus and support.
Aimed at winning crucial backing from U.N. Security Council members Russia, France and China, each of which has a veto, a draft of a tough new U.N. resolution from the United States and Britain would give Iraq seven days to agree to its terms. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would then have to reveal quickly all weapons of mass destruction in his arsenal and give inspectors from the United Nations total access to verify the information or face use of "all necessary means" against him, officials said.
Iraq has already rejected the terms of the resolution.
For his domestic campaign, Bush picked up a new Democratic supporter Saturday, Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga.
"The time has come for the U.S. Senate to put the debate regarding a resolution supporting the president on Iraq behind us," Cleland said. "The president needs the strongest hand possible in assembling a coalition and pushing the United Nations to remove Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."
Congress hopes to take up a resolution next week that would give the president authority to use whatever means necessary, including military force, to eradicate the Iraqi threat to America.
"By passing this resolution, we will send a clear message to the world community and to the Iraqi regime that the demands of the United Nations Security Council must be followed," Bush said Saturday.
"We're making progress, we are nearing agreement, and soon we will speak with one voice," he said.
Negotiations continue on wording of the resolution.
Some Democrats, uncomfortable with giving the president open-ended authority, are seeking to put more emphasis on renewed U.N. inspections first and on requiring support from allies for any military action.
Top congressional leaders -- Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. -- are to confer by Monday afternoon.
Regardless, few doubt the ultimate outcome -- a positive vote on an authorization of force from Congress.
Lott predicted a broad bipartisan final tally. "In the end, I think we're going to have something that's going to be widely supported," he said.
Hastert, in Texas stumping for a congressional candidate Saturday, said negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill should wrap up in time for action on a resolution by week after next. But he said requiring a U.N. endorsement of U.S. action was out of the question.
"I hope that he certainly works with the U.N. I know he will," Hastert said of Bush. "But we are a sovereign nation and we're not going to put anything in that says that the U.N. has to act first or tell us what we can do."
Bush also has begun delivering a much plainer, starker description of the threat posed by a Saddam-ruled Iraq that raises the specter of an alliance with Usama bin Laden's terrorist network: "Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group," he said.
The radio address, taped Thursday before Bush left Washington for a four-day Western fund-raising trip and stay at his central Texas ranch, did not include references in campaign-style speeches Friday about a willingness to give alternatives to military action a chance first.