Published February 25, 2003
WASHINGTON – Back from a trip overseas, a handful of U.S. lawmakers on Monday said they believed the international community would stand behind the use of force if diplomacy failed to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to disarm.
They also warned that anti-American sentiment was rising abroad.
Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., talked to reporters about their trip last week to Italy, Britain, Qatar, Kuwait, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
All four lawmakers said they believed the world would support military action if diplomacy failed.
"While the international picture is murky in terms of a U.N. resolution authorizing force against Iraq," Levin said, "the military picture is clear."
Warner and Levin, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee respectively, took questions about whether a second U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq would be needed before the U.S. and Britain could take action against Saddam Hussein.
Asked specifically what the United States should do if another resolution was offered but failed to pass, Warner said only: "I commend the president for pursuing this course of action."
Warner said he did not believe the resolution should be "a step down for 1441," referring to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which calls for the complete and immediate disarmament of Iraq.
The Bush administration has argued that past U.N. resolutions allow the use of force if Iraq does not comply, but it now backs a new resolution in order to win broader support against Saddam.
That resolution was presented by Britain, the United States and Spain to the Security Council Monday afternoon.
The draft resolution refers to "serious consequences," but not to using "all necessary means," and does not include a deadline.
"It's important there be a resolution authorizing force because of the short-term risk of not having U.N. support ... and the long-term risk of terrorist attack," Levin said, adding that he believes the United States would be "at high risk proceeding without [a second resolution]."
Speaking Monday to the National Governors Association, President Bush said that the new resolution will make clear "what the world has witnessed" — that "the Iraqi regime is not disarming."
Bush called the vote on the resolution an "interesting moment" that will determine whether the United Nations is "relevant" to the 21st Century.
But "one way or the other," Saddam will be disarmed, the president added.
France, Germany and Russia on Monday introduced a competing resolution, which laid out a step-by-step plan for disarmament.
Levin and Rockefeller addressed what they perceive as "anti-American" sentiment becoming more intense as the conflict in Iraq looms.
"Anti-American feelings are extremely high," Levin said, noting that that could affect the amount of resistance to a war, as well as the potential for terrorist attacks against the United States.
Rockefeller said he hoped a decision, one way or another, would come soon.
"I had the feeling a little bit that the tide was running against us ... one, because of growing anti-Americanism and two, because of the increasing strength of the Islamic Jihad," Rockefeller said, apparently referring to a Palestinian militant group that has carried out scores of terrorist attacks in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Later, Rockefeller tried to clarify his remarks, saying he was referring largely to nations in Africa that he believed would be the next "hot spots" for terrorism. But he said the "bravado" Americans display sometimes "really alienates people from across the globe ... particularly in the Muslim world."
Roberts, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he was "optimistic" U.S. intelligence and military forces would be able to track down Usama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.
"I'm optimistic in regards to Mr. bin Laden and the top ten Al Qaeda operatives, from the standpoint that I think we are better able to determine a) where he is and b) how we approach that in a cooperative effort," Roberts said.
Fox News' Julie Asher contributed to this report.