SAN ANTONIO – Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday reiterated the importance for the United States to move quickly against Saddam Hussein before the Iraqi leader can amass the weaponry needed to threaten America and its allies.
Cheney's speech was largely the same as the one he gave in Nashville on Monday, but there were some changes to reflect questions raised by prominent Republicans and others about the wisdom of a unilateral attack by American forces.
White House aides told Fox News that President Bush not only saw the speech -- he made additions to it -- before Cheney first delivered it Monday.
It had been assumed that the speech had the "blessing" of the president, but administration officials said Bush actually made additions to the text of the speech before Monday's first delivery.
The vice president, speaking to a group of Korean War veterans, said Bush was treading carefully, and that he was confident that the president would consult with Congress and allies before finalizing a course of action.
"I know that he will proceed cautiously and deliberately and consider all possible options to deal with the threat that Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein represents," said Cheney, who has emerged as the administration's most visible spokesman on the issue.
The Bush administration holds that congressional approval is not necessary to launch an attack, but it also recognizes the advantages of lawmaker support before acting.
A number of U.S. allies have expressed worries or doubts about an attack on Iraq.
During a visit this week to the Bush ranch in Crawford, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States warned that such an attack could further destabilize the already turbulent politics of the Middle East.
Germany and China have urged restraint, while Britain and Australia have said it's too early to say whether they would support a U.S.-led action against Saddam.
Cheney on Thursday also spent more time questioning the effectiveness of proposed weapon inspections in Iraq, saying that Saddam has fooled U.N. inspectors in the past and that such examinations for chemical, biological and nuclear arms are at best only a tool.
"Many have suggested that the problem can be dealt with by simply returning the weapons inspectors to Iraq, but we must remember that inspections are not an end in themselves," he told hundreds of survivors of the bloody battle at Korea's Chosin Reservoir in the winter of 1950. "The objective has to be disarmament."
And Cheney stated that any U.S. action would not be to conquer, but instead to liberate the oppressed people of Iraq.
Just as the citizens of Kabul welcomed U.S. troops when they reached the capital of Afghanistan, he said, so too would the residents of Baghdad rejoice to see Saddam ousted.
But the heart of the message was the same -- any action against Saddam should come sooner rather than later.
The Sept. 11 terror attack, Cheney said, "awakened the nation to the danger and true ambition of the global terror network, and the reality that weapons of mass destruction are being sought by determined enemies who would not hesitate to use them against us."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.