WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush asked Congress yesterday for authority to “use all means,” including military force if necessary, to disarm and overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein if he does not quickly meet United Nations demands that he abandon all weapons of mass destruction.
At the U.N., Iraqi President Saddam Hussein delivered a defiant written message taunting the United States while claiming that Iraq has no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons – and saying he welcomed inspections to prove it.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Saddam’s latest statement itself represented a backing away from his earlier promise to grant weapons inspectors unfettered access.
The proposal Bush sent to Capitol Hill would give him broad war-making authority. “If you want to keep the peace, you’ve got to have the authorization to use force,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.
The president worked to build support for a vote by Congress before lawmakers go home to campaign for the Nov. 5 elections, and legislative leaders said the vote could come in two weeks. Bush’s proposed resolution says Iraq has repeatedly violated U.N. resolutions and international law by possessing chemical and biological weapons, seeking nuclear weapons, repressing the Iraqi people and consorting with terrorists.
Although Democratic leaders predicted quick approval of a resolution on Iraq, they said they might want to make changes.
“We don’t want to be a rubber stamp, but we do want to be helpful and supportive,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). “Congress has a role here, and we’ll assert that role whenever it is necessary or appropriate.”
Some Senate Democrats, who met behind closed doors yesterday evening to discuss Iraq, assailed Bush’s proposal. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), said the measure was “incredibly broad” and unacceptable.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said he would like the resolution to specify that Bush needs a U.N. resolution backing the use of force. “Going alone has some very significant risks,” Levin said.
“One veto in the U.N. Security Council shouldn’t obstruct us doing what we have to do,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
GOP leaders praised Bush’s proposal. “I’m perfectly happy with the language,” said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). He said he expected a Senate vote the first week in October.
As drafted, Bush’s resolution would authorize him to use force – unilaterally if he deemed necessary – without waiting for the U.N. to act.
It reads: “The president is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions, defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region.”
Bush spoke to reporters after meeting with Powell on his difficult diplomatic effort to draft a U.N. resolution against Iraq.