- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

The White House yesterday backed the assassination of Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi people, saying "the cost of one bullet" to take out the Iraqi dictator would achieve the goal of regime change more quickly and cheaply than a U.S. attack.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the ouster of Saddam "is welcome in whatever form it takes," noting that several other options including exile are less expensive than war, which Congress estimates would cost as much as $13 billion just to begin.
"I can only say that the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that. The cost of war is more than that.
"But there are many options that the president hopes the world and people of Iraq will exercise themselves," he said. "Never underestimate the yearning of people to stop being tortured, to stop being suppressed."
Although Mr. Fleischer said "this is not a statement of administration policy," he added, "that if the Iraqis took matters in their own hands, no one around the world would shed a tear."
The stark words came just hours after President Bush criticized a proposed Iraq resolution on Capitol Hill and also called for a tough, new resolution from the United Nations "in order for us to make it clear to the world and to Saddam Hussein, more importantly that you must disarm."
As both the United Nations and Congress neared votes on resolutions authorizing force to deal with Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Bush criticized the first draft of a Senate version of his Iraq war resolution.
"I don't want to get a resolution which ties my hands," Mr. Bush said after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, who are expected to take up the measure today.
The proposed resolution, drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the panel's senior Republican, calls on Mr. Bush to exhaust all diplomatic efforts before using force.
It also would limit the use of force to making Iraq disarm and does not address White House charges that Iraq suppresses its own people, supports terrorism and threatens its neighbors.
Mr. Lugar met yesterday at the White House with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales. He said the White House advisers noted the fact that the Biden-Lugar plan would limit powers granted to the presidency in earlier resolutions on Iraq, including patrols of no-fly zones.
"We've tried to formulate new language that meets some problems they have," Mr. Lugar said. "They felt the president gained some powers in the '91 debate and the '98 debate, and they did not want in any way those powers to be restricted. I assured them, neither did I, and neither does Senator Biden."
Mr. Lugar said there are probably enough votes in the House and the Senate "to pass almost any resolution the White House comes up with." He said his goal is to get as broad a bipartisan vote as possible.
Mr. Bush will discuss the resolution this morning with the top four leaders of the House and Senate, and will try to revive a Homeland Security bill that a Republican senator declared on "life support."
The Senate yesterday stopped work on a bill to create a Department of Homeland Security, and Republicans said the measure is all but dead for the year, though negotiations continued.
"I, for one, think the bill's on a life support system," said Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, insisted that lawmakers would keep working on the bill even if they must return to Washington after the Nov. 5 election.
"We're going to stay on this bill, and we're going to figure out how to finish it," Mr. Daschle said.
Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Bush will try to break the impasse with lawmakers today.
"It would just be unimaginable for the Senate to leave town without having taken action to protect the homeland," Mr. Fleischer said.
The sticking point is Democrats' insistence on extending union and civil-service protections to the new agency's 170,000 workers. Mr. Bush wants the flexibility to hire, fire and deploy those employees.
On the use-of-force resolution against Iraq, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, said he would support such a resolution, but House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said he is still troubled by the notion of changing U.S. policy to allow pre-emptive military strikes.
"When the snake's out of his hole, kill the snake," Mr. Armey said. "But do you kill the snake when he's still in his hole?"
But other lawmakers, such as Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, said talk of assassination by an Iraqi does not trouble him.
"Saddam has killed a lot of his own people," Mr. Brownback said. "I could see why some generals close to him or people around him would want to see him gone."
Mr. Bush yesterday also said versions of proposed U.N. resolutions fall short of his aim.
"I'm just not going to accept something that is weak. It is not worth it. The United Nations must show its backbone. And we will work with members of the Security Council to put a little calcium there, put calcium in the backbone, so this organization is able to more likely keep the peace as we go down the road," Mr. Bush said.
In encouraging Iraqis to rise up against Saddam, Mr. Fleischer said many despise the dictator.
"Saddam Hussein has created a great many enemies inside Iraq. And it is impossible to last forever as a brutal dictator who suppresses his own people, who tortures his own people, who deliberately brings women in public to be raped, so it can be witnessed by their families.
"He has not exactly created good will among the Iraqi people," Mr. Fleischer said. "Don't overestimate Saddam Hussein's support from his own people."

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