- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Two leading senators said on their return from Iraq yesterday that failure to capture Saddam Hussein or his sons is a bigger problem than has been conveyed, and that NATO needs to be invited to help police the country.

The senators said it was understandable that no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found, but said the Bush administration should be more forthcoming about how much money, time and work are needed to rebuild Iraq.

“A critical mass has to be there to get the streets safe, to get the lights on, to build things, to catch Saddam and remove the intimidation and/or exhilaration,” said Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “That’s a part of fighting the war and winning it, now.

“We haven’t won it,” he added. “We’re in it.”

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the committee, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, accompanied Mr. Lugar on the first trip to Iraq by members of Congress since the end of major hostilities was declared May 1. The team also attended the World Economic Forum in Amman, Jordan.

Since May, U.S. and British forces in Iraq have tried to stem massive looting, get a stable power supply working and stop repeated and seemingly well-coordinated attacks on themselves.

Mr. Lugar and Mr. Biden largely agreed with each other yesterday in separate press conferences to report their trips’ findings.

The senators said the fear that Saddam is alive has scared some Iraqis from cooperating with coalition authorities, and the hope that he is alive has motivated others to attack troops.

They, however, differed on how soon NATO peacekeepers will be in Iraq. Some NATO members in Europe vigorously opposed the Iraq war.

Mr. Lugar said he thinks an “unofficial” invitation already has been extended to NATO, but Mr. Biden said he doesn’t believe that U.S. officials in Iraq expect a NATO force soon.

It’s important for other countries to come in because U.S. reservists and National Guard officers largely serving as the Iraqi police force are not best suited to that long-term task, Mr. Lugar added.

But he acknowledged that Iraqis aren’t nearly ready to take over for themselves.

For example, he said, during a visit to the Iraq Police Academy, the senators saw a small group of about 50 Iraqi police candidates who were not in shape or well-prepared and a training facility that had been completely looted.

Mr. Biden strongly criticized the Bush administration for underestimating the size of the U.S. force required and the extent of its stay in Iraq.

“There’s a gigantic gap between expectations and reality in terms of what the administration, in my view, anticipated,” he said.

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