- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer yesterday announced his support for a war to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying that the United States must act if the United Nations won't.
"The United States and the nations of the world that are prepared to defend freedom must not be frozen into inaction by the international community's inability to marshal anything more than mere words," Mr. Hoyer said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"Action in the face of defiance is required, and the time to act is close at hand," said Mr. Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House.
His speech highlighted a segment of the Democratic Party that believes President Bush has made a case for war to disarm Iraq, and shows the divide between that wing and those pushing for more time, among them House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
"Obviously the case has not been made," Mrs. Pelosi said just hours before President Bush held a nationally televised news conference last week. "It has not been made to the American people, it has not been made to the world community, it has not been made to the Security Council that war is the best way."
That same day Mr. Daschle said, "I strongly believe we have not yet reached that point."
While the two called on the president to secure broader international backing, Mr. Hoyer put the onus on the world community, saying it must realize the danger posed by Iraq.
"The United Nations should act. If it does not, simply waiting for the consequences of the failure is not an acceptable alternative," said Mr. Hoyer of Maryland. "The United States and a coalition of its allies including nearly 20 who have offered military support must be prepared to use military force to disarm him."
He isn't the only prominent Democrat to publicly make that pitch. After the remarks by Mr. Daschle and Mrs. Pelosi, Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, a former caucus chairman, dissented and called for national unity on the Iraq issue.
"We have attempted to work through the United Nations to secure multilateral support for the use of force to disarm the Iraqi regime. Hopefully, the administration will succeed in winning additional U.N. support in the days ahead," he said. "However, Saddam should not be misled about the unity of the American public as we approach the final days of our diplomatic efforts."
Four Democratic presidential candidates who are in Congress voted in October for a resolution authorizing the president to use force. Among them was Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, the House Democratic leader at the time.
The resolution passed 296-133 in the House and 77-23 in the Senate. A majority of House Democrats 126 voted against the resolution, while a majority of Senate Democrats 29 supported it.
Mr. Daschle, who voted for the resolution, has said he thinks another vote would reveal about the same amount of support.
Still, the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party has received the most attention. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, have made opposition to a war a prominent part of their campaigns. Last month, Mr. Dean won the strongest applause at the winter Democratic National Committee meeting for his remarks on the war.
Mr. Hoyer has advocated that his party needs to earn the American people's trust on defense and made this a theme of his quest for the whip's post after the 2002 elections.
Such divisions notwithstanding, Democrats still have plenty of common ground on Iraq: They share a criticism of the president's diplomacy as ham-handed, and they say Mr. Bush has laid out neither the cost of the war nor the degree of U.S. commitment expected in a postwar rebuilding effort.
Democrats also say disagreement on the issue of Iraq hasn't led to a broader rift on other issues.
Most Republicans remain united behind the president, though some share concerns about the cost of the war.
Many of the Democrats who supported the force resolution defended Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Daschle, saying that while they disagree with the leaders' comments, they respect their convictions.
"I'm not going to knock my leadership," said Rep. Albert R. Wynn of Maryland, who said he shares some of their criticisms. "I don't think their remarks have been harmful."
Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, however, said, "I don't think it helps the situation."
Asked whether the comments helped or hurt, Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat, simply said, "Did I elect Nancy Pelosi?"
Mr. Taylor was one of a handful of House Democratic members who did not vote for Mrs. Pelosi as House speaker in January the annual symbolic test of party discipline.
Freshman Rep. Rodney Alexander, Louisiana Democrat, wasn't in the House to vote on the resolution last year but said he would have backed it. Now, he said, his concern is that it has taken so long.

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