- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Congress again is heading toward authorizing the United States to go to war with Iraq, despite concern about tipping off Saddam Hussein and friction with the White House about lawmakers' loose lips.
Lawmakers and aides say the growing threat posed by the Iraqi dictator makes it increasingly likely that Congress will authorize President Bush to use military force, although such action is not imminent.
The attitude in Congress toward Iraq was summed up yesterday by lawmakers' rejection of an invitation by Saddam's regime for a congressional delegation to conduct a weapons inspection.
"One does not have to visit Iraq to understand that Saddam Hussein must be replaced, and the Iraqi government must eliminate their capability to produce weapons of mass destruction," said Ronald Bonjean, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, went so far on a Sunday talk show as to call on Senate leaders to bring up a resolution on Iraq this fall.
"Let's get on with it, and let's give the president the authority to do what we elect commanders in chief to do," Mr. Lieberman said.
Congressional analyst Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution said Mr. Bush would benefit from a show of support from Congress just as his father did before the Gulf war in 1991. He predicted that lawmakers will authorize Mr. Bush to use force against Saddam in a much more lopsided vote than the one that occurred 11 years ago when Congress approved Desert Storm 250-183 in the House and 52-47 in the Senate.
"Congress will give it to him," Mr. Hess said. "It's like pushing against an open door."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, has said he wants a debate on the issue, but he has not promised to address it before year's end.
Mr. Bush has not indicated whether he intends to seek such congressional approval. Senate Democrats are worried that the administration lacks a "game plan" for Iraq but don't want to challenge Mr. Bush on the ouster of such a notorious figure in the war against terrorism, said Marshall Wittman, congressional analyst at the Hudson Institute in Washington.
"The Democrats do not want to be on the wrong side of a popular war against terrorism," Mr. Wittman said. "I suspect the Democrats will follow [Sen. Joseph R.] Biden's lead. There will be broad agreement in support of a resolution" authorizing the use of force against Iraq.
The Constitution gives the power to declare war solely to Congress, but there are several situations under which presidents may unilaterally deploy forces, such as when the United States is attacked.
Bush administration lawyers are reported to have concluded that linking Iraq to the September 11 terrorist attacks justifies a strike without congressional approval, as does a Senate resolution passed Sept. 14 that authorized use of "all necessary force" against those who "planned, committed or aided" in the attack.
Mr. Lott last week criticized a Democratic resolution calling on the White House to consult Congress before attacking Iraq as "partisan politics." He said debating an invasion of Iraq could help Saddam prepare for an attack.
But others noted that U.S. forces defeated Iraq in short measure in 1991 despite debating the action openly beforehand.
"You'd have to be a hermit in Iraq at this point not to expect an attack," Mr. Wittman said.
Mr. Lott softened that position during the weekend on a use-of-force resolution against Iraq, saying he probably would vote for such a measure.
The issue also is coming to the fore as the Justice Department investigates lawmakers for leaking information about a congressional probe of September 11 intelligence failures. FBI agents have asked lawmakers whether they would submit to polygraph tests, provoking angry responses.
Mr. Lott said if anything comes from that episode, it could "put a chill" into lawmakers being briefed about further plans in the war against terrorism.
"Hopefully as we deal with al Qaeda around the world and homeland security, members will be on a heightened alert not to give out sensitive information," he said. "We have found the problem, and it is us."

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