- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2002

A proven link between Iraq and the al Qaeda terror network would give President Bush authority to remove Saddam Hussein by force, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday.
Such a connection, said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, would satisfy requirements of September's legislation that authorized all force necessary to retaliate against al Qaeda and any of its sponsors.
The war in Afghanistan, which has ended the rule of the Taliban militia and dispersed al Qaeda's top leaders, is being fought under those rules.
Mr. Biden was asked on "Fox News Sunday" whether Iraq's president could face a similar fate if he was found in league with Osama bin Laden's terrorists. Referring to Mr. Bush, Mr. Biden said: "If he can prove that, yes, he would have the authority in my view.
"The president has the authority right now, if in fact he has reason to believe that we're under a threat of imminent attack. No one's has made that case yet," he said.
"And this will be the first time ever in the history of the United States of America that we have essentially invaded another country pre-emptively to take out a leadership I think justifiably, given the case being made."
Another powerful committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, counseled caution while endorsing the idea that "we continue to make it clear that we would like Saddam out of there." On CNN's "Late Edition," Mr. Levin said proof of Iraqi complicity in the September 11 attacks should be necessary before Iraq is attacked.
Also, "our rhetoric has got to be much more complex, our thought processes more complex," said Mr. Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There are a lot of real problems here, and the first ones to recognize that are the uniformed military leaders, who are very cautious." Mr. Biden added that the rhetoric of the military leaders has been "much more cautious than the president's rhetoric."
As late as mid-June, Mr. Biden was advocating caution in Mr. Bush's plans for Iraq as well. After one meeting with Mr. Bush, Mr. Biden said he told the president: "There's a reason why your father stopped and didn't go to Baghdad" after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. His advice, Mr. Biden said, was to make certain that a plan is first in place to keep the important Middle Eastern state from splintering in a post-Saddam vacuum.
Although now an avid proponent of ousting Saddam, Mr. Biden has not changed his views on what must follow him. Mr. Biden said he plans committee hearings "to lay out the question of 'What is the nature of the threat? How immediate is the threat? What's the threat of inaction? And what happens the day after we take down Saddam?' These are major, major issues."
Unlike Afghanistan, where in weeks U.S. forces took minimal losses in achieving their mission, Iraq is a sophisticated country, Mr. Biden said.
If "we go in and take out Saddam, and we don't decide to stay there and help reconstruct a situation that's stable, then we may be worse off than we were before," Mr. Biden said.

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