- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

President Bush, who recently changed his message on Iraq to persuade Congress and the United Nations to support the use of force, has begun to offer Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a final choice a choice similar to the one he offered the Taliban regime just before sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
The president this week said Saddam can avert U.S. military action by fully complying with the terms of his surrender in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and 16 United Nations resolutions passed over the last 11 years.
"He has to make a choice. We're a patient nation. He's got a choice to make. His choice is he must do what he said he was going to do. He said he wasn't going to have weapons of mass destruction. That's what we expect," Mr. Bush said at a White House event Wednesday.
That is similar to the message the president delivered to Afghanistan's Taliban regime the day before he ordered troops to dismantle the government that harbored Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
"The United States is presenting a clear choice to every nation: Stand with the civilized world, or stand with the terrorists. And for those nations that stand with the terrorists, there will be a heavy price," he said on Oct. 6, 2001.
A few days later, the president said of the Taliban: "We gave that regime a choice: Turn over the terrorists or face your ruin. They chose unwisely."
On Thursday, Mr. Bush said: "The days of Iraq acting as an outlaw state are coming to an end."
Over the course of the past few weeks, Mr. Bush has massaged his message on Iraq to include two facets seen by the administration as having been crucial to securing congressional support.
First, the president began to talk of building a coalition possibly outside the United Nations instead of vowing to act unilaterally.
Second, Mr. Bush in his televised address on Monday night detailed the specific threat posed by Saddam to the safety of Americans and began to use graphic language such as the statement that "wives and mothers of political opponents have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners have been forced to watch their own children being tortured" to cast the Iraqi dictator as a vicious ruler.
Together, the modifications helped solidify support in the House, which voted overwhelmingly Thursday to authorize the president to use force against Iraq. The Senate early Friday followed suit, voting strongly in favor of a war resolution.
The administration's decision to abandon a unilateral policy toward Iraq won over the staunchest Senate opponent, Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
"Like many Americans, I was concerned by the way the administration first proposed to deal with that threat," Mr. Daschle said Thursday. "The president's desire to wage war alone, without the support of our allies and without authorization from Congress, was wrong.
"Many of us Democrats and Republicans made it clear that such unilateralism was not in the nation's best interests. I now commend the administration for changing its approach and acknowledging the importance of working with our allies," he said.
Mr. Bush began to alter his message after the White House announced at the end of last week that the president would deliver a prime-time address on Iraq on Monday. He used two speeches last Friday in Boston and the following day in Manchester, N.H. to unveil the new rhetoric.
"The choice is theirs and the choice is also Mr. Saddam Hussein's choice," the president said at a fund-raiser in Massachusetts, urging the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force.
"For the sake of our freedom, for the sake of peace, if the United Nations won't make the decision, if Saddam Hussein continues to lie and deceive, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm this man before he harms America and our friends," he said to applause.
A senior administration official said the president privately is angered about news reports that the United States lacks European support. "We have 17 countries in Europe who support us," Mr. Bush says in frustration, according to the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The president began to point out the obvious, the official said: That the United States already has a substantial coalition albeit with varying degrees of commitment of some 20 nations.
Mr. Bush expanded on the message in Manchester in a speech to supporters at the state's National Guard Armory.
"For the sake of our peace, for the sake of our children's future, if the United Nations will not act in strong force, if they continue to be ineffective, if Saddam Hussein makes the choice not to disarm, the United States and a lot of our friends will disarm him," he said.
To make sure no reporter missed the new passage, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said aboard Air Force One: "For those who question whether the United States will do anything unilaterally, the question is answered: The United States will not."
In his prime-time address Monday, Mr. Bush laid out his case of the threat posed by Saddam to the security of the United States.
The president said U.S. intelligence had discovered that Iraq has "a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States.
"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliances with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints," he said.
That new message clearly affected top lawmakers.
"It is clear from this debate that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are the principal threat to the United States," Mr. Daschle said Thursday, "and the only threat that would justify the use of United States military force against Iraq."
"It is the threat that the president cited repeatedly in his speech to the American people Monday night. It may also be the only threat that can rally the world to support our efforts," he said.


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