- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Key lawmakers declared their support yesterday for the resolution requested by President Bush to authorize military action against Iraq, as the House headed for a vote this week for war.

"I'll be supporting the resolution backed by the president," said Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat and a Vietnam veteran. "It's imperative that we now speak with one voice, to Saddam Hussein, to the entire international community and, most importantly, to our servicemen and women."

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, one of the few Republican lawmakers who had voiced concerns about attacking Iraq, said the White House has convinced him that Saddam's weapons buildup is an imminent threat to the United States and Israel.

"I'm convinced the snake is out of his hole," said Mr. Armey, Texas Republican. "So we have to kill him."

The House is scheduled to begin debate on the resolution today and vote on Thursday; leaders of both parties predict passage with a strong bipartisan majority. The Democrat-led Senate, which also is debating two alternatives opposed by the White House as weaker options, is not expected to reach a final vote until next week.

As lawmakers approached the crucial vote, some Senate Democrats criticized Mr. Bush for a failure of diplomacy.

In a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, said the administration's foreign policy demonstrates "arrogance without purpose."

"We seem determined to act alone for the sake of acting alone," said Mr. Edwards, who nevertheless supports Mr. Bush's resolution on Iraq. "Unilateral action will not win the war against terrorism. It will not stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction."

And Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said a pre-emptive U.S. attack on Iraq would be "Pearl Harbor in reverse." He said such action would not be worthy of the diplomatic skill exhibited by past presidents including his brother, John F. Kennedy, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

"A shift in our policy towards preventive war would reinforce the perception of America as a bully in the Middle East," Mr. Kennedy said. "I strongly oppose any such extreme doctrine."

But Mr. Cleland, who is facing a strong re-election challenge from Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss, urged his Democratic colleagues to support the White House.

"A strong bipartisan vote for the pending resolution will strengthen the president's hand in his efforts to get the international community to step up to the plate, and deal effectively with the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and give the diplomats one last chance to secure Saddam Hussein's final unconditional surrender of those weapons as he pledged in 1991," Mr. Cleland said.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and co-sponsor of an alternative resolution that would limit the use of force to dismantling weapons programs, said he too might support the White House measure in the end.

"What happens after Saddam Hussein is toppled has yet to be answered in real detail," Mr. Specter said. Rather than overthrow Saddam militarily, Mr. Specter suggested an effort to put the Iraqi leader on trial as a war criminal.

Mr. Armey said in August that the United States should let Saddam "rant and rave all he wants."

"As long as he behaves himself within his own borders, we should not be addressing any attack or resources against him," Mr. Armey said at the time.

But the second-ranking House Republican said intensive briefings by the administration have convinced him otherwise.

"I have more information than I had in August," he said. "The [weapons] assets that Saddam has … is greater than I had supposed. His ability to deploy them is greater than I had supposed."

Several lawmakers, such as Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, focused on an Iraq without Saddam.

In a speech in Washington last night, Mr. Lieberman said the rebuilding of Iraq after Saddam's removal presents a test for the United States to engage the Muslim world.

"To me, post-Saddam Iraq is not a burden to be shunned but an opportunity to be relished," he said, listing a five-point plan. "It can become a signal to the world, particularly the Islamic world, of our nation's best intentions. Indeed, post-Saddam Iraq will be a test of America's foreign policy and America's values."

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