- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

White House officials yesterday pressed the case for pre-emptive military strikes against any nation threatening the United States, saying President Bush would not stand by idly as dictators menaced the world with weapons of mass destruction.
"After September 11th, nobody wants to take the risk that when you connect the dots on Iraq, that the first time that you see what that picture really looks like is when there's an attack on American soil or against American interests," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the chief U.N. weapons inspector told the Security Council in New York that it would take as long as two months for him to get a team into Baghdad, assuming the Iraqi government extended a satisfactory invitation.
While many world leaders were calling for new U.N. inspections to determine whether Iraq had nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, Bush officials yesterday pushed for a more permanent solution to the problem of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein — with or without world support.
"We don't want to give him the first chance to hit us, to hit our friends and allies, whether it's the Arab states in the region or Israel," said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
"We always have the right to go it alone. It is not the preferred option but we will not abrogate our right to act in self-defense," he said.
Said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz: "This is not something where you can wait until you have clear evidence.
"In fact, one of the fundamental points that September 11 should have brought home to us is that you may not have a clear case after the fact, because the nature of terrorism is that it operates in the shadows, and it could be a way for a country that wants to do us harm to do it in a semianonymous way."
While the senior administration official sought to "disconnect" pre-emptive strikes against potential foes from the current debate about Iraq, the question of how best to handle Saddam was clearly a subtext of the official's comments.
"It is simply not accurate to say that the United States has always said, 'We will wait to be attacked before we attack,' " the official said. "It's just not accurate."
Mr. Bush yesterday vowed to use a speech tomorrow to the United Nations to push the international body to act against Iraq before Saddam could develop nuclear weapons and threaten the world.
"I'm going to the United Nations to give this speech for a reason: because I believe this is an international problem, and that we must work together to deal with the problem," Mr. Bush said at the Afghan Embassy.
The president reiterated his assertion that Saddam has "ignored the United Nations for all these years, has refused to conform to resolution after resolution after resolution, who has weapons of mass destruction.""My job as the American president is to do everything we can to protect the American people from future attack," he said.
In his speech, Mr. Bush will lay out his case against Saddam and ask a simple question: "What more do we need to know?" the senior administration official said.
At a videotaped address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Vice President Richard B. Cheney yesterday credited U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies with disrupting terrorist plots domestically and abroad.
But he added: "For every bit of progress we've achieved, all of us appreciate that we are still closer to the beginning of this war than to its end."
The president last week pointed to reports from a nuclear watchdog group that determined Saddam was six months away from developing a nuclear weapon when the Iraqi dictator expelled U.N. inspectors in 1998.
utside analysts and U.S. officials say Iraq probably has stocks of chemical and biological weapons and could make a nuclear bomb if it could obtain enough nuclear material, which Saddam is trying to do.
The administration official noted that the idea of a pre-emptive strike by the United States — laid out by Mr. Bush in a June speech — had a long history.
"The idea of pre-emption has been around a very, very long time. It is, in fact, the case that the United States has in the past had doctrines that made clear that it might not wait — that it would not wait to be attacked before it acted."
Some members of Congress, however, said yesterday they were not convinced Saddam posed an imminent threat.
"I set the mark very high," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "I will need to see a plan before I will cast a vote. I will need to see it is necessary."
Still, Republican lawmakers generally said they favor approving a use-of-force resolution before Oct. 11, the new date for Congress to adjourn for campaigning.
"Things will have to move forward very aggressively in order for the Congress to be properly briefed and have hearings and have a debate and have a vote should one be necessary, and I presume it will be," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he wants to avoid "a rush to judgment."
Mr. Daschle said a vote by the U.N. Security Council on Iraq and further congressional hearings will be "paramount in our decision-making process here in the Senate."Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, yesterday sent a letter to Mr. Bush saying many questions remained unanswered and pushed for the Iraq matter to be handled by the United Nations.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barosso, who met with Mr. Bush at the White House yesterday, agreed, telling the president: "At this very moment, where there are some global threats that have to have a global answer, we should act globally."
Several nations have reported indications that the United States is ready to seek a Security Council resolution demanding a quick return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq before undertaking any military action.
But diplomats said chief weapons inspector Hans Blix warned them at a Security Council meeting yesterday that even if Saddam opened his doors unconditionally, it would take a minimum of two weeks to a month to assemble teams of inspectors and analysts and several more weeks to make the other arrangements.
"As soon as we have a green light from Iraq then we can set in motion a lot of things," Mr. Blix was quoted as saying.
"I figure he meant at least two months — at least," said one diplomat who heard the presentation.Mr. Blix also told the council that his office had no evidence that Iraq was trying to acquire or produce new weapons of mass destruction.
The European Union and the Arab League have called on Iraq to readmit inspectors. They were joined yesterday by Saudi Arabia in demanding that the United States work through the Security Council before beginning a military campaign.
But the White House questioned the effectiveness of the United Nations as a solution.
"People around the world will reach their own conclusions about the importance of the United Nations, given the fact that the United Nations has passed many resolutions that call on Saddam Hussein to disarm, to get rid of the weapons that he has, to abandon the pursuit of the weapons of mass destruction, especially the chemical, the biological and the ballistic missiles," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
"And that judgment is still out about whether the U.N. has done a good job in enforcing its resolutions."

Dave Boyer on Capitol Hill and Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this report.

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