- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

It took less than four days for the president's seemingly clear speech to the United Nations to be converted into a document of Delphic ambiguity. From the four corners of the political world, both opponents and supporters of prompt war against Iraq have mounted their hobby horses and galloped into print. Procrastinators have seized on the second "s" in the president's word "resolutions," as the magic open sesame to perpetual, warless, haggling with Iraq. Prominent Democratic senators without the heart for outright opposition are finding shelter in the soft curves of the now famous "s." Meanwhile, even such a stout advocate of prompt war as the New York Times' William Safire trembles at the power of the "s." He envisions a dreaded "Four Resolutions Strategy" that will reduce the president's will to jelly.

To add to the confusion, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Sunday that President Bush "knew what he was doing when he used the word resolutions." And to further compound the confusion, trusted Bush family adviser and former everything James A. Baker III wrote on Sunday "[two resolutions are] absolutely not acceptable." Non-war advocates, such as the astute and experienced Robert D. Novak, report that "Colin is in the driver's seat right now" and that Mr. Bush has taken a "half-step back from unconditional demand for regime change." It would seem that sometime around Friday, late afternoon, the procrastinators became hopeful and the prompt war advocates turned nervous after a previous 24 hours of reverse positions.

Pardon us for doubting the value of such intense and fretful over-analysis, but notwithstanding the careful wordsmithing by the president and his aides, no level of verbal precision (short of an immediate declaration of war) could have avoided this search for ambiguity. The essential political fact in the world has not changed from the evening of September 11, 2001, when the president stated his intentions to fight terrorism of global reach wherever it may be. He is a man of singular straightforwardness. In the year following the attacks, he has not deviated from any of his stated purposes. He has repeatedly called for regime change in Iraq. He has said we will fight alone, if we have to. It is inconceivable to us that having come this far, the president will be thwarted in his objective by the rather obvious delaying tactics being planned by his opponents.

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