- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

A group of 19 House Democrats yesterday pledged to build a congressional coalition to oppose a U.S. military attack on Iraq.

"Unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq is unjustified, unwarranted and illegal," said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, who predicted "dozens" more Democrats would join their group in coming days to oppose the Bush administration's plan for an attack. "The administration has failed to make the case that Iraq poses an imminent or immediate threat to the United States."

Mr. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, has been leading the anti-war effort. He said there is no credible evidence linking Iraq to the September 11 terrorist attacks or to the al Qaeda network. Mr. Kucinich also said there is no credible evidence that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress this week that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a real threat who has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons and has an active program to acquire and build nuclear weapons. Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States should act before Saddam provides weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.

"We have a president who wants to go to war. There is no question about it," said Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat. "He denies it all over the place, but everything points to it."

"Naked aggression is not the American way," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Ohio Democrat, referring to a pre-emptive U.S. strike against Iraq.

"We do not have to go to war, we have alternatives," said Rep. Barbara Lee, who was the lone House member to vote against a congressional resolution last September that gave the president the power to respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Mrs. Lee, California Democrat, said she would introduce a resolution yesterday emphasizing the importance of working through the United Nations to ensure Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions. The measure has 20 co-sponsors.

The anti-war Democrats said a pre-emptive strike against Iraq would make the United States an aggressor, would be too costly financially and in terms of human life, and could be open-ended.

Mr. McDermott alluded to the Vietnam War. "I saw what happens when you send your people to something where it is unclear why they're there, what the goal is," he said.

Mr. Kucinich and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, said some House Republicans are likely to join them in their effort.

Rep. Constance A. Morella, the Maryland Republican who is in a tight congressional race, said in an interview yesterday that while she had not seen any proposed language yet, she would be inclined to oppose "a unilateral, pre-emptive strike to go to war" with Iraq.

"To go to war before the United Nations has acted? Again, I'm inclined against it," she said.

A spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, predicted overwhelming Republican support for the president's Iraq resolution, however.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, said the Bush administration is "distracted by old business, by the business of Poppy Bush."

Mr. McDermott said the administration's goal is a regime change in Iraq, not having weapons inspectors do their job there. "That's the point a regime change. It's not inspectors. They don't care down at the White House about whether we have disarmament or not, they want to go to war," he said.

Mrs. Kaptur said it had to do with oil.

"Fighting for oil and those dictatorships that prop up the politics of oil is not worthy of the loss of one more American life," she said.

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