- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

President Bush yesterday requested that Congress grant him authority to "use all means," including military force if necessary, to disarm and overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime if U.N. inspections cannot eliminate the Iraqi dictator's weapons of mass destruction. The White House's draft resolution states: "The president is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions, defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has called on Congress to debate and pass the resolution quickly. "Only the certainty of U.S. and U.N. purposefulness can have even the prospect of affecting the Iraqi regime," he told the House Armed Services Committee. "It is important that Congress send that message as soon as possible before the U.N. Security Council votes."

The resolution, which appears likely to pass both houses of Congress by overwhelming margins, is expected to be debated and voted on the week of Sept. 30. Democrats will haggle over the last clause "restore international peace and security in the region." Even without that clause, the president will have a blank check for war.

But, at the same time that Mr. Bush rightly insisted on moving forward right away with serious, unimpeded weapons inspections in Iraq, the British newspaper the Independent was reporting that the United Nations "is likely to throw into disarray America's war plans for Iraq by introducing a timetable for weapons inspections that could give Saddam Hussein a breathing space of almost 12 months" before these inspections are actually completed. According to the Independent's account, under the U.N. plan, the inspections would not begin until early March, and would last until late August.

If this report is correct, it would be difficult to imagine a more harmful, obstructionist approach that plays right into Saddam's hands than that being taken by the United Nations. Mr. Bush has been quietly and skillfully working to put together an anti-Saddam coalition that is likely to include key NATO allies like Britain, Turkey and some other substantial countries. He also has gained low-key support, including basing rights, from Kuwait and a number of other Arab states.

As shown by experience following the 1991 Gulf War with Iraq, these wartime coalitions are inherently fragile; the more time that passes, the more likely such a coalition is to come apart. It is essential that Congress join the Bush administration in making it clear that the U.N. formula (or anything even remotely resembling it) would be flatly unacceptable to the United States. Fortunately, it appears that, as polls show President Bush's tough stand against Saddam has grown increasingly popular with the American people, congressional Democrats appear to be muting their opposition to going forward against Saddam.

As Mr. Rumsfeld emphasized once again this week, it is difficult to see what would be accomplished by another round of inspections. There is no realistic possibility that Saddam will permit to go forward the kind of serious, intrusive inspections necessary to uncover and destroy his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. Since 1998, when he forced the inspectors out, Saddam has put together a wide variety of hiding places for his weapons programs. The reality, as President Bush well understands, is that, so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power, these weapons will remain a mortal danger to international security.

Security Council members Russia and France are expressing public opposition while privately calculating the consequences to themselves should they not join the United States. Even if they eventually miscalculate and oppose us, it is time to end the Iraqi menace.

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