- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

An increasing number of Republican lawmakers are saying that President Bush has not made a convincing case for using force against Iraq, although they expect that Congress overwhelmingly will approve a resolution authorizing military force against Saddam Hussein.
Rep. Michael N. Castle, Delaware Republican, said the administration's lobbying job on Capitol Hill has been so dismal that the best argument "by far" he has heard for using force against Iraq has come from British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"I have had almost no discussions with the administration," said Mr. Castle, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. "I don't know if they think we're all glued to the Sunday talk shows, but we're not. Most of us have questions. Members of Congress are not getting the information they want."
No Republican mentioned the public disagreements among Democrats over the Iraq resolution as a source of their frustration but cited a lack of concrete evidence from the White House even during weeks of briefings.
"I'm looking for more information," said Rep. Ray LaHood, Illinois Republican and a member of the intelligence panel. "They need to make a stronger case."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, has met with administration officials on Iraq but still describes himself as "the toughest sell in this town."
Despite their reservations, lawmakers say the resolution backing military force undoubtedly will pass by large margins in both the House and Senate.
A top House Republican estimated that no more than 50 House lawmakers mostly Democrats would vote against the resolution.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, predicted yesterday that 78 to 80 senators would vote for the resolution.
Lawmakers "have raised questions, and they are largely, maybe not completely, but largely satisfied," Mr. McCain said. "The president's gone to the U.N., he's getting approval from Congress, he's talking to the American people. What else do you want him to do?"
Some Republicans say their colleagues are afraid to oppose the president on a high-profile issue such as Iraq despite continued questions about a war.
"I mean, look at the tax cut," said Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Republican. "There's a lot of internal misgivings [among Republicans] about that. But there's still a strong sentiment to support the president. He has a big pulpit."
As one of the Senate Republicans who most frequently opposes the administration, Mr. Chafee said he too is not convinced that Saddam poses an imminent danger to U.S. national security.
"I don't think the case has conclusively been made as to the threat," Mr. Chafee said. "I've attended all the hearings, and it's a big decision to make this step, to vote for a resolution when not convinced of the threat."
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he has many unanswered questions about an invasion of Iraq but likely will side with Mr. Bush on a resolution authorizing force.
"If you don't support him, where are we?" Mr. Roberts said. "What kind of message does that send to Saddam?"
Mr. Roberts said most of his questions focus on Saddam's unpredictable behavior.
"If you look at what makes him tick, he thinks he's the next King Nebuchadnezzar," Mr. Roberts said, referring to the ancient Babylonian ruler who conquered Jerusalem. "He really believes that. Why wouldn't he, then, go all out, i.e. use biological weapons? Does he attack Israel? Does Israel sit on the sidelines? Probably not. If it is a prolonged effort, I don't put it past him to kill people and say we did it, put that on the Al Jazeera network all over every Arab country in the world, and you have almost an uprising on your hands. What's to prevent all that from happening? That's a nightmare scenario."
Pentagon officials tell Congress they believe they can take out Saddam's command and control operations quickly to prevent such an escalation, Mr. Roberts said. But nobody can give assurances.
"The bottom line is, do you wait until you think you're really ready?" Mr. Roberts said. "All that time, the clock is ticking. They're not the kinds of questions that the military and intelligence people can say they're 90 percent sure about. I don't think waiting is an option."

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