- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, said in Baghdad yesterday that he believes President Bush would lie to the nation to win support for a war against Saddam Hussein.
"I think the president would mislead the American people," Mr. McDermott said on ABC's "This Week" about the president's campaign for support for a military campaign against Iraq.
In interviews on political talk shows yesterday, Mr. McDermott and Rep. David E. Bonior, Michigan Democrat, who also was in Baghdad, denounced the Bush administration while saying nothing negative about Saddam.
Specifically, they criticized U.S. efforts to pressure the U.N. Security Council to pass a new resolution designed to force Iraq either to accept unrestricted arms inspections or face military action.
Mr. McDermott said he is convinced the United States is "trying to provoke a war." He said it has "put a gun at the head of Saddam" and was saying, in effect, "We're going to shoot you if you blink."
Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, said the two Democrats were spreading Saddam's message. Mr. Nickles also said he was "really troubled" by Mr. McDermott's assertion that Mr. Bush would mislead Americans.
"They both sound like spokespersons for the Iraqi government," he said on the same ABC program. "They are taking the lines of the Baghdad government."
On CNN's "Late Edition," Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said, without explicit reference to the two Democrats, that he has to "wonder about the lack of skepticism on the part of some people about the Iraqis' sincerity."
Mr. McDermott, Mr. Bonior, and a third anti-war Democrat, Rep. Mike Thompson of California, were in Iraq hoping to persuade Saddam's regime to accept unfettered weapons inspections and avert a war.
The three, who previously have called the 12-year U.N. sanctions program against Iraq "barbaric," not only oppose the proposed U.N. resolution that the United States is seeking, but also criticized a congressional resolution being hammered out that would authorize U.S. military force against Iraq.
"We don't have to pass a resolution in the Congress or in the Security Council right now. Things are moving forward." Mr. McDermott said on CNN, pointing out that U.N. inspections chief Hans Blix is scheduled to meet Iraqi officials in Vienna today to discuss inspection rules.
"We need to go back to an unrestricted regime," Mr. Bonior said on ABC. "And we also need to do that without the pressure of Iraq or the United States. Let the U.N. inspectors do their jobs."
In a statement yesterday, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe did not detail the president's reaction to the three Democrats' criticism of U.S. policy while in Baghdad.
He, however, said Mr. Bush welcomes the lawmakers' opinions but is "confident that Congress will pass a bipartisan resolution that is strong, effective, and authorizes the use of force."
Mr. McCain agreed yesterday, saying he foresees the House and Senate giving "overwhelming majority support" by the end of the week or early next week to a resolution meeting Mr. Bush's needs.
Iraqi officials said Saturday that they would not accept the draft of a U.N. resolution being pushed by the United States and Britain.
The draft resolution would give Baghdad seven days to disclose information about its illegal weapons of mass destruction and set an additional 23-day deadline for inspections to verify those disclosures.
Iraq already has said it would only accept the inspection regime it accepted in talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in February 1998 that put some presidential palaces off-limits to scrutiny.
However, Mr. McDermott and Mr. Bonior said yesterday that Iraqi officials have assured them that they would allow "unrestricted" inspections.
"The Iraqis we have talked to have said basically [inspectors] will have that unrestricted ability to go wherever they want to inspect," Mr. Bonior said.
Mr. McDermott said the Iraqis "would allow us to go look anywhere we wanted. And until they don't do that, there is no need to do this coercive stuff where you bring in helicopters and armed people and storm buildings."
Richard Butler, who formerly headed the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq, left Baghdad after being denied access to many sites. Saddam then barred the inspectors from returning.
On ABC yesterday, interviewer George Stephanopoulos pointedly asked the two Democratic congressmen why "should we take the Iraqis at their word they have a decade-long record of denying inspectors access and deceiving U.N. inspectors."
Mr. Bonior responded: "We could go back and play the blame game here until the moon comes out. But that's not going to do us any good."
Unlike Mr. Bonior and Mr. McDermott, though, Mr. Thompson did criticize Saddam, saying on CNN's "Late Edition" that he was partly to blame for the Iraqi people's sufferings in the past decade.
Mr. Thompson held that conditions in Iraq are "terrible" and that Saddam "has suffocated his own people." The lawmaker said it's a "tragedy" when a dictator controls a country of "such great wealth" and makes it impossible for the people to have effective medicines, water sanitation and other services that they "so enjoyed just 10 to 12 short years ago."
On ABC, Mr. McDermott and Mr. Bonior said Iraqi officials have given them unrestricted access to people and facilities they wanted to see.
"They have not kept us from doing anything we asked to do," Mr. McDermott said.
He identified a water-filtration plant, hospitals and diarrhea-treatment clinics as some of the sites they visited.
It was not clear whether the congressmen were invited to check out any suspected weapons sites, although Mr. Bonior made a different nuclear-related complaint.
"The only nuclear piece that we've been able to detect here, and we're not looking as inspectors, because we don't know how to do that but what we have seen is an incredible, unconscionable increase in leukemias and lymphomas for children that have been affected by this uranium that has been part of our weapons system that was dropped here during the last war" in Iraq in 1991.

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