- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday raised the specter of Vietnam in criticizing the Bush administration's war plans, but he softened his stance after a secret briefing on Iraq's weapons programs that another senator called "troubling."
"We learned the lessons of secrecy during Vietnam," Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said in a morning press conference. "We learned the lessons of what it is to move without public support in Vietnam. And I would hope that we would not lose one American life because the American people were left in the dark" about the projected costs of attacking Iraq.
But he appeared to tone down his rhetoric hours later after receiving a 90-minute closed-door briefing by Vice President Richard B. Cheney and CIA Director George J. Tenet on Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction. Also present were Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt.
Mr. Daschle told reporters that the briefing was "very helpful."
"What I'm going to do is talk to my colleagues a little bit," he said. "We were in a position to ask a lot of good questions."
Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican, said that "the information was interesting and troubling," and Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, was tight-lipped upon leaving the session.
The meeting with the congressional leaders was part of the administration's drive to convince lawmakers that the United States and its allies must take military action against Iraq. President Bush said this week that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a "serious threat" to the United States and that "inaction is not an option."
Iraq also was among the topics of a Pentagon briefing yesterday for about two dozen senators, who met Mr. Cheney, Mr. Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and ranking member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said lawmakers have been receiving "new revelations of a continuous effort by [Saddam] to build biological and chemical weapons and also to develop methods to deliver them."
A congressional source with access to intelligence information said Saddam is most likely not building a nuclear weapon "similar to what we used in 1945" against Japan.
"But we know he has enriched uranium and perhaps plutonium that he could use to make dirty bombs," the source said. "He's got the money to buy nuclear capability. If he gets it, would we then take him on?"
Mr. Bush said he will consult with Congress before deciding whether to ask for a resolution approving the use of military force. Some lawmakers, mostly liberal Democrats, went on record yesterday to oppose any plans by the administration to act against Iraq.
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, said the president's plans are being driven by "hawkish" advisers who served during his father's presidency during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Mr. Cheney was secretary of defense at the time.
"Is this left over from his father's administration?" Mr. DeFazio said on the House floor. "They want to revisit the issue."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and a member of the intelligence panel, said there is "no evidence" that Iraq has nuclear weapons. She said an attack on Baghdad could provoke an invasion of Israel.
"There is some troubling evidence today of the preparation of a second front in southern Lebanon to attack Israel in the event we attack Iraq," Mrs. Feinstein said. "[American] Ambassador Dennis Ross recently told me of thousands he mentioned 10,000 extended-range Katyusha rockets that have been moved through Syria from Iran and into southern Lebanon for an attack on Israel."
Some conservative lawmakers signaled that they already are on board with the White House, saying Saddam has been a consistent threat to the world.
"The administration doesn't have to make a really strong case," said Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee. "We have elected a strong leader, and we need to give him our full support. There's no reason for us to believe what Saddam Hussein says."
Mr. Daschle said the challenge for the White House will be to convince "a large number of people in the middle," including him. But he mentioned the quagmire of Vietnam three times in the conference.
"We won't be able to walk away from Iraq," he said. "We're going to be there, and I think we need to acknowledge that. We need to be honest with the American people. This is not something that is hit-and-run; this is hit-and-stay, and stay and stay, perhaps. And we need to be ready for that."
Mr. Daschle also urged the administration to obtain approval from the United Nations Security Council for action against Iraq. He said rejection by the council "would be a factor for many of our colleagues" in deciding whether to approve a use-of-force resolution.
Mr. Lott said he already has met senior Republican senators to discuss the language for such a resolution.
"We haven't resolved that yet, but we have looked back at the 1991 resolution to get some guidance of a good way to proceed," he said.

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