- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

President Bush used his State of the Union address last night to give Iraq one more week to disarm before presenting a final indictment of evidence to the U.N. Security Council as a precursor to war.
After months of refusing to set a timetable for compliance by Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush made clear that his patience was almost exhausted, called Iraq "the gravest danger facing America" and branded Saddam as an "evil" man who has squandered "his final chance to disarm."
He told American troops to be ready for action and vowed to dispatch Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the United Nations for a final consultation.
"America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, our friends and our allies," Mr. Bush told a joint session of Congress. "The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February 5 to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world.
"Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraq's illegal weapons programs; its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors; and its links to terrorist groups.
"We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding," Mr. Bush added. "If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."
The tough rhetoric came at the end of a 60-minute speech that was interrupted by applause 77 times.
In his speech, the president also called for an end to partial-birth abortion; proposed new initiatives to provide $6 billion for vaccines and treatments against anthrax, Ebola and plague; asked Congress to commit $15 billion to "prevent 7 million new AIDS infections" worldwide; and pledged an additional $400 billion to reform and strengthen Medicare.
In the Democratic response, Gov. Gary Locke of Washington accused the president of being fixated on tax cuts and Iraq and ignoring the home front.
"To be strong abroad we need to be strong at home. And today, in too many ways, our country is headed in the wrong direction," he said.
Mr. Bush did in fact reserve his most soaring rhetoric for the war against terrorism, which he said included the looming conflict with Iraq.
"Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he said. "In the ruins of two towers, at the western wall of the Pentagon, on a field in Pennsylvania, this nation made a pledge, and we renew that pledge tonight.
"Whatever the duration of this struggle, and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men free people will set the course of history," he added.
Mr. Bush left little doubt that the first step on that historic course would be to disarm Saddam. Without mentioning them by name, he called on Germany and France to quell their doubts or risk ending up on the wrong side of history.
"All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attack," he said. "We are asking them to join us, and many are doing so.
"Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others," he warned, prompting one of the most thunderous standing ovations of the evening. "Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people."
Yet the president implicitly acknowledged the threat from Saddam was not imminent. But he said that merely bolstered his case to strike now.
"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent," he said. "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?
"If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late," he added. "Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."
In a bow to the post-September 11 environment, 800 masks were kept ready in case of a chemical or bioterrorism attack during Mr. Bush's speech. Attorney General John Ashcroft was the Cabinet member designated, per custom, to stay away from the speech to head the government in the event of a catastrophe.
Mindful of growing anti-war sentiment, the president argued that the United States has a moral obligation to topple dictators who posed threats to other nations.
"Our Founders dedicated this country to the cause of human dignity the rights of every person and the possibilities of every life," he said. "This conviction leads us into the world to help the afflicted, and defend the peace, and confound the designs of evil men."
The reference to "evil men" was the closest Mr. Bush came to reprising his "axis of evil" line from last year's State of the Union a reference to Iraq, North Korea and Iran. He repeated the word several times to describe widespread torture, rape and murder of Iraqi citizens by Saddam's forces.
"If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning," the president said.
Mr. Bush briefly mentioned the other two nations in the "avis of evil" North Korea and Iran. He chided Pyongyang for defying the international community by pursuing nuclear weapons programs.
"The North Korean regime will find respect in the world, and revival for its people, only when it turns away from its nuclear ambitions," he said. "Nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation and continued hardship."
Mr. Bush called the Tehran regime "a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction and supports terror. We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty, human rights and democracy," he added.
In a move that recalled his own father's call on Iraqis to rise up against Saddam which resulted in bloody crackdowns the president urged ordinary Iraqi citizens to be patient.
"Tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country your enemy is ruling your country," he said. "And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation."
But the president acknowledged such a liberation could cost American lives.
"Sending Americans into battle is the most profound decision a president can make," he said. "For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow.
"This nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost," he added. "And we dread the days of mourning that always come."
The only time Mr. Bush became visibly emotional was when he directed his words to American forces massing around Iraq.
"Some crucial hours may lie ahead," he warned. "In those hours, the success of our cause will depend on you.
"Your training has prepared you; your honor will guide you," he added. "You believe in America, and America believes in you."
The president spent the first half of his speech addressing domestic concerns and laid out an ambitious domestic agenda, outlining four goals he hopes to achieve with the help of Congress in the next year.
He said he would try to strengthen the economy by creating jobs; provide affordable health care for all Americans and prescription drugs for seniors; protect America from attack and ensure the safety and security of Americans; and tap into the compassion of Americans to solve the nation's "deepest problems."
"Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best, fairest way to make sure Americans have the money is not to tax it away in the first place," Mr. Bush said to resounding cheers and a standing ovation from Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress.
He has proposed a $674 billion, 10-year tax-cut plan which would eliminate taxes on dividends, accelerate scheduled across-the-board income-tax-rate cuts and provide a $400-per-child increase in the tax credit for families with children.
"Under my plan, as soon as I have signed the bill, this extra money will start showing up in workers' paychecks," he said.
All 92 million taxpayers will get relief, and "a family of four with an income of $40,000 would see their federal income taxes fall from $1,178 to $45 per year," he said.
Mr. Bush pledged to commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare.
"Leaders of both political parties have talked for years about strengthening Medicare I urge the members of this new Congress to act this year."
The Bush administration has prepared a plan to provide prescription drug benefits and catastrophic illness coverage to seniors as an inducement for them to leave the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program and join private but government-subsidized health care plans.
The president stepped up his call to rein in medical malpractice awards by establishing a nationwide cap on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering to $250,000.
"Instead of bureaucrats, and trial lawyers, and HMOs, we must put doctors, and nurses, and patients back in charge of American medicine," he said.
To put a point on his proposals, Mr. Bush filled the executive box in the House chamber with six persons who would benefit from Mr. Bush's tax-cut proposal, two doctors hurt by high malpractice insurance costs and several people who work for or run aid organizations.
Several of those sitting with first lady Laura Bush were there as examples of how the president's tax-cut proposals would benefit average Americans.
For example, Richard "Bud" Beck and Georgia Louise Beck, retired seniors from Colorado, would save $418 on their taxes under Mr. Bush's proposal. But Democrats did their own analysis and said the Becks would do better under their tax-cut proposal, receiving a one-year rebate of $600, according to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Also present was recently retired Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, a guest of new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.
Mr. Bush called on Congress to pass his faith-based initiative to allow the federal government to help religious groups deliver social services.
"Tonight I ask Congress and the American people to focus the spirit of service and the resources of government on the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens boys and girls trying to grow up without guidance and attention and children who have to go through a prison gate to be hugged by their mom or dad," he said.
Mr. Bush asked Congress to budget $450 million "to bring mentors to more than a million disadvantaged junior high students and children of prisoners."
He also asked lawmakers to set aside $600 million for a new drug treatment program that would welcome the participation of religious groups. The program would give 300,000 participants over the next three years vouchers to seek drug treatment at the centers of their choice, including religious programs.
Mr. Bush proposed further environmental spending $1.2 billion over an unspecified period to speed the development of hydrogen-powered, zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles.
The president said his budget to be sent to Congress in February will include almost $6 billion to establish "a major research and production effort to guard our people against bioterrorism called Project Bioshield."
The money will go to "quickly make available effective vaccines and treatments against agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ebola, and plague. We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us," he said.
Mr. Bush also announced he was instructing the leaders of the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to develop a Terrorist Threat Integration Center.
The agency will "merge and analyze all threat information in a single location. Our government must have the very best information possible, and we will use it to make sure the right people are in the right places to protect our citizens," he said.
Touching only briefly on abortion, Mr. Bush said, "We must not overlook the weakest among us."
"I ask you to protect infants at the very hour of birth, and end the practice of partial-birth abortion. And because no human life should be started or ended as the object of an experiment, I ask you to set a high standard for humanity and pass a law against all human cloning," he said, drawing applause from all Republicans and a large number of Democrats.
In a major international announcement originally scheduled to be announced in South Africa during a trip set for this month but canceled at the last moment, Mr. Bush asked Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years "to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean."
"Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many … This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature," the president said.

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