- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

President Bush, whose war plans have been delayed by Turkish intransigence and opposition inside the United Nations, still intends to make good on his 5-week-old promise to disarm Iraq within "weeks, not months."
"I can promise you that when he said 'weeks, not months,' he meant it," a senior administration official told The Washington Times late yesterday.
The source added that the president "does not have a specific date in mind."
However, another official said earlier that Mr. Bush had no intention of giving Saddam Hussein the eight weeks he gave the United Nations last year when the president told the world body it had "weeks, not months" to pass a resolution against the Iraqi leader.
Yesterday, White House officials shrugged off the fact that the Pentagon's military planners considered Feb. 21 to 28 the ideal week to commence hostilities against Iraq. That would have saved U.S. soldiers from sweltering in jumpsuits designed to protect against biological weapons.
"Think of the absurdity of today, in the 21st century, saying that the American military cannot fight in the heat," one Bush aide said. "Go back to the first Bull Run, when it was 100 degrees and people were wearing wool.
"The American military can fight in any conditions," the aide added.
"What are the perfect conditions? Well, that's for a bunch of military eggheads to sit and kick around. It's not really what the president does for a living."
Still, the delay in attacking Iraq has given anti-war demonstrators more time to criticize Mr. Bush, one political consequence of extensive diplomacy by the United Nations and a lack of military cooperation by Turkey.
Mr. Bush was peppered with questions about protesters when he met with reporters on Monday.
"They've got all the right in the world to express their opinion," the president said. "If they tried to do that in Iraq, they'd have their tongues cut out."
He added: "I haven't seen many protests on behalf of the Iraqi people who suffer and are tortured."
Although the administration decided last month to introduce a second resolution against Iraq for consideration by the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Bush made clear that Saddam would be disarmed regardless of the vote's outcome.
"I just disagree that we need to get U.N. permission to protect ourselves," he said. "I would have hoped that the world would have come together with one voice.
"That would have been more easy to deal with Saddam Hussein," he added. "But it didn't."
The president pointed out another byproduct of delaying war: The hesitation could embolden Saddam.
"He perhaps is getting mixed signals," Mr. Bush said. "He sees the apparent divisions that we don't actively talk about."
The delay also is taking its toll on the president's approval rating. A recent Gallup poll put the number at 57 percent, the lowest since before the terrorist attacks nearly 18 months ago.
An administration official insisted such political considerations were not driving Mr. Bush's timetable for war.
"This is not a White House that worries about getting beat up in any given week because A, we're used to it, and B, the real political importance of everything we do but especially in matters of war and peace is doing it right," the official said.
"So there's no political hurry-up here," the official added. "Look, we're not in an election. We're not anywhere near any sort of election."
Citing White House political strategist Karl Rove's theory that "good politics is good government," the official said public support for the Gulf war spiked nearly 20 points as soon as President George Bush began military operations in 1991.
"Everybody is well-aware that once a decision is made, the landscape changes," the source said.
As for nations that refuse to back the United States against Iraq, Mr. Bush said their support would be welcome.
"We'll be disappointed if people don't support us," he said. "But nevertheless, I don't expect for there to be significant retribution from the government.
"Now, there is an interesting phenomena taking place here in America about the French," he said. "There is a backlash against the French not stirred up by anybody except by the people."
He added: "There are those nations in Europe France and Germany who do not see Saddam Hussein as a direct threat. And we just have a difference of opinion."

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