As opposition grows, president seeks support for possible attack on Iraq

THE WHITE HOUSE (–The threat from Iraq “stands alone” President George W. Bush warned in a major speech in Cincinnati at Final Call press time Oct. 7.

And as dissent grew among prominent Democrats and the UN Security Council appeared to slow the U.S. rush to war, Mr. Bush even seemed to back away from earlier warnings that war is “unavoidable.”


“The time for denying, deceiving, and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself–or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him,” Mr. Bush said, outlining a series of Iraqi concessions that go well beyond weapons inspections.

“By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique,” said Mr. Bush. “As a former chief weapons inspector of the UN has said, ‘The fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime, itself. Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.’ ”

He reiterated his contention that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was evil, a threat to his neighbors, a sponsor of terrorism and had flouted United Nations requirements that his regimes weapons of mass destruction be eliminated. Mr. Bush didn’t stress the U.S. role as the world’s policeman in this speech, but called on Congress to pass a resolution giving him authority for military action. Such a resolution would help convince the United Nations that new stronger resolutions and action are needed, Mr. Bush said.

There are no more negotiations and the U.S. doesn’t have to go to war if Iraq somehow fully complies with UN mandates, but such compliance is not likely and President Hussein could share weapons of mass destruction with terrorists, he said.

The president’s speech took for granted that he would win overwhelming congressional support, according to Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, and was intended “to win over support in the UN, where the U.S. is still quite isolated, and public opinion, where support for Bush is dwindling. It was designed to frighten people more than to educate,” she said.

Speaking on CNN’s Larry King Live shortly after the speech, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) said the speech obscured the congressional resolution and power Mr. Bush wants to strike militarily whenever, wherever and for as long as he wishes. The speech was nothing new, he said.

It may be necessary for the U.S. to strike militarily, but it should be in concert with the United Nations and allies, Sen. Byrd argued. Inspectors need to be sent back in, he said.

“We’re making ourselves look like the bully of the town,” Sen. Bryd added, saying polls show Americans want more focus on the economy.

The resolution vote should wait until after November elections because lawmakers cannot help but factor the political impact of their vote into the equation, he said.

Salim Muwakkil agreed that the Bush speech was nothing new. It was a use of the typical arguments that seek to fire up emotional opposition rather than any kind of rational explanation for American belligerence, said the writer, who is a senior editor for In These Times magazine and weekly columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

“He’s trying to justify their irrational belief and the justification itself becomes even more irrational,” he observed.

Mr. Muwakkil noted a slight shift in Bush’s former go-at-it-alone rhetoric. There was a kind of shift in emphasis with the language and talk of peace to allay the worries of conservatives like Pat Buchanan, who are bothered by the president’s “kind of cowboy shot first ask questions later attitude.” The Buchanan wing and Mr. Bush’s pedigree really favors an isolationist, rather than an activist foreign policy, he noted.

Still slightly cooling the war rhetoric doesn’t mean war plans have been shelved, Mr. Muwakkil said.

Peace activist Bernie Noven, who helped organize an antiwar demonstration the Sunday before the president’s speech, didn’t hear the speech. But a news report didn’t reveal anything new, he said.

Iraq is no more of a threat than North Korea and has no way of getting weapons to the U.S., said Mr. Noven. The assumptions about contact between al Qaeda and Iraq are “either stupidity or deviousness of his advisors” because al Qaeda opposes secular government’s like the Iraqi regime, he said.

Mr. Bush is searching for reasons to attack Iraq to avoid a sinking economy and serious domestic issues, like poverty and the lack of health care, Mr. Noven contends. That lack of concern also shows Mr. Bush is not really interested in the security of Americans because these things impact their lives daily, he said.

Mr. Bush has connections with the oil industry and simply wants to control Iraqi oil, Mr. Noven said.

“Bush’s appearance was a sly attempt to create a financial windfall for a losing proposition. The losing proposition is the war against Iraq. The financial windfall involves pouring money into downtown Cincinnati. The media and citizens will spend money in the boycott zone. Bush knows those are his supporters that support racism in Cincinnati,” said activist and researcher Steve Cokely, commenting on the president choice to deliver an address in a city that Blacks are boycotting.

“Everything that he has done has been election-related. He wants to invade Iraq, most believe, in January 2003. It was January 1991, that his father attacked Iraq and on a full moon. It is significant that George Bush would in fact go to Ohio, to give his war declaration where he could feel comfortable amongst his fellow Skull and Bones fraternity members. Gov. Taft, of Ohio serves as one of his loyalists and one of his most powerful allies amongst the U.S. governors,” he said of the president’s membership in a secret society.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) strongly endorsed the president’s appeal before the nation to confront the growing danger from Saddam Hussein’s regime. “President Bush laid out the clear, compelling, and overwhelming justification for action to remove the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s terror regime,” Mr. DeLay said. “As the president made clear, America cannot and will not stand idle as the cancer of  Saddam’s brutal regime metastasizes and threatens our interests.”

In Washington, Democratic senators had urged go-slow policies including UN Security Council authorization, and coalition-building aimed at disarmament, rather than changing the Iraqi government, and the administration appeared poised to compromise on a two-resolution UN process authorizing the return of weapons inspectors before authorizing the use of force.

Iraq expanded its own diplomatic initiative, dispatching top government officials to Arab capitals to argue that an American invasion poses a greater threat to the stability of the entire region than any danger from what they claim is a country which has been disarmed and then shackled by 12 years of punishing economic sanctions.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi President vowed that he would never abandon his country and the defense of its independence in the face of an attack by the U.S.

At the same time Baghdad’s ambassador to the UN said that his country is willing to consider a new Security Council resolution on weapons inspections, including access to restricted sites–a key Bush demand.

“We are not rejecting any resolutions of the Security Council,” UN Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said Oct. 6 on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think now the Security Council will go to Baghdad and have all facilities, feel free to search any site in Iraq, even the sensitive sites, or so-called presidential sites.”

The Iraqi official promised inspectors could soon return to his country “without conditions,” and would be able to carry out “unfettered inspections. … We would do anything really to finish with that item, with the question of mass destruction … because of one reason, simple reason–we don’t have mass destruction weapons,” Mr. Aldouri said.

“I believe in the two step process,” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), told reporters Oct. 6 following his appearance on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” That process involves first getting UN Security Council support, in order to “unite the world with us,” Mr. Kennedy said.

The congressional debate on a resolution authorizing the unilateral use of force by the U.S. should be much broader than a process of marching in “lockstep” in support of a unilateral declaration of war, he continued.

Other critics accused some of the administration’s most outspoken “war hawks” of failing themselves to fight when they were eligible.

“George Bush wants to call on you to be on track with his war plans,” Rep. Cynthia McKinney told an anti-war rally of 20,000 in New York Oct. 5. “When George W. Bush had a chance to go to war, he went A.W.O.L. (Vice President) Dick Cheney was missing in action in Vietnam. When America called Richard Perle, he didn’t return the call. How ironic it is that the biggest cheerleaders for war, themselves avoided war like the plague,” she said.

Ms. McKinney complained that those who served honorably often end up living on the streets. “Sadly, one-quarter of all the homeless people in our country are veterans,” she said.

Ironically, one of Mr. Bush’s most outspoken supporters among Senate Democrats–Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.)–separated himself from the administration in a speech Oct. 7, accusing Mr. Bush of conducting a foreign policy of “arrogance without purpose,” which is marked by “gratuitous unilateralism.”

Mr. Edwards, a likely presidential candidate himself in 2004, condemned Mr. Bush for seeing military action as a “first resort” and for confusing leadership with wanting to go it alone, in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington Oct. 7.

Mr. Bush should have told the American people, and the Senate should subsequently debate “a whole range of war and peace issues,” Sen. Kennedy said. Those issues include: the implications of going to war alone; the cost of any war; the dangers of an expanded conflict in the Middle East; the possibility that Israel might retaliate to any attack from Iraq using its own nuclear arsenal; and the very real danger that any U.S. war against Iraq would be perceived in the Middle East as a “war against Islam. This will enhance recruitment by al-Qaeda,” he warned.

Countries throughout the Muslim world have rebuked the U.S. and the West in general for Mr. Bush’s globalization agenda which some see as damaging to less developed nations. “One nation cannot demand that another change its government–or else,” Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia told the opening of the World Economic Forum East Asia, meeting in Kuala Lumpur Oct. 7.

“No nation has the right to wage war on another without the authorization of the United Nations Security Council,” he said. In February Malaysia takes over chairmanship of the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement, and later next year, Mr. Badawi is expected to succeed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Supporters of Mr. Bush’s call for Congressional authority to unilaterally wage a pre-emptive war against Iraq continue to argue that Iraq is special, and that belligerent states such as Israel, India, and Pakistan–all of which have nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and have violated UN Security Council resolutions–are not as dangerous as Iraq.

“Iraq has, unlike any of the other countries you mentioned, attacked its neighbors in two cases without warning, used weapons of mass destruction against its own people and against its neighbors,” Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), told reporters in response to a question from The Final Call after his appearance on “Face The Nation.”

Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, who has urged caution before authorizing military action by the Bush administration agrees, that Iraq poses a unique threat. “No country has the record of abuse of human rights, abuse of weapons of mass destruction as Iraq does,” Mr. Daschle told reporters following his appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“I think there is little doubt that they pose a far greater and more serious, and perhaps more imminent threat than any other country today, and for that reason and keeping with that record that we are taking the action we are taking now.”