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Some US Lawmakers at Odds Over Bush's Stance on Iraq - 2002-10-08


As President Bush addressed the United States Monday about Iraq, some U.S. lawmakers, mostly Democrats, expressed their concerns about a congressional resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq.

Congressional leaders of both parties believe a resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq will pass overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate in the coming days. But that is not stopping opponents from speaking out.

Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said a pre-emptive strike against Iraq by the United States would, in his words, fly 'in the face of international rules of acceptable behavior.' "The administration's doctrine is a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept," says Mr. Kennedy. "It is the antithesis of all that America has worked so hard to achieve in international relations since the end of World War II."

Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, agreed, expressing his frustration with the growing bipartisan support for the resolution. "The President's military doctrine will give him a free hand to justify almost any military action with unsubstantiated allegations and arbitrary risk assessments, and Congress is about to rubber stamp that doctrine and simply step out of the way," said Senator Byrd. "I cannot understand it."

But many other Democrats underscored their support for the resolution. One of them, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, a likely contender for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004, outlined his position in a speech in Washington. Despite siding with Mr. Bush on Iraq, he criticized the administration for what he called 'gratuitous unilateralism'. "It rightly demands that our allies back efforts vital to America's interests. But then it shows disdain for those cooperative endeavors and agreements that are so important to others."

Like some Democrats, there are a few Republicans who are expressing doubts about the president's policy toward Iraq. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is concerned about the ramifications of the United States taking a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. "We well may be setting a precedent which could come back to haunt us with nations like China going after Taiwan, or a nation like India or Pakistan going after the other," said Senator Specter.

But President Bush did win support from another Republican who had had concerns about possible U.S. military action against Iraq, House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas. "For the United States to act first, the threat must be clear and present. It is. On these points, the clear correct course of action is to support the President," said Mr. Armey.

Mr. Armey says he reached the decision after what he called 'a careful, exhaustive review of the facts', including administration briefings.

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