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US Congress Debates White House's Resolution on Iraq - 2002-09-24

Debate is expected to continue on Capitol Hill Tuesday on possible military action against Iraq. On Monday, lawmakers took to the Senate floor to air their views.

The House is expected to pass a resolution giving President Bush the power to take military action against Iraq as early as this week, with the Senate likely to follow suit next week.

President Bush last week sent Congress a resolution that would grant him sweeping powers to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, even if the United Nations declines to pass resolutions authorizing members to enforce disarmament mandates.

Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona strongly backs the president's request, saying the Congress should not put U.S. interests behind the authority of the United Nations.

He added "The United States government, and those of us who represent the people of America, will act on behalf of the security interests of the American people, and that ought to be our first object here, not to try to resurrect the good reputation of the United Nations, not to put the United States' position in a subservient role to the Security Council of the United Nations, and not to subject our decision making or the president's authority to act, to approval first of a body in the United Nations."

But Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, opposes any unilateral action against Iraq. "If we make that decision to go it alone in Iraq, to do it by ourselves, to say to the rest of the world 'We do not care what the opinion of the United Nations or any other country might be, we are going it alone', would that not invite a backlash from other parts of the world that are preaching extremism and fundamentalism, would not that unfortunately sow the seeds of terrorism?" he asked.

It is a point underscored by Wesley Clark, former commander of the Supreme Allied Command in Europe, who testified before the Armed Services Committee Monday.

He argued the support of a coalition in any military operation against Iraq would also help U.S. efforts in other foreign policy endeavors, including cracking down on the al-Qaida terrorist network, which Washington says was responsible for last year's September 11 attacks.

"The more we can do to defuse the perception that America is acting alone, that America is striking out, that America is belligerent, America is acting without allies, the more we can do to defuse that, the more we can do to put that in the context of international institutions and the support of the governments in the region, the greater chance we have of reducing the recruiting draw of al-Qaida, following through with a successful post-conflict operation in Iraq, promoting a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and promoting peaceful democratization in a number of moderate Arab governments," Wesley Clark said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday holds a closed-door hearing on U.S. policy toward Iraq.