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Bush Outlines Case Against Iraq - 2002-10-08

President Bush made his case for U.S. action against Iraq in a nationally broadcast speech Monday. The president says Iraq is a "grave threat to peace" because it could help terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction.

President Bush told Americans that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a danger that is growing worse with time. On any given day, Mr. Bush said, the Iraqi leader could give terrorists chemical or biological weapons to attack the United States. "If we know that Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today, and we do, does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?"

The president called on the United Nations to pursue a tough new weapons inspection program to disarm Iraq. If the international community does not, Mr. Bush says the United States and its allies will act. "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."

The president said Saddam Hussein could comply with U.N. resolutions, but, in his words, "there is little reason to expect it."

Mr. Bush says he does not want to use force in Iraq, but if it comes to that, he warned Iraqi commanders not to use chemical weapons. "An Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate measures. If Saddam Hussein orders such measures, his generals would be well advised to refuse those orders," he says. "If they do not refuse, they must understand that all war criminals will be pursued and punished."

President Bush wants Congress to give him the authority to use force in Iraq if he concludes that diplomacy alone is not enough to counter Iraqi threats. Both houses of Congress are expected to pass that resolution despite opposition from some Senate Democrats who feel it gives the president too much power.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wants the resolution to focus only on disarming Iraq, not the broader authority the president is seeking to use force if Iraq threatens its neighbors, abuses ethnic minorities or does not return prisoners from the Gulf War.

Mr. Bush says limiting his power would tie his hands at a time when he says he has still not decided whether to use military force. "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable," he says. "The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something."

The president says a congressional resolution would also send a message to Saddam Hussein that his only choice for peace is full compliance with U.N. resolutions. Mr. Bush says the time remaining for that choice is limited.