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Bush Administration Issues Strategy on Weapons of Mass Destruction - 2002-12-11

The Bush administration is threatening to use "overwhelming force" against anyone who uses weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops. The new White House strategy paper appears aimed at Iraq as President Bush considers military force against Saddam Hussein if he does not comply with U.N. weapons inspectors.

The new strategy paper on weapons of mass destruction says President Bush reserves the right to respond with "overwhelming force" if the United States, its troops overseas, or its friends and allies are attacked with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

In addition to a potential U.S. nuclear response, the White House strategy says it hopes to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction through effective intelligence, surveillance, interdiction, and domestic law enforcement.

It says the United States will pursue active defenses to disrupt, disable, or destroy weapons of mass destruction before they strike their target, saying the threat of terrorists using those weapons is one of America's greatest security challenges.

The report, which will be presented to Congress Wednesday, replaces a 1993 directive on weapons of mass destruction which the Bush Administration felt was too narrow because it dealt only with non-proliferation.

The strategy paper says such weapons are no longer a choice of last resort, but "militarily useful weapons of choice" intended to overcome Washington's advantages in conventional forces.

Embracing what it calls "counterproliferation," the report says this new strategy "represents a fundamental change from the past" by taking advantage of new technologies, increased emphasis on intelligence gathering and creating new partnerships with former adversaries.

A senior administration official says the goal is keeping "the world's most dangerous technologies out of the hands of the world's most dangerous people."

Domestically, the six-page strategy paper says the new Department of Homeland Security will help prepare rescue crews to deal with a potential chemical or biological attack.

Abroad, it says the Bush administration will continue to dissuade supplying states from cooperating with those seeking weapons of mass destruction by holding suppliers responsible for how those weapons are used.

Senior U.S. officials say the report expands on a national security policy released in September which reserves the right to launch preemptive strikes against those threatening the nation or its allies.