Bush Strikes Deal For House Backing On Action In Iraq
- New York Times
October 3, 2002
Bush Strikes Deal For House Backing On Action In Iraq
By Elisabeth Bumiller and Alison Mitchell
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 — President Bush reached an agreement today with House leaders on a proposal authorizing him to use force against Iraq, a deal that Democrats acknowledged cleared the way for approval of a joint Congressional resolution supporting action against Saddam Hussein.
"We will not leave the future of peace and the security of America in the hands of this cruel and dangerous man," Mr. Bush said in announcing the deal in the White House Rose Garden.
The president was surrounded as he spoke by a bipartisan group of House members and some senators who agreed with him, a tableau that the White House used to underscore the breadth of support for the president. Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic majority leader who has expressed discomfort at the scope of the resolution, was noticeably absent.
Despite the agreement with House leaders, all was not smooth today as the White House pressed its case on Iraq. The Senate is expected to have a long and grueling debate when it takes up the resolution on Thursday. The Bush administration faced even bigger challenges in the United Nations, where the White House was still hoping for a tough new resolution against Mr. Hussein. Mr. Bush had to compromise to make his deal with the House.
Specifically, Mr. Bush bent to Democratic wishes and vowed to report to Congress within 48 hours of launching any military action about why diplomatic means were no longer sufficient to protect the United States or enforce United Nations resolutions. He must also continue to report to Congress every 60 days that military action continues, and on planning for rebuilding and peace-keeping after military action. [Excerpts, Page A14.]
In announcing the agreement, Mr. Bush used some of his most graphic and incendiary language in describing the threat of Mr. Hussein.
"On his orders, opponents have been decapitated and their heads displayed outside their homes," Mr. Bush said. "Women have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation. Political prisoners are made to watch their own children being tortured. The dictator is a student of Stalin, using killing as a tool of terror and control within his own cabinet, within his own army, even within his own family."
The agreement, which kept White House officials in the West Wing late Tuesday night lobbying members of Congress, once again showcased the divided Democrats. The House minority leader Richard A. Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri, stood firmly behind the resolution, and gave it a great deal of momentum. But Mr. Daschle, who last week accused Mr. Bush of politicizing the Iraq debate, canceled a morning news conference.
This afternoon, in a written statement, Mr. Daschle said that the House resolution has "improvements" over the original proposal that the White House sent to Capitol Hill nearly two weeks ago. But he made clear that he still prefers an alternative version of the use-of-force resolution drafted by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana.
"I continue to believe," Mr. Daschle said, "that the final resolution should include greater emphasis on eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, a stronger statement that operations against Iraq will not undermine the ongoing international effort against Al Qaeda, and a clearer assessment of the administration's plans for the political and economic reconstruction of a post-Saddam Iraq."
The major difference between the two resolutions is that the version agreed upon by the House and the president today authorizes Mr. Bush to use force to enforce "all relevant" United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, leaving the White House free to determine what is relevant. In contrast, the Biden-Lugar language specifies that force is authorized to secure the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missile program or to defend the United States and its allies against those programs.
Mr. Biden said he would still seek a vote on his version, but conceded that the day's developments would peel away Republican support for his measure and make him unlikely to succeed. "I'm a realist," he said. Later in the day, supporters of the Biden-Lugar approach said they were unlikely to offer their version as a separate resolution and would instead try to change the language in a final resolution.
Mr. Gephardt's agreement with Mr. Bush, which angered some in his party, was pivotal to the deal announced today in the Rose Garden and put holdouts in the Senate Democratic caucus in a corner.
Two centrist Democrats — Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana — quickly joined forces with Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and John Warner of Virginia and introduced in the Senate the version of the resolution that the House and White House had agreed to.
"This should not be about politics," Mr. Gephardt said as he stood next to Mr. Bush in the Rose Garden. "We have to do what is right for the security of the nation."
Mr. Warner then recalled in his time at the podium that Congress gave Mr. Bush's father authority to wage war against Mr. Hussein in the Persian Gulf war. "Mr. President, we delivered for your father," Mr. Warner said. "We will deliver for you."
In Iraq, allied aircraft launched an air strike in the southern no-fly zone after Iraqi aircraft penetrated the restricted area, defense officials said today, bringing to 45 the number of strikes reported this year by the United States and the United Kingdom coalition put together to patrol zones set up to protect Iraqi minorities, after the 1991 Gulf War.
"They placed a mobile radar south of the 33rd parallel," the boundary for the southern zone, said Cmdr. Frank Merriman of the Navy, spokesman for Central Command in Tampa, Fla. "And they flew military aircraft into the zone."
He declined to say how many Iraqi aircraft.
Coalition planes responded, targeting precision-guided weapons at the radar at Al Kut, some 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, at 5 p.m. Eastern daylight time on Tuesday, a statement from the command said. It was the sixth time in a month that coalition aircraft have struck at Al Kut, targeting it also on Aug. 29 and 30 and Sept. 5, 7 and 9. Pentagon officials said Iraqis keep moving mobile radar equipment to the area.
Another Defense Department official said today that a top Al Qaeda operative was in Baghdad about two months ago, causing United States officials to suspect that his presence was known to the government of Mr. Hussein.
Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian, is believed to have left Iraq, the official said. United States counterterrorism officials have called Mr. Zarqawi, also known as Ahmad Fadeel al-Khalaylah, one of Al Qaeda's top two dozen leaders.