Congressional reaction to Iraq resolution is mixed
Last line could lead to 'World War III,' critic says
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A White House draft of a congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq was met with a decidedly mixed reaction Thursday on Capitol Hill.
Many rank-and-file Democrats questioned what they see as President Bush's call for a unilateral approach toward Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"I think clearly there's been movement that we wanted [at the U.N.]," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois. "Now the president sends to Congress this challenge, which basically says, 'Ignore the United Nations, the United States is going to do this alone.' I think it's the wrong way to go."
Sen. Carl Levin, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said, "I'd like the focus of the resolution to be on urging the United Nations to take action, setting a deadline, an ultimatum to have the very strong inspections, to force inspections and to authorize member nations to use military force to implement that resolution calling for the very strong inspections and disarmament."
But many lawmakers -- mostly Republicans -- point out the United Nations already has passed many resolutions in attempts to force Saddam to let weapons inspectors back into Iraq and stop his buildup of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
The proposed congressional resolution authorizing force refers to those U.N. resolutions as well as past congressional votes.
"How many times do we have to do this?" asked Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott. "Haven't we been through this, not only the United Nations but in the Senate? So I mean it is time to quit waffling and weaseling around. The United Nations is going to have to get reaction to their resolutions and they are going to have get compliance or we are going to have to back up our very strong words."
Bush: 'We owe it to our children'
Both Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt said they will work to build bipartisan support for a resolution, and many members predicted one will pass in the next few weeks by a wide margin.
"I share the administration's goals in dealing with Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction," said Gephardt, who called the draft resolution "an important first step."
However, Daschle cautioned: "That shouldn't be the last word from Congress, and it shouldn't be the last overture from the administration. We need to find ways to work together."
Bush would like a vote before Congress adjourns in October.
"For the sake of peace, for the sake of freedom for our country, if the United Nations will not act, the United States and our friends will," Bush said Thursday at the Republican Governors Association.
"We owe it to our children, we owe it to our grandchildren, to make sure that the dictator in Iraq never threatens our country, or our children, or our children's children with the world's worst weapons," he said.
Saddam, in a statement Thursday to the United Nations, denied Iraq has weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. resolutions. (Full story)
But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a congressional committee that Iraq is "jerking the U.N. around."
Thursday afternoon, Hans Blix, the head of UNMOVIC, appeared before the 15-nation U.N. Security Council to brief it about the plan for an advance team of U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq on October 15 -- the first time inspectors will have entered the country since 1998, when they pulled out ahead of joint U.S.-British airstrikes. (Full story)
Powell says Saddam could empower terrorists
Even U.S. lawmakers who support authorization of use of force said they do not like the last line of the draft resolution, which says that "force" should be used against "the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region."
That line, say some members of Congress, is too vague and could allow the president to use force in other Mideast nations beyond Iraq.
"That is probably a bit ambitious," said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana. "Would this authorize an invasion of Iran? Or how about Syria? They're in the region. I think we ought to stay focused here, and that is staying focused on Iraq."
The language could lead to a "miniature Armageddon" or "potential World War III," claimed Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who said he will write an alternative resolution with fellow liberal Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, that would place more pre-conditions on Bush before he could use force in Iraq.
"Nothing in our intelligence suggests that Iraq is ready to attack Washington or Fort Lauderdale, " Hastings, of Florida, said.
Bush administration officials and their allies in Congress argue that Saddam could give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, allowing them to strike at U.S. citizens at home and overseas.
"The threat to U.S. interests is obvious, but we're not the only target," said Rep. Henry Hyde, the Republican chairman of the House International Relations Committee. "The entire world should understand the danger that Saddam poses to everyone and welcome any opportunity to end it before he is ready to strike."
Testifying before the House committee, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that Iraq has refused to comply with any U.N. resolutions governing disarmament and has been free to develop weapons of mass destruction since U.N. inspectors were withdrawn in 1998.
"A proven menace like Saddam Hussein could empower a few terrorists to threaten millions of innocent people," Powell said.
CNN White House correspondents John King and Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.