Bush cites Saddam's 'arsenal of terror'
Congress debates resolution
CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- Warning of war but expressing hope for peace, President Bush outlined his case Monday night against Saddam Hussein's "arsenal of terror," saying the Iraqi leader must disarm or face a possible military strike.
"The time for denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end," Bush told civic leaders at the Cincinnati Museum Center. "Saddam Hussein must disarm himself or -- for the sake of peace -- we will lead a coalition to disarm him." (Speech transcript)
The president offered no major revelations in his speech, but much like a prosecutor delivering a closing argument, Bush calmly and forcefully laid out the administration's case against Iraq.
The televised address came at a critical time -- in one month voters go to the polls in the midterm elections and Congress this week is debating whether to authorize the use of military force against Iraq.
Such a resolution, Bush said, should not suggest that military action is "imminent or unavoidable," only that the United States was speaking with "one voice."
The U.N. Security Council this week is considering its own resolution on Iraq.
Time and again, Bush said, Saddam has violated U.N. resolutions imposed since the close of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Standing in front of a wall etched with an image of the globe, Bush tied the Iraqi regime to various terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, and he described Saddam's efforts to stockpile weapons of mass destruction, including the development of a nuclear weapons program.
The White House released satellite photographs that Bush said demonstrate that " Iraq is rebuilding sites that have been part of [Saddam's] nuclear program in the past." (Surveillance photos)
Without mentioning anyone by name, the president appeared to address those critics who say the administration has failed to explain why Saddam poses such a threat at this time and why any action must be contemplated.
"If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it makes any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grow stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons? Bush asked.
Later in the speech he said, "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
He also said the September 11, 2001, attacks underscored the United States' vulnerability to terrorists and those who finance them.
Bush outlined specific steps Saddam must step to avoid "any conflict."
The president said Saddam must:
"I hope this will not require military action, but it may," Bush said. "And military conflict could be difficult."
Even as he outlined the steps he wanted Saddam to take, Bush expressed his doubt that the Iraqi leader would do so, but he made it clear that the United States would not allow the status quo to continue.
"I'm not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein," Bush said.
The speech came on the anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and Bush linked Saddam to the broader war against terrorism.
Armey backs Bush
Even before the speech, Bush picked up some support Monday from House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who had questioned the wisdom of a U.S. attack.
"No American wants to go to war," Armey said. "But the president's proven leadership has shown that the conflict may be our only option to defend freedom."
Armey, R-Texas, said in August that a pre-emptive attack on Iraq would violate American principles. But after "a very intense, personal confrontation with the facts," he said Monday, he has concluded that Iraq poses a "clear and present" threat to the United States.
Because Iraqi gunners have fired on U.S. pilots patrolling the "no-fly" zones over northern and southern Iraq and Saddam is violating U.N. resolutions ending the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Armey said, "I don't see this as a pre-emptive action."
The issue has divided Bush's Democratic opposition. Former vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri have said they support a White House-backed resolution authorizing Bush to take action against Saddam if he concludes that diplomatic efforts have failed.
But Sen. John Edwards sharply criticized the administration's approach to the issue.
"We seem determined to act alone for the sake of acting alone, which may be the easy way to achieve our short-term ends -- but will never result in long-term security," Edwards, D-North Carolina, said in a speech to a Washington think tank, delivered hours before Bush's address.
In place of the "purpose without arrogance" Bush promised in his inaugural address, he said, Bush is displaying "arrogance without purpose."
Lieberman, Edwards and Gephardt are all considered potential Democratic presidential candidates. Others Democratic senators, including Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts., and Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, say the administration has not demonstrated that Iraq is an imminent threat to the United States.
After the speech, Byrd maintained that Bush had not made the case for military action now against Iraq, and he said a vote on a congressional resolution should be postponed until after the elections.
"We ought not be voting on this now," Byrd told CNN, citing the "supercharged" re-election atmosphere.
Most Republicans have been solidly behind Bush. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said the United States "cannot wait until we are sure Iraq has a nuclear weapon and is about to use it."
Critics have said going to war with Iraq will undercut the U.S.-led war on terrorism, but Kyl said it could help.
"Eliminating Saddam's threat will give us greater latitude in other actions we will have to take and create a more willing group of allies in the region," he said.
Iraq denies having weapons of mass destruction. Its U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, suggested Sunday his country could allow inspectors access even to the presidential sites not covered by last week's agreement with the U.N. weapons inspection team.
Under a 1998 agreement with the United Nations, inspectors could enter the presidential sites only with advance notice and the accompaniment of international diplomats.