Bush cites Saddam's 'arsenal of terror'
But war not 'imminent,' president says
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 a resolution authorizing 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.
House, Senate to weigh in
The U.S. House is scheduled to begin debating the Iraqi resolution on Tuesday, with possible passage expected late Wednesday or Thursday. The Senate is to continue its debate on the resolution Tuesday.
U.S. lawmakers' reaction to Bush's speech, meanwhile, ranged from fear and criticism to applause and relief. (Full story)
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.
U.N. weapons inspectors pulled out of Iraq in December 1998 ahead of joint U.S.-British airstrikes, and have not been back since then.
A new poll finds slightly more than half of all Americans favor sending U.S. ground troops into Iraq to remove Saddam from power. (Full story)
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is on a tour of the Middle East and Persian Gulf, warning Saddam's neighbors that they face the greatest risk from his program to build weapons of mass destruction. Straw hopes to persuade regional leaders that the threat posed by Iraq could justify military action. (Full story)