Washington lines up behind U.S. troops
DeLay urges America to 'speak with one voice'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the United States moved closer to war Monday, politicians from both parties lined up behind the president as he issued a 48-hour deadline for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to leave power or face military action.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who earlier in the day had lashed out at President Bush, saying he had "failed so miserably" at diplomacy in the crisis with Iraq that the United States now stands on the brink of war, issued a statement after Bush's televised address assuring the president of congressional unity.
"If the President decides that force is the only remaining option to disarm Saddam Hussein, Democrats and Republicans will be unanimous in our strong support for our troops and for ensuring that they have all the tools and resources needed to be successful," said the statement from Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat.
But the statement also stressed the importance of diplomacy and building alliances for this and other conflicts.
"If the United States does act militarily against Iraq, it is important that we continue diplomacy to pull together the broadest coalition to aid our efforts during and after the military conflict. America will need the support of our allies to rebuild Iraq once Saddam's regime is toppled," it said.
"At the same time, it is also important that we remain committed to addressing our other pressing national security threats. As we prosecute the war on terrorism and confront the dangers posed by the development of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea and elsewhere, the cause of peace and stability in the world can only be served with the unwavering support of the community of nations."
After a White House briefing to congressional leaders on the president's television address to the nation Monday night, another senior congressman, Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, said the president was resolute and had thought through "all the options." He said many of those present cast doubt on whether the Iraqi leader would take advantage of the final window before the United States would take military action to disarm Iraq.
In October, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the use of force, if necessary, against Iraq.
Among those present at the briefing were Daschle; House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican of Tennessee; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Anticipating that Bush would soon authorize a strike against Iraq -- accused of harboring weapons of mass destruction and defying U.N. resolutions to disarm -- many lawmakers began issuing statements in support of U.S. troops Monday.
"It's time to come together and support our great American men and women in uniform and their commander-in-chief," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a contender for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. He has been among the most supportive in his party of a possible military strike against Iraq.
"If military action is necessary, the fault will clearly be Saddam Hussein's," Lieberman said. He urged other nations to "stand strong and together." But the Connecticut Democrat also faulted "the Bush administration's unilateralist, divisive foreign policy, which has pushed a lot of the world away."
Rep. Tom DeLay, a staunch supporter of the White House, called for an end to debate about how to proceed on Iraq, suggesting that lawmakers keep any thoughts of disagreement to themselves.
"There is a proper time and place for vigorous debate, but now is the time for America to speak with one voice," DeLay, a Republican of Texas, said in a statement. "In the weeks and months ahead, let us rededicate ourselves to our common mission, the defense of freedom."
Michigan Democrat Sen. Carl Levin said he also felt it was unlikely that Saddam would use the 48-hour window and worried about what military action would bring.
" We obviously hope that he would collapse," he said. "We hope he'll go into exile for that matter and do what the president urged him to do tonight. If there is going to be a battle in Baghdad it could be a very difficult one, and we should be prepared for that while praying for a much-swifter outcome."