Lawmakers Remain Distrustful Of Saddam Hussein
McCain has doubts; Gingrich says deal must provide 'biological and chemical-free Iraq'
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb 23) -- Lawmakers are reserving judgment about the deal U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan struck with Iraq President Saddam Hussein, but believe Hussein will continue to be a problem for the U.S.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says he is concerned that the Clinton Administration doesn't have a long-term plan to deal with Hussein. The Mississippi Republican called the situation "dicey" and "unresolved." Lott offered no specific comment on the U.N.-arranged agreement with Hussein, but did call it another example of U.S. foreign policy "subcontracted" to another entity.
Despite his expressed doubts, Lott said he thinks it is important Congress offer its support for U.S. military action should the president think such action is necessary. "Do I have doubts?, " Lott asked rhetorically. "Yes, but do we have responsibilities? Yes."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman expressed reservations over any agreement with Hussein.
"Over his entire public life, Saddam Hussein gives us no reason to have confidence in agreements," Lieberman said. "Look at the way he seized power in Iraq, which was through violence and bloodshed. Look at the invasions of his neighbors. Look at his use of weapons of mass destruction. Look at the extent to which he has played a very dangerous game of cat and mouse with the U.N. inspectors in the last seven years since the end of the Gulf War.
"This is not somebody you would feel comfortable entering into a contract with," the Connecticut Democrat said.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) shared Lieberman's concerns about the agreement. "I think it is imperative for us to demand from this and to receive from this confrontation an airtight, clear agreement which does not leave us guessing and does not leave the potential for evasion in the future," he said.
"We cannot be pressured into a position that calls on us to give up
what are the legitimate interests of our country and of the world with respect to the behavior of Sadaam Hussein, and I believe it is imperative not to loose sight on that," Kerry said.
In one of the early reactions from Capitol Hill, Sen. Arlen Specter said if the deal Annan brings back "meets the U.N. inspection demands, okay. A diplomatic settlement is always preferable to a military air strike, even though Saddam Hussein has carried us to the brink of war, inflicted a lot of psychological damage and a lot of money costs. If the fine print measures up, we'll take a close look at it."
But the Pennsylvania Republican doubts Hussein will prove trustworthy. "We've had a lot of experience with Saddam Hussein," he said. "He does not keep his word. That's the reason the only ultimate answer is to remove Saddam Hussein from power."
After the Gulf War, Specter introduced a resolution to have Hussein tried as a war criminal in an international criminal court. "I will sponsor another resolution calling for Saddam Hussein's trial as a war criminal," Specter said. "He certainly has inflicted many crimes against humanity and, based upon other standards, the death penalty would be entirely appropriate for Saddam Hussein.
"He's a real problem, but, of course, trying him, even in absentia, would not solve the problem of getting custody on him. I believe we need to work out a long-range plan to topple Saddam Hussein," he said.
"We really ought to put on intense pressure to see that we aren't back on the brink of war every time Saddam Hussein feels like it and push hard to try him as a war criminal, which he really is," Specter said.
Asked if the U.S. might have to send troops into Iraq to get Hussein, Specter said, "One way or another, we've got to topple Saddam Hussein. It may be a covert action, it may be a lot of pressure on the Voice of
America. Saddam Hussein has a lot of enemies within Iraq. We may be able to avoid that kind of military action, but, one way or another, we have got to get rid of Saddam Hussein if we are to avoid another buildup of weapons of mass destruction."
House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday he is "grateful" that an agreement has been reached with Iraq but it must guarantee a "biological and chemical-free Iraq."
Appearing at an event with Sen. John McCain, Gingrich said the agreement must provide "unlimited access" to suspected weapons sites "any place, any time." In addition, he said inspectors must be able to make inspections without any advance notice.
"If Saddam Hussein goes back on his word," said Gingrich, "there should be immediate retaliation.
"The first time there is a crisis somewhere else in the world, Saddam is bound to break his word," the Georgia Republican said.
Gingrich criticized "weak-kneed members of the world community" for not
standing up to Iraq and praised the Clinton Administration for its firm stand on the inspection crisis.
McCain said he views a proposed settlement of the crisis with Iraq with "mixed emotions."
"I believe in situations like these it should be the United States and not the Secretary General of the United Nations to make a settlement, since it is American lives at risk," McCain said.
"I hope and pray we can avert this crisis. I hope I'm wrong, but there's
nothing in Saddam's record to indicate that he's going to keep any commitments," the Arizona Republican said.
McCain added that he believes the proposed settlement came about not
because of negotiation but because of the threat of U.S. military action.