Bush Draft on Iraq Goes to Congress; Seeks OK to Use Armed forces.(PAGE ONE)
Byline: Joseph Curl and Dave Boyer, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Bush yesterday sent a draft resolution to Congress asking lawmakers "to authorize the use of United States armed forces against Iraq" - with or without U.N. support - but several key Democrats vowed to rewrite the proposal.
"If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force," Mr. Bush said yesterday at the White House.
"The United Nations Security Council must show backbone, must step up and hold this regime to account," he said. "Otherwise, the United States and some of our friends will do so."
The draft resolution calls for unilateral U.S. authority to "use all means," even if the United Nations decides otherwise.
"The president," the two-page draft resolution reads, "is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions, defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region."
The resolution spells out the case for "the use of force by the United States in order to defend itself" from Saddam Hussein's regime, including Iraq's past use of chemical weapons, its sponsorship of terrorism and its 1993 attempt to assassinate Mr. Bush's father.
The resolution also cites Saddam's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and "the high risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its armed forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so."
The administration wants congressional approval as soon as possible, and lawmakers said they would vote in two weeks, although Congress could alter the resolution.
Senate Democrats emerged from a two-hour meeting last night with only tepid support and promises to rework the resolution.
Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said lawmakers "have a long way to go" before the proposal will be acceptable to a majority of Democrats.
"I don't expect there will be unanimity," Mr. Daschle said. "I'm confident we can work through" their concerns.
Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, called the administration's proposed resolution "unacceptable."
"As it is written, it is incredibly broad. Not only does it fail to adequately define the mission in question, it appears to actually authorize the president to do virtually anything anywhere in the Middle East," Mr. Feingold said last night.
Mr. Daschle said many of his colleagues believe the draft's reference to peace in the "region" is too broad.
"We're determined to keep the focus on Iraq, not on Iran or other countries in the region that may also pose a threat," he said.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Demo-crat, said the administration has "laudable goals" but he called the draft resolution a "blank check" that Congress wouldn't sign.
Some Democrats in the closed meeting were so unhappy with the White House proposal that they discussed offering a competing resolution.
But Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and one of the administration's strongest Democratic supporters on the issue, said a competing proposal "is not the alternative that we should seek."
"There is an opportunity here to achieve broad, bipartisan common ground," Mr. Lieberman said. "That's the goal of the majority of our members."
Republicans and at least one key Democrat, on the other hand, warmly greeted the resolution.
"It's a very strong draft that would give the president of the United States the authority he needs to defend the national security interests of the United States," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican. …