State of the Union Shows Bush's Resolve. (Political Notebook)
Dettmer, Jamie, Insight on the News
The delivery was fine--probably the best-delivered speech so far of his political career. And there was no doubting President George W. Bush's resolve as he took America to the edge of war with a State of the Union Address that the White House hopes will mark the start of a successful effort to sway reluctant allies and persuade Americans of the need for action.
While he stopped short of committing to war, the president warned of "decisive days that lie ahead." His message for the U.S. military, which he had told to get ready, was clear enough: "Your training has prepared you. Your honor will guide you. You believe in America, and America believes in you."
How this speech will fare overseas in the coming days is the big question as INSIGHT goes to press. The president's long list of allegations concerning Saddam Hussein's efforts to thwart arms inspections offered examples through the years of Iraqi concealment of germ, chemical and nuclear programs. But this likely will have greater impact on Americans than on those Europeans and Arabs skeptical of the charge that Saddam constitutes an imminent threat requiring immediate removal.
While indicating the White House has new evidence that Saddam "aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda," as well as evidence showing that Iraq possesses and is engaged in producing weapons of mass destruction, the president provided few specifics. The details he did provide contained some assertions that other countries and some experts previously have challenged. For example, Bush pointedly restated the claim that Iraq had imported aluminum tubing that could be suitable for nuclear-weapons production--a rebuke to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed El Baradei who reported the day before that his inspectors had found no evidence of any revived Iraqi nuclear activity.
Bush also mentioned allegations by British intelligence that Baghdad had tried to purchase low-grade uranium from Africa. Neither Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, nor El Baradei were provided with the details.
Additional evidence has been promised before, both by the White House and Downing Street. In the fall, British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered with great fanfare a dossier that again provided nothing new. Presumably the United States and the United Kingdom have kept startling information back to unveil it later. According to Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the administration has evidence on Iraq's weapons programs "that can change people's minds." He claims it constitutes "enough circumstantial evidence that if there were a jury trial I could convict you."
The president promised that Secretary of State Colin Powell would brief members of the U.N. Security Council on the new evidence. If there is smoking-gun material on par with the kind of devastating proof that John F. …