Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Bush: 'We refuse to live in fear'

Local crowd receptive to possible war in Iraq

By Howard Wilkinson hwilkinson@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Speaking to the nation from Cincinnati, President Bush made his most strongly worded argument yet for U.S. military action to take out the “murderous tyrant” Saddam Hussein, saying Americans “refuse to live in fear.”

        In the rotunda of the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, about 800 specially invited Cincinnatians, most of them from the world of business and Republican politics, gathered to hear Mr. Bush's 29-minute nationally televised address on Monday night.

President Bush speaking at Union Terminal.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        The speech came as Congress debates whether to give the president broad authority to wage war against Iraq.

        In a deliberate manner that a prosecutor might use to make a case before a jury, Mr. Bush marshalled the evidence for decisive action against Iraq.

        Taking on Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush said, is not a detour in the war on terrorism that has been waged in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

        “To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror,” he said, while standing in front of a massive world map stretched across the west end of the Union Terminal rotunda.

        “When I spoke to the Congress more than a year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted.”

        Mr. Bush said the U.S. has direct evidence that Iraq has trained members of the al-Qaida terrorist network in bomb making.

        It is a nation, Mr. Bush said, that has repeatedly ignored the United Nations resolutions that were the conditions for ending the Persian Gulf War.

        “It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's 11-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith.”

        The United States, Mr. Bush said, should not wait until it has “final proof” of Saddam's development of such weapons.

        “The smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” Mr. Bush said.

        “If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression.”

        Mr. Bush said the nation's security is clearly at risk.

        “The time for denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself - or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”

        Mr. Bush spoke in the rotunda of Cincinnati's former train station, where 60 years ago, thousands of young Cincinnatians said tearful farewells before going off to fight in World War II. The president talked of the possibility of sending yet another generation of young Americans overseas and into harm's way.

        The danger this time, the president argued, is as great as the danger that faced the world generations ago.

        “While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place,” Mr. Bush said.

        “By past and present actions, by its technical capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique.”

        When the White House announced that President Bush was coming to Cincinnati to deliver a speech on Iraq, there was some doubt whether Congress would pass the resolution that would give Mr. Bush the broad authority he seeks to wage war on Iraq.

        But by Monday, passage of a Congressional resolution that would please the president seemed likely.

        “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable,” he said. “The resolution will tell the United Nations and all nations that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something. Congress will also be sending a message to the dictator in Iraq: that his only choice is full compliance - and the time remaining for that choice is limited.”

        The Bush administration wants the United Nations to pass a resolution strongly condemning the Iraqi government for violations of previous U.N. resolutions and demanding that it cooperate fully with weapons inspectors.

        But Mr. Bush made it clear that he does not trust the government in Baghdad.

        “I am not willing to risk one American life by trusting Saddam Hussein,” Mr. Bush said.

        Mr. Bush entered the rotunda shortly after 8 p.m. to thunderous applause from a friendly crowd. Several blocks away, on Ezzard Charles Drive, were more than 2,000 protesters who were not so pleased with the president's war plans.

        The event was clearly a policy speech and not a political event. Mr. Bush dispensed with the usual references to local politicians or light-hearted banter about being in Cincinnati. Instead, he got straight to the business at hand.

        “We did not ask for the present challenge,” Mr. Bush said. “But, we accept it.”

        When it comes to the regime of Saddam, the president said, “We have every reason to assume the worst and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.”

        Before the speech, presidential advisers were saying that Mr. Bush had one goal in his address in Cincinnati - to make the case to the American people that now is the time to take action in Iraq.

        Rep. John Boehner, who accompanied the president to Cincinnati, said it was significant that Mr. Bush made his remarks outside the beltway of Washington.

        “The decision to call into action our nation's men and women in uniform is one that cannot and should not be confined inside the beltway, and that is why I am so grateful that President Bush brought his message to Cincinnati this evening,” he said Monday.

        Mr. Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, said he hopes that the use of force against Iraq will not be necessary.

        “However, I stand ready to support such action, should the president deem it necessary,” he said.

        Most of the area congressional delegation has pledged to vote for the resolution.

        The president's speech came at a time when there were signs that the American people have many unanswered questions about the consequences of attacking Iraq - questions that linger despite Mr. Bush's high approval rating and polls showing most Americans support the idea of removing Saddam from power.

        A Survey USA poll conducted for WCPO-TV among 500 Cincinnati-area adults showed 63 percent support for U.S. military action to “kill or isolate” Saddam, while 27 percent oppose a military strike. The survey has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

        A nationwide survey done Tuesday through Thursday for The New York Times and CBS showed that while there is widespread support for an attack on Iraq, the numbers slip when those polled are asked about the potential consequences.

        The New York Times/CBS poll showed 67 percent support military action, while 27 percent do not. But, when asked if they would support such an action even if there were substantial U.S. casualties, the approval rate drops to 54 percent.

        More Bush coverage
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U.N. a tougher sell than U.S. heartland
Text of President Bush's speech

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