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U.S. resolve to meet Iraqi threat called ‘courageous leadership’

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush’s March 17 ultimatum to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein displayed a courageous willingness to confront evil, a Southern Baptist ethicist said.

In an internationally televised speech, the president said Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to leave Iraq or face a military invasion led by the United States. America is prepared to “apply the full force and might of our military” against Hussein’s regime, Bush said. “The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.”

The United States, joined especially by Great Britain, is expected to begin an air assault against the Iraqi regime in the next few days, followed by an invasion by land forces.

In his speech, Bush “demonstrated the kind of courageous leadership that we expect from our president and the world has come to expect from America,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “As the president stated last night, we’re not content to condemn evil; we’re going to do something about it. I am proud that our president has summoned the nation to lead a coalition of the willing to strike a blow for freedom and peace with justice, which is the only lasting peace in this world, in that very strategic and troubled area of the world.”

Land has defended possible military action against Iraq as appropriate under the centuries-old “just war” theory accepted by many Christians.

He encouraged Southern Baptists and other Christians to “continue to pray for the president, our other leaders and our soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families at this time of great peril, as well as for the Iraqis who have suffered so much under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny and whose hour of liberation is indeed near.”

America’s efforts in the United Nations Security Council for more than four months failed to produce agreement for a military disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological agents. France and Russia, both permanent Security Council members, had threatened to veto any resolution calling for force. An ultimatum for the United Nations to act March 17 failed to gain the support necessary, leading to Bush’s speech from the White House that evening.

“These governments share our assessment of the danger but not our resolve to meet it,” the president said after citing Security Council resolutions in the 1990s that authorized force to disarm Iraq. “This is not a question of authority; it is a question of will.”

Bush acknowledged terrorists may attack the United States but said their efforts would fail “to shake the resolve of this country.”

The Department of Homeland Security raised the national threat level from “elevated” to “high” on the same evening as the president’s speech. Tom Ridge, Homeland Security secretary, said it is believed “terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and coalition targets worldwide” if there is a military campaign against Iraq. Ridge said he has asked the country’s governors to call out the National Guard or the state police to provide additional security in the states.

“We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater,” Bush said. “In one year or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over. We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.”

Speaking to Iraqis who could hear him in a translated broadcast, Bush told them any military action would be against their leaders and not them. He also told Iraqi soldiers not to resist the invasion but to follow instructions from U.S. and coalition forces to avoid being attacked. The president also warned the Iraqi military not to destroy oil wells or to follow orders to use weapons of mass destruction, telling them war criminals “will be punished.”

As the military coalition takes away Hussein’s power, “we will deliver the food and medicine you need,” Bush said to the Iraqi people. “We will tear down the apparatus of terror, and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free. The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near.”

Bush urged foreigners in Iraq, including journalists and weapons inspectors, to leave the country quickly.

Some Democrats in Congress continued to oppose military action, while others criticized the Bush administration’s failure to build a larger coalition against Iraq.

“I’m saddened that the president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we are now forced into war,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D.-S.D., said in a March 17 speech, according to The Washington Post.

After Bush’s speech, however, Daschle issued a statement that said, “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,” CNN reported on its Internet site.

Republicans continued to support Bush. Rep. Henry Hyde, R.-Ill., chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, said, “We cannot exchange our security for a hope that all will be well. If we are not prepared to take the measures necessary to defend ourselves, then we are lost. President Bush and his advisers have demonstrated that they understand this reality and are now prepared to act decisively.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PRESIDENT’S RESOLVE.