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Waiting to confront Hussein ‘riskiest’ option, Bush says

WASHINGTON (BP)–Waiting to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein is “the riskiest of all options,” President Bush said in an Oct. 7 speech preparing the American public for possible military action against Iraq.

“There is no easy or risk-free course of action,” Bush said from Cincinnati, Ohio. “[T]he longer we wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become. We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I’m convinced that is a hope against all evidence. I’m not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein.”

Evidence demonstrates Iraq has increasing numbers of biological and chemical weapons, as well as a developing nuclear arms program, Bush said. He also said Iraq has harbored well-known terrorists and supported terrorism.

“Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us,” the president said. “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

“If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today — and we do — does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?

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

The president denied confronting Iraq would detract from the effort against terrorism initiated by the attacks in September 2001.

“To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror,” Bush said. “Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them or provide them to a terror network.”

Congress was expected to vote later in the week on a resolution authorizing the president to use the military as needed to enforce United Nations demands, including the destruction of Iraq’s biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The resolution had gained increasing support from senators and representatives in the last week.

“Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable,” Bush 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.

“I hope this will not require military action, but it may. And military conflict could be difficult. An Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate measures,” he said. “If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully; we will act with the full power of the United States military; we will act with allies at our side; and we will prevail.”

Southern Baptist ethics specialist Richard Land said the president “laid out a clear and compelling case for dealing with Saddam Hussein and his growing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction sooner rather than later.”

Bush’s speech “echoed the concerns” he and others expressed in an Oct. 3 letter to the president, said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“We believe that the cost of not dealing with this threat now will only succeed in greatly increasing the cost in human lives and suffering when an even more heavily armed and dangerous Saddam Hussein must be confronted at some date in the not too distant future,” Land and four other Christian leaders wrote. “We believe that every day of delay significantly increases the risk of far greater human suffering in the future than acting now would entail.”

Land and the others told Bush they believe his policies regarding Hussein’s regime meet the standards for a just war.

The other signers of the letter were Bill Bright, chairman of Campus Crusade for Christ International; Chuck Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries; D. James Kennedy, president of Coral Ridge Ministries, and Carl Herbster, president of the American Association of Christian Schools.

Bush’s 29-minute speech was televised live by some cable networks but not by two of the major broadcast ones, ABC and CBS.