Bush says Saddam may be planning attack

Ron Fournier The Associated Press
Tuesday October 08, 2002

CINCINNATI – President Bush, seeking support for war against Iraq, called Saddam Hussein a “murderous tyrant” Monday night and said he may be plotting to attack the United States with biological and chemical weapons. 

Bush also said Saddam could be within a year of developing a nuclear weapon, and he declared, “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.” 

“I am not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein,” the president said. 

His address opened a week of debate in Congress over resolutions giving the president authority to wage war against Iraq. The House and Senate planned votes for Thursday, and the Bush-backed resolution was expected to pass by wide margins. 

Facing skepticism at home and abroad, Bush portrayed an apocalyptic struggle between good an evil, saying the threat posed by Saddam could dwarf the damage done in the Sept. 11 attacks. He said Iraq must be the next front in the war on terrorism. 

“There is no refuge from our responsibilities,” Bush said. If it comes to war, “We will prevail.” 

Citing U.S. intelligence, Bush said Saddam and his “nuclear holy warriors” are building a weapons program that could produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year. U.S. intelligence agencies issued a report last week estimating 2010. 

“If we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed,” the president told civic group leaders at the Cincinnati Museum Center. 

As he spoke, new polls revealed lingering unease among voters about going to war, particularly if casualties were high or fighting distracted attention from America’s sagging economy. Democrats criticized Bush’s insistence upon confronting Iraq alone if the United Nations failed to act. 

“The administration has failed to make a case for a unilateral and pre-emptive strike on Iraq,” Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said in Washington. “The administration’s stated policy of ’regime change’ is counterproductive to efforts to disarm Iraq and restore stability to the region.” 

About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the building where Bush spoke, police said. Tafari McDade, 11, held a white posterboard on which he had drawn the twin towers of the World Trade center. “We shouldn’t go to war,” he said. “I came down here with my mom to tell people that.”