Meanwhile at the United Nations, support for a new resolution backed by the United States that would set the stage for potential military action against Iraq is meeting tough opposition from France, Russia and China — all permanent members of the Security Council with veto power.
According to media reports, U.S. and British diplomatic envoys are being dispatched to try and persuade reluctant Security Council members to support a resolution that would give Saddam no leeway on U.N. weapons inspections.
“We are a long way from getting an agreement, but we are working hard,” Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
On the domestic front, senior Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy voiced the concerns of many in his party in a speech Friday, saying the Bush administration has failed to make a persuasive case for military action and that “America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.”
“War should be a last resort, not the first response,” Kennedy told the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “The life-and-death issue of war and peace is too important to be left to politics, and I disagree with those who suggest that this fateful issue cannot or should not be contested vigorously, publicly and all across America.”
Kennedy also said that the White House has not explained to American people the “cost in blood and treasure” of a war with Saddam and that “it is inevitable that a war with Iraq without serious international support will weaken our effort to ensure al-Qaida terrorists can never, never, never threaten American lives again.”
Kennedy’s speech comes on the heels of strong language between President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) on the politicization of the Iraq war debate. On Wednesday, Daschle criticized comments made by the president earlier in the week during a Republican fundraiser when he said Democrats in the Senate were “more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people.”
President Bush went on to meet with Republican and Democratic lawmakers Thursday to discuss the Iraq resolution and stressed that his goal was to “speak with one voice” against Saddam Hussein.
“We refuse to live in this future of fear. Democrats and Republicans refuse to live in a future of fear. We’re determined to build a future of security,” Mr. Bush said after the meeting.
But Democrats appear to be standing by their stance that the current resolution is too broad and too divided along party lines. House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) published an editorial in the New York Times Friday criticizing members of the Bush administration for introducing politics to the debate writing, “President Bush has decided to play politics with the safety and security of the American people.”
“This is not how a great nation should debate issues of war and peace,” Gephardt wrote in the Times. “To question people’s patriotism for simply raising questions about how a war is to be fought and won — to say that anybody who doesn’t support the president’s particular policy on national security is against national security — is not only insulting, it’s immoral.”
For their part, Senate Republicans have strongly backed the proposal submitted by the Bush administration and do not feel that it needs to be further altered to suit Democrats’ concerns.
“Any further erosion, I think, is going to be problem,” Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said Thursday.
Daschle has said the Senate would begin debate on the Iraq matter next week.
“We’ve come some distance. We’ve got a long way to go before that can be achieved,” Daschle said.