Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The third most senior member of the United States Senate said Friday that President George W. Bush has not persuaded him that an attack on Iraq is necessary to stop Saddam Hussein's continuing program to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told an audience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies that he has no misconceptions of the threat posed by the Iraqi dictator.
"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated," Kennedy said.
"But the [Bush] administration has \ul not\ulnone made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, preemptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary," he added.
Kennedy said he fears that a war with Iraq, absent support from a broad international coalition, would strain U.S. resources and relationships with Middle Eastern countries, both of which, he argued, are sorely needed for the war against global terrorism.
The senior senator from Massachusetts also argued that going to war with Iraq without first trying more peaceful means to disarm Hussein, could have exactly the opposite effect from that which President Bush is seeking.
"If Saddam's regime and his very survival are threatened," Kennedy warned, "he may decide that he has nothing to lose by using weapons of mass destruction himself or by sharing them with terrorists."
While Kennedy said he does not doubt the sincerity of President Bush's calls for military action against Iraq, he insisted that other options must be tried first.
"Resorting to war is not America's only or best course at this juncture," he argued. "There are realistic alternatives between doing nothing and declaring unilateral or immediate war."
President Bush has continued to argue that the options to which Kennedy referred have already been exhausted, with the Iraqi dictator thumbing his nose at the world as a result.
"For more than a decade, the regime has answered Security Council resolutions with defiance, bad faith and deception," Bush said at the White House Thursday morning. "The demands of the U.N. Security Council must be followed. The Iraqi dictator must be disarmed. These requirements will be met, or they will be enforced."
At a fundraising event for Texas Republican senatorial candidate John Cornyn Thursday evening, Bush elaborated.
"Saddam Hussein must disarm," he demended. "No discussion, no debate, no negotiation. The burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein."
Bush said it is up to the United Nations and Hussein now to decide whether or not there will be peace in Iraq.
"If the United Nations won't act, if he doesn't disarm, the United States will lead a coalition to make sure he does," Bush concluded.
Kennedy rebuffed Bush's assessment that 11 years was enough time to wait for Hussein to voluntarily obey the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"I do not accept the idea that trying other alternatives [to war] is either futile or perilous," Kennedy concluded.
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