U.S. Lawmaker Going to Iraq to Cool 'War Rhetoric'
Published on Wednesday, September 11, 2002 by Reuters
U.S. Lawmaker Going to Iraq to Cool 'War Rhetoric'
by Joanne Kenen

WASHINGTON - A U.S. lawmaker said on Tuesday he was joining an unofficial delegation to Baghdad this week to show support for the Iraqi people and try to "cool this war rhetoric."

Rep. Nick Rahall, a 13-term West Virginia Democrat, said he strongly opposes Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but wants the United Nations to deal with him and does not want any U.S. action that will damage the international coalition "that President Bush has so effectively put together to fight terrorism."

"I'm not going as Secretary of State. I'm not going as a weapons inspector. I'm going as an individual who'd like to cool this rhetoric and act in a calm matter, and show the Iraqi people that the American people are not warmongers," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Rahall, who is of Lebanese descent, is leaving on Wednesday for a week-long trip with a delegation from the Institute for Public Accuracy, a think tank with offices in Washington and San Francisco.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, said the trip is a "humanitarian effort." "We'll be involved in dialogue and I should emphasize that we're going as an independent delegation of Americans. There's no group position that we're taking," Solomon said.

Rahall, a descendant of Lebanese peddlers who made their way to West Virginia to sell their wares to coal miners, said he wanted to "help illuminate the plight of the Iraqi people."

He said he hoped to stress upon the administration the need for a much clearer explanation as to why there was a "ratcheting up of the war rhetoric at this particular time."

Rahall who backed the first President Bush during the Gulf War, said he agrees "Saddam must go" but he has "serious questions" about the current U.S. policy.

"Why now, two months before an election? Why was the threat so serious now that it wasn't a year ago. I've seen certainly no link of Iraq to 9-11 ... I just don't see a linkage there."

Rahall said the "true enemies" are al Qaeda, and that the focus should stay on that fight.

Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd