WASHINGTON - As President Bush began meeting with members of Congress to discuss
how to deal with Iraq, Massachusetts lawmakers unanimously expressed caution about
a US military operation aimed at overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein.
Several members of the all-Democratic delegation said that Bush and his advisers
have done a poor job of backing up their reasons for taking on Hussein.
''I don't feel any hesitation in criticizing this administration, because
their rhetoric on Iraq thus far exceeds their plans or their groundwork,'' Senator
John F. Kerry said. ''Their single-mindedness, secrecy, and leaks have alienated
our allies and threatened to unravel the stability of the region. That does not
advance the national security interest, and it does not advance our mutual goal
of a regime change in Iraq.''
Representative Barney Frank of Newton said: ''I think the president has done
a lousy job in making the case. The incoherence and lack of competence is quite
Representative Stephen Lynch of Boston said the Bush administration had not
done enough explaining to win his support.
''If President Bush can make the case that Iraq in some way supported the
terrorist attacks on September 11, or poses a real terrorist threat to the US
in the future, I will firmly support an invasion to remove Saddam Hussein,'' Lynch
said. ''But that case has not yet been made to the Congress, and it has not been
made to the American people.''
Senator Edward M. Kennedy said that while a change of regime in Iraq would
clearly be in the national interest, the United States should work more with the
United Nations and with other countries in the region to exhaust all diplomatic
''Military action should be a last resort, not the first resort,'' Kennedy
Almost every member of the delegation expressed concern that the administration
has garnered almost no international support for an invasion.
''Does a unilateral US invasion make us and our allies more secure or less
secure?'' said Representative James P. McGovern of Worcester. ''I believe it makes
us less secure. I'm concerned about this whole idea of preemptively going in,
without being provoked, especially without the support of the international community.
Who's to say India or Pakistan won't attack the other because they fear that somewhere
down the road, someone may do something harmful to their country?''
Representative John W. Olver of Amherst said: ''Unilateral action threatens
to further destabilize the region. If military action is taken, it must come after
all possible diplomatic alternatives have been explored and exhausted. It must
only happen in consort with our allies in Europe and in the Middle East and in
support of a UN Security Council resolution against Iraq.''
Representative William D. Delahunt of Quincy, who returned last week from
a congressional trip to Saudi Arabia, said he wants a fuller public debate.
''The frequency and gravity of recent White House warnings against Baghdad
only underscore the volatility of the Mideast,'' Delahunt said. ''All signs suggest
the president could act soon. This is a time for frank, public conversation about
the merits and implications of military action.''
Many delegation members said their skepticism or caution had been reinforced
by their constituents during the August recess.
''My constituents' views are not totally uniform, but they are overwhelmingly
cautious,'' said Representative Michael E. Capuano of Somerville. ''Many understand
that violence and military action are necessary... but I have not heard from anyone
who feels the case has been fully made. No one has looked at me and said Saddam
Hussein is a poor innocent guy, but there is the question: `Is it worth America's
position in history to do this at this time?'''
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