With the prospect of war with Iraq just days away, senior Democratic lawmakers attacked the Bush administration for its "messianic zeal" to disarm Iraq by military force.
Senators Patrick Leahy and Edward Kennedy took to the Senate floor to call on President George W. Bush to "get it right" on ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
"I am concerned that as we rush to war with Iraq, we are becoming more divided at home and more isolated in the world community," Kennedy warned.
"Instead of persuading the dissenters at home and abroad, the administration by its harsh rhetoric is driving the wedge deeper. Never before, even in the Vietnam war, has America taken such bold military action with so little international support."
Shocked by the level of bitterness between the United States and its traditional allies across the Atlantic, Leahy warned that going to war with Iraq without the UN Security Council's support would damage alliances and could violate international law.
"I cannot pretend to understand the thinking of those in the administration who for months or even longer have seemed possessed with a kind of messianic zeal in favor of war," he said.
Although Leahy defended the use of force as a last resort, he questioned President George W. Bush's advisors whom he said seemed to want to short circuit the inspections process and appeared to care little about alienating Washington's allies in the process.
"We risk seriously weakening the Security Council's future effectiveness and our own ability to rally international support, not only to prevent this war and future wars, but to deal with other global threats like terrorism," he said.
"And this concern is exacerbated by the increasing resentment of the Administration's domineering and simplistic "you are either with us or against us" approach, which has already damaged long-standing relationships, both with our neighbors in this hemisphere and our friends across the Atlantic."
Leahy also criticized the administration for failing to provide information on how much a war with Iraq would cost, and insisted it had failed to provide evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks or any details of Baghdad's links to al Queda.
"The Bush administration was wrong to allow the anti-Iraq zealots in its ranks to exploit the 9/11 tragedy by using it to make war against Iraq a higher priority than the war against terrorism," added Kennedy.
Bush, meanwhile, was engaged in a fourth straight day of reaching out to world leaders in hopes of securing the elusive nine votes needed to win UN Security Council passage of a resolution paving the way for war against Iraq.
France, one of the five permanent council members with veto power -- along with the US, Britain, Russia and China -- has said categorically it would veto any resolution calling for war.
Copyright 2003 AFP