Canton Repository

January 25, 2003

Lorain lawmaker leads effort opposing force in Iraq 

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Going to war against Iraq could inspire a terrorist attack against the homeland, Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio (Lorain), warned Friday, dismissing administration arguments that a war could make the United States more secure.

If Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is overthrown, his generals might give biological and chemical weapons to terrorists who could use them against the United States, Brown contended.

Brown initiated a letter, signed by 122 Democratic congressmen, urging President Bush to be patient and give United Nations weapons inspectors more time. It was sent Friday.

Democrats in particular are worried that Bush is rushing into war with Iraq without giving inspectors enough time to find weapons of mass destruction and without solid support from European allies. They also believe that public opinion in the United States is moving against a war.

Brown represents a congressional district that abuts Stark County from the north.

Asked about fears that Iraq could develop nuclear weapons and give them to terrorists, who would use them against the United States, he said, “There has been no evidence in any of the briefings in which I’ve sat that Saddam is close to having nuclear weapons.”

Brown is a member of the House International Relations Committee.

But if the United States overthrows the Iraqi regime, he added, “the generals and military’s top people who have access to weapons are more likely, because it’s no longer a state ... to sell those weapons to terrorist organizations.”

The letter to Bush states that the United States “should make every attempt to achieve Iraq’s disarmament through diplomatic means and with the full support of our allies.”

It urges the president to pay heed to the “assessment” in an eagerly awaited progress report from U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix, which is due Monday. The report is expected to recommend more time for inspections.

Almost all of those who signed the letter voted “no” last October when Congress, by a wide margin, authorized the use of force against Iraq.

Ohio’s Democratic lawmakers all signed the letter, including Reps. Tim Ryan of Niles and Ted Strickland of Lucasville. Ryan, elected to replace former Rep. James Traficant in November, was not a member of Congress during the vote on the Iraq resolution. Ryan’s and Strickland’s districts abut Stark County from the north and east.

Not one Republican congressman signed the letter. Ohio Reps. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, voted to authorize force in the Iraq resolution last year.

Brown believes inspectors stand a “reasonable” chance of finding weapons of mass destruction in the sprawling desert nation.

“I think a stronger commitment from the president and more resources, if the U.N. puts them in, could, in fact, matter,” Brown said.

During a conference call with reporters, Brown and Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., did not rule out supporting the eventual use of force against Iraq, but they said it should be a last resort.

“In this instance, it should not be waged for anything but clear and convincing evidence of threats from weapons of mass destruction,” Brown said.

Kind was among a minority of Democrats who voted to authorize force last year. He signed the letter because he believes the president is moving too fast.

Kind said the presence of the inspectors will help contain Hussein’s weapons programs.

“It will be difficult for him to continue developing capability with his biological or chemical weapons if they’re buried in the desert, or to continue pursuing aggressively a program to obtain nuclear weapons, so long as we have inspection teams running around the country,” he said.