Canton Repository

February 6, 2003

Powell can’t satisfy lawmakers turned off to war

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Evidence that Iraq has hidden weapons of mass destruction that was presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday failed to sway area lawmakers who oppose going to war.

Even if Iraq has concealed the weapons and deceived United Nations inspectors, as Powell alleged, it would not justify an invasion, Reps. Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland said.

“Powell’s speech was good but it didn’t give us a fundamental reason for why we need to go to war,” Brown, D-Lorain, said.

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, added, “It has not changed my mind or modified my position.”

The two, along with most other Democrats in Congress, voted in October against giving President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq. But Republicans, who now control both the Senate and House, overwhelmingly supported the resolution, and it passed.

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, voted for the force authorization, but he said Wednesday he is not yet ready to support going to war.

“I think there will be additional facts and evidence that will come out here in the time ahead. It’s a serious decision,” he said. “If we decide to make it (the decision to go to war), there should be extensive debate.”

Regula believes Powell’s speech was designed to build support among U.N. allies. He also expects that Bush would ask Congress for a “reaffirmation” of its support for the use of force before attacking Iraq.

Other Republicans said the speech strengthens the case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, indicated he would support the use of force against Iraq if the nation doesn’t comply with United Nations orders to disarm.

“No one, not me, not my colleagues in Congress, and certainly not the president, wants to go to war, but time is quickly running out for Saddam Hussein,” he said. Saddam “must disarm immediately or face the consequences.”

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, stopped short of saying war is inevitable.

But after Powell’s speech, he said there’s “absolutely no question” Iraq has violated the U.N. resolution requiring the nation to cooperate with inspectors.

Unless Iraq changes its “behavior of hiding, lying, and cheating, continued weapons inspections are futile,” he said.

Opponents of attacking Iraq say it would cost lives, create instability, weaken the international coalition against terrorism and generate anger toward the United States.

Brown said that for the president to change his mind, the administration “would have to convince the United Nations that it is in the interest of the world that this guy needs to be taken out, even with the fallout from an invasion, Iraqis dying, invading troops dying, destabilization in the Middle East.”

“I don’t think that the U.S. has made that case well,” Brown added.

Strickland acknowledged there is credible evidence that Iraq has produced and concealed biological and chemical weapons. But the United States need not go to war to prevent their use, he said.

Inspections, monitoring and restrictions on exports to Iraq are acting to contain Saddam, he said.

“I think we’ve got this guy boxed in,” he said. “I don’t think under current circumstances he’s a threat.”

Rep. Timothy Ryan, D-Niles, another war skeptic, was unavailable to react to Powell’s speech.

But his spokesman, Pat Lowry, said Ryan still is waiting for Bush to present a “more justified reason for sending us off to war.”

“We haven’t seen the smoking gun,” Lowry said. Ryan believes the United States should have U.N. support before attacking Iraq, the spokesman added.

Whatever its merits, is the United States going to war? Strickland thinks so.

“I think that decision was made a long time ago,” he said. “I think we’re going though the motions (of avoiding war). The decision to go to war has been made, and it is highly unlikely it will be avoided although I think it could be avoided.”