Union Tribune

March 6, 2003


By Otto Kreisher
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee voiced his concern Thursday over the Bush administration's open contempt for the U.N. inspections in Iraq, which he said was evidence of an early decision to go to war, unless something intervenes.

""I think the administration some time ago decided it was going, in all likelihood, to go to war in Iraq. It would require some action to change that,'' rather than needing ""some act that would push us over the line,'' Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said.

Levin said the inclination toward war was shown by the administration's attitude toward the U.N. the U.N. searches for weapons of mass destruction inspections, which are being carried out under a resolution that the United States pushed.

He noted that, ""right at the beginning, this administration said the inspections were useless,'' national security advisor Condoleeza Rice said they were ""doomed to failure'' and the inspectors were mocked as ""so-called inspectors.''

But of greater concern, Levin said, was the fact that the administration has refused to share with the U.N. most of an extensive list ""of suspect sites that our intelligence community had identified.''

That list included ""a small number that were called high interest sites, that were of significant interest,'' he said.

Even though CIA director George Tenant testified that they had shared all of their intelligence on the possible locations chemical or biological weapons, that was contradicted by the list the CIA provided Congress, Levin told defense reporters.

""Of that number of sites of interest, only a small fraction of those sites have been shared with U.N. inspectors, as of a few weeks ago,'' he said.
Levin said he could not provide numbers or descriptions of the suspect sites because that was classified.

But, he asked, ""Are we going to say the inspections are all over, that we are going to war, before we have shared all of the information we have relative to those sites...

""I believe there is no justification for not sharing any information we have.''
If that information would lead to discovery of the weapons Iraq claims it has destroyed, "it would galvanize the Security Council toward authorizing military action,'' he added.

Levin also predicted that the major disputes over the next defense authorization bill would focus on ""the money that's not in there,'' the funds to pay for the war with Iraq, the post-war occupation and reconstruction, and the separate war on terrorism.

That issue will come up soon in the budget resolution that sets the guidelines for the spending bills, he said.

""I think it's irresponsible for us to adopt a budget resolution, particularly with large tax cuts, before we know those three numbers. Or at least a range.''
Although the administration has said it does not know those numbers, Levin, said, ""I find that incredible if they don't have at least a best case, worst case scenario... We're talking huge amounts of money and it is reckless, I believe, fiscally'' to approve a budget that does not include it.