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Bush promises to rebuild Iraq after combat ends

©Los Angeles Times
October 6, 2002

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- President Bush said Saturday that if the United States goes to war against Iraq, Washington, D.C., would work with other countries after combat ends to rebuild the country and form "a just government" there.

His declaration, never stated so directly in the past, goes to the heart of some of the gravest concerns he is facing in the United States and in the United Nations Security Council about what Washington would do to avoid chaos and a new dictatorship if it ousts Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

At the same time, he kept up his steady pressure to win approval for the use of force against Iraq, even as he said he would direct U.S. forces to attack Iraq and rid it of weapons of mass destruction only if it is "essential to security and justice."

"Delay, indecision and inaction are not options for America, because they could lead to massive and sudden horror," the president said.

In three speeches Saturday delving into the tensions over how to confront Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, the president kept his focus on a message intended to win as great a margin as possible for a congressional resolution authorizing use of force. He also sought to overcome the strong reluctance of France and Russia, two U.N. Security Council members with veto power, to a resolution before the council giving Bush the go-ahead for military action if Iraq does not disarm quickly.

"We owe it to a peaceful world to deal with the threats we see," the president said. "We cannot ignore history. We must not ignore reality. We must do everything we can to disarm this man before he hurts one single American."

At a political luncheon, he added: "If Saddam Hussein makes the choice not to disarm, the United States and a lot of our friends will disarm him. For the sake of peace, for the sake of freedom, for the sake of our future and our children's future, we will disarm him."

In his weekly radio address, the president said that in the event of war, "the United States will work with other nations to help the Iraqi people rebuild and form a just government."

The president is in the midst of an intensifying campaign to overcome objections in Congress to the resolution that the House is likely to vote on early this week, and the Senate sometime later. Both chambers are considered almost certain to approve the measure.

On Monday evening in Cincinnati, Bush is scheduled to deliver what the White House hopes will be a major speech putting forward his strongest argument for holding out the threat of certain force against Hussein if he does not comply fully with disarmament demands.

The president's remarks at a rally and the Republican fundraising speech in New Hampshire Saturday and in his radio address amounted to a preview of that prime-time message, which has undergone several drafts and will be delivered on the anniversary of U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

The president also renewed an argument he has been making with increasing frequency that seeks to link Hussein with the risk of terrorist actions such as the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We're dealing with these treacherous terrorist organizations who have designs and desires to hook up with nations such as Iraq that develop weapons of mass destruction," Bush said at the rally, adding: "See, old Saddam might not have to show up, but he might get a surrogate who can do it for him."

Presenting the case against Hussein as one that bridges partisan divides, Bush said, "A lot of folks -- Republicans, Democrats, people who could care less about political parties -- now are beginning to understand the true threat."

The luncheon, supporting Rep. John Sununu, the Republican running for the Senate against Gov. Jeanne Shaheen collected $250,000 for Sununu and $250,000 for the state Republican Party.

The president used the event to make a pitch for party unity, saluting the work of Sen. Robert Smith, the New Hampshire Republican defeated by Sununu in a bitter primary last month.

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