U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., said Thursday a trip to the Persian Gulf convinced him to support a resolution granting President Bush authority to use force to drive Iraq from Kuwait.
Before leaving last week for the gulf to visit Mideast leaders and U.S. troops, Slattery said he was inclined to vote against a war resolution. What he learned overseas convinced him otherwise.
In an interview from Washington, Slattery said economic sanctions and diplomacy thus far have failed to drive Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, which Iraq has occupied since Aug. 2.
"I have concluded diplomatic efforts to resolve this crisis will not be successful unless the president (Bush) has the power to use force and unless Saddam Hussein understands that," he said.
Congress is expected to vote this weekend on competing resolutions to authorize the use of military force or to recommend sanctions be given more time to squeeze Saddam into submission.
SLATTERY was among a 26-member delegation that returned Thursday after traveling to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. He also attended a breakfast meeting today with Bush at the White House.
He said meetings with Egyptian and Israeli leaders and U.S. officials in the gulf convinced him of the need to directly confront Iraq, because "Saddam Hussein understands one thing and that is force."
Slattery still believes sanctions should be given more time to work, perhaps 30 or 60 days, but in the meantime Bush needs the war resolution as a negotiating tool against Saddam.
"Just because Congress authorizes force doesn't mean he will use it," Slattery said. However, he said, "if Saddam Hussein emerges as a winner, peace will be a loser. He has unlimited ambition."
Other members of the Kansan congressional delegation also are lining up in support of a resolution that would permit the use of force if Iraq doesn't meet a Tuesday United Nations deadline for withdrawing.
REPUBLICAN Sen. Nancy Kassebaum predicted the House and Senate will unite behind Bush, because she believes a "show of strength is the one best way at this point to achieve a peaceful resolution."
Sen. Bob Dole and Rep. Jan Meyers, both Republicans, advocate approval of a resolution authorizing combat. Dole said he views the vote as "a step toward peace, not a step toward war."
Rep. Dick Nichols, a Republican, said he has concluded that continuing economic sanctions indefinitely won't convince Saddam to order Iraqi troops to pull out of oil-rich Kuwait.
Rep. Pat Roberts also said he would support a resolution authorizing the president to use military force. But the United States still should be willing to negotiate with Saddam, he said.
"I don't want to go to war," said Roberts, a Republican. "Nobody wants to go to war, but I think right now we have to stand firm and make him blink, not us."
ONLY ONE member of the state's delegation, Rep. Dan Glickman, indicated he was undecided Thursday on what course of action Congress should take in the war-and-peace debate over the Persian Gulf.
"My inclination all along has been to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to work," said Glickman, a Democrat. "However, I have my doubts whether sanctions will work for a very long period of time."
Slattery said he visited with troops from Fort Riley who recently had arrived in Saudi Arabia. He said the soldiers' morale was high and they were confident in their ability to complete missions.
Time is the enemy of the United States, Slattery said. He said he worries that the international alliance against Iraq might disintegrate if the crisis drags on many more months.
"We either have to face up to Saddam Hussein now or we will face him later. And if we face him later, we will face a much stronger Saddam than we are facing today," said Slattery.
SADDAM wants negotiations for a settlement to include a Middle East peace conference that focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Bush opposes linking that conflict with the Kuwaiti situation.
"There must ultimately be a peace conference to address the Palestinian question," Slattery said, adding that such a conference should take place sometime after Iraq withdraws or is removed from Kuwait.
Slattery also said he was surprised to hear from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Mideast officials how popular Saddam is among the Arab masses.
Mubarak, whose 20,000 troops confronting Iraq form one of the largest Arab contributions to the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq, said his troops will help liberate Kuwait but won't invade Iraq.
Slattery said he expects Iraq to attack Israel if war occurs. Mubarak told Slattery if that happens it is acceptable for Israel to retaliate. Every country has a right to defend itself, Slattery said.
The congressman said he also was disturbed to learn additional information during his trip to the gulf about Europeans in Iraq who are helping Saddam develop advanced "weapons of mass destruction."