Washington If President Bush orders military action against Iraq, he will fully explain to Americans his decision to try to remove Saddam Hussein from power, a White House aide said Sunday.
"President Bush also understands if we go forward, if he decides that we need to take action to minimize the threat that he now poses, that he will do so in a way that will clearly be articulated to the American people, clearly articulated our friends and allies," said Dan Bartlett, the president's communications director.
"And you'll find, because of the abysmal record of Saddam Hussein and the threat that he causes in the region, and to us as well, that we will have support.
"The president hasn't asked for support because he hasn't made up his mind. But I think you'll find many people rallying to such a noble cause."
Also on Sunday, White House officials said Vice President Dick Cheney was a late addition to the participation list for the military planning summit Bush is convening Wednesday at his Texas ranch, where he is vacationing.
Cheney, reportedly hawkish on military action against Saddam, will join Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers and others at the meeting. White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the session was not meant as a war-planning huddle on Iraq, but as a chance to update plans for military transformation, missile defense and the Pentagon budget.
The Bush administration accuses Iraq of supporting terrorism and of rebuilding its banned weapons of mass destruction program. Many U.S. allies and lawmakers are resisting the push to oust the Iraqi president, arguing that an invasion cannot be justified without firm proof that that Iraq is developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
"The American people must be behind this. The Congress must be involved. And that, I'm sure, is what the president would intend when he is ready to make that case," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., on CNN's "Late Edition."
Bush said he had no timetable for deciding on a military strike or "for any of our policies in regard to Iraq." A decision may not come this year. He has pledged to consult with Congress and U.S. allies.
"This is a threat that we must take seriously. We must do so in a way that is responsible and deliberate. ... President Bush is committed to make sure that we make the world a more peaceful place," Bartlett said on ABC's "This Week."