Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2002

Bush vows no attacks before consulting U.S. allies

War with Iraq is not imminent, defense secretary tells reporters

August 22, 2002


— President Bush, confronting skittish allies overseas and naysayers at home, asserted Wednesday that ousting Iraq's Saddam Hussein "is in the interests of the world" but indicated the United States is in no hurry.

"I'm a patient man," Bush told reporters on his Texas ranch.

At nearby Fort Hood, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told soldiers that war with Iraq is not inevitable.

"The president has made no such decision that we should go into a war with Iraq. He's thinking about it," along with economic and diplomatic measures for eliminating any threat from Saddam, Rumsfeld said.

Bush interrupted more than three hours of big-picture military planning with top advisers at his ranch to address questions the "churning," he called it about U.S. intentions toward Iraq and growing opposition to any military strike there.

"The American people know my position, and that is that regime change is in the interests of the world. How we achieve that is a matter of consultation and deliberation," Bush said.

Canada, Germany and other allies have said they would not join any American military campaign against Iraq unless a better case could be made.

"The president has not asked them to," Rumsfeld said tersely as he stood at Bush's side Wednesday.

The president's language stretched to avoid mention of military action even as Gen. Tommy Franks head of U.S. Central Command and the man who would lead any military action against Iraq told reporters half a world away in Kazakhstan that he was drawing up battle plans.

Military planning for Iraq is necessary, the general explained, to give Bush "credible options."

In Texas, Rumsfeld described Franks' work as standard contingency planning.

Said Bush, "We will consider all technologies available to us and diplomacy and intelligence." By that comment, the president meant nothing but a restatement of his usual "all options are on the table" position, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said afterward.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and a half-dozen other Pentagon officials stayed back at Bush's ranch house, where the group conducted talks through the morning and over lunch.

Rumsfeld said they worked on a five-year budget plan and updated the president on recent work that commanders like Franks have done to freshen on-the-shelf plans for responding to various overseas crises that could arise. The team also discussed the Pentagon's effort to keep allies abreast of progress in the development of missile defenses, Bush said.

The subject of Iraq did not come up in the morning discussions, he added, correcting a reporter who asked about going to war against Saddam.

"Your question makes certain assumptions that may or may not be true," Bush said.

The high-level gathering was at Prairie Chapel Ranch, where Bush is spending the month of August.

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