Bush fails to prove U.S. cause is just

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 3, 2003

With his nation on the brink of war, President George W. Bush stepped to the microphone last week to try and rally the American people for the ”many challenges” to come.

In a State of the Union address widely considered to be even more important to his presidency than the one he gave a year ago &045;&045; the one in which he identified Iraq, Iran and North Korea as ”the axis of evil” &045;&045; President Bush waited until the halfway point to talk about the paramount issue weighing on the minds of most Americans: the impending war with Iraq.

When he finally got around to the issue, the president reiterated past concerns with damning words, but gave the American public little if any more reason to support the deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf region that stands now at more than 150,000.

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That Saddam Hussein is duplicitous and underhanded and murderous is not news to anyone old enough to remember the last Gulf War. The question is whether the threat he now offers is real enough and large enough to warrant an unprecedented, pre-emptive military strike that is sure to leave the United States with even less diplomatic avenues in the Middle East than it has currently.

President Bush did not answer that question Tuesday, nor did he provide one shred of evidence linking Saddam to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said only that ”outlaw regimes” such as Saddam’s ”seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,” which could in turn be used in ”terror and mass murder.”

The president, who entered the Capitol building Tuesday night with poll numbers showing his popularity slipping, attempted to allay fears about the future of the U.S. economy and about the rising costs of prescription drugs for seniors.

He made yet another pitch for his 10-year, $674 billion tax-cut plan, which he sees as a vehicle to shake the U.S. economy out of its doldrums and create jobs, and advocated a health care plan that would alter Medicare rules so that seniors might buy prescription drugs through private HMOs.

Still, the overriding concern for Americans right now is the possible war with Iraq, and its impact in both the cost of lives lost and dollars spent.

The administration can try and prime the economic pump with tax cuts as much as it wants, but the bottom line is that the economy will continue to tank as long as there is such grave uncertainty about Iraq.

How is it, we might ask, that a White House that showed such nimbleness and genius for marketing in helping Republicans pull off historically huge gains in the mid-term elections of 2002 proved to be so inept in selling this war with Iraq?

Perhaps, as those inside the administration hint, there will be some evidence of Iraqi war-making, some real justification for this military action, to be sent forth in coming days. That would be a positive development for not only the president but also for those at home who have loved ones now moving into harm’s way.

We couldn’t agree more.

The fight to rid the world of Nazism and the campaign to break up the Al Qaeda terrorist network are only two examples of how U.S. military action can be used for a noble purpose. Before we commit now to sending our brave service men and women into combat again, the American people need to be given some reassurance that the cause is again just.