Tuesday, 11 March 2003

The 'macho president' ignores calls for peace

by Helen Thomas

President Bush's prime-time televised news conference provided him a great opportunity to make his case that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is a ''direct threat'' to the United States. Bush failed to do so, mainly be- cause the facts don't support his viewpoint.

The president certainly convinced me that he will go to war against Iraq within days. The overwhelming theme of his Thursday evening news conference is that war is inevitable, no matter what the U.N. Security Council decides.

The event seemed timed to preempt chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix's report on Iraq's compliance with disarmament directives.

''Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people and to all free people,'' Bush said.

''We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise,'' he added. ``And I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.''

It apparently does not matter to Bush that some longtime U.S. allies -- as well as Russia and China -- oppose his plans for war. That is typical of his whole go-it-alone approach to foreign policy.

Although he produced no proof, Bush kept trying to link Hussein with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His lame reasoning seemed to go like this: ``Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Iraq is a country that has got terrorist ties. It's a country with wealth. It's a country that trains terrorists; it could arm terrorists.''

The usually macho president was strangely tranquil throughout the news conference, speaking in a monotone, picking out reporters to call on from a prepared script.

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