WASHINGTON – President Bush told the nation last night the U.S. will “consult” with the United Nations on the case against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but he made it clear “we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”
President Bush delivers State of the Union
“The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm,” he said. “America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February 5th to consider the facts of Iraq’s ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State (Colin) Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraq’s illegal weapons programs; its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors; and its links to terrorist groups. We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”
In his State of the Union Address, Bush gave two speeches – one laying out his domestic agenda of permanent tax cuts to re-energize a staggering economy, and the other, a bold indictment of Iraq’s continuing cat-and-mouse games with weapons inspectors and his continuing support of terrorist groups including al-Qaida.
Bush also issued a warning to two other members of what he has termed “the Axis of Evil” – North Korea and Iran.
“In Iran, we continue to see a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction and supports terror,” he said. “We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty, human rights, and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny – and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom.”
Bush said negotiations with North Korea have failed.
“We now know that the regime was deceiving the world, and developing those weapons all along,” he said. “And today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions. America and the world will not be blackmailed.”
Bush said Iraq has not accounted for up to 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard gas and VX nerve agent and more than 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical weapons.
“If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning,” Bush said.
The first half of Bush’s hour-long address was devoted to domestic policy, a reflection of his desire not to let Iraq overshadow a presidential agenda geared toward the 2004 re-election campaign. The heart of Bush’s package is his $674 billion plan to revive the economy and a $400 billion, 10-year proposal to overhaul Medicare, sprinkled with initiatives to combat AIDS, produce energy-efficient cars and give religious groups access to federal community service money.
After an address interrupted 77 times by applause, Democrats challenged Bush’s efforts both at home and abroad.
“Tonight, the president used all the right rhetoric, but he still has all the wrong policies,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he would introduce a resolution requiring Bush to present “convincing evidence of an imminent threat” before sending troops to fight Iraq.
“Instead of rushing down the path to war with Iraq, the American people deserve a full debate,” Kennedy said in a written statement.
The president described the nation as still recovering from recession, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals and stock market declines. “Our economy is recovering, yet it is not growing fast enough or strongly enough,” the president said.
He proposed spending new money for research to develop hydrogen-powered cars and to tutor children of prison inmates. He also called for a new $600 million drug treatment program in which federal money could go to religious community service programs.
Bush also called on Congress to ban partial-birth abortions and human cloning.
Bush proposed spending $6 billion to make vaccines against anthrax, botulism, Ebola and the plague more readily available. He proposed a $15 billion plan for emergency AIDS relief in Africa, a “work of mercy” that he said would save millions of Africans from falling victim to the deadly virus.
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