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DeLay endorses action against Saddam

'We don't have time to dawdle'

DeLay: "The only choice is between victory and defeat."  

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Declaring "Saddam must go," House Majority Whip Tom DeLay Wednesday delivered a vigorous endorsement of U.S. military action to topple the Iraqi leader and derided what he called "apologists for idleness" who question the wisdom of such a move.

"I'm here today to make the case for liberating Iraq," the Texas Republican said in a speech before the Houston Forum. "Until Saddam Hussein's regime topples, our national security will suffer an unwise and unacceptable risk. Saddam must go, and the sooner, the better."

DeLay delivered his speech shortly after President Bush met at his Crawford, Texas, ranch with his top military advisers to discuss defense planning and budgeting. While Bush said the subject of Iraq did not come up, after the meeting he declared that an end to Saddam Hussein's regime "is in the interest of the world."

DeLay's speech, punctuated with tough words for the "vile dictator," was certain to be welcomed by the White House, which has seen some Republicans publicly question the merits of taking military action against Iraq.

"Ladies and gentlemen, these critics are dead wrong," DeLay said. "Removing Saddam from power and liberating the Iraqi people would do more to advance the war against terror than any step we've taken yet."

DeLay dismissed the "feverish hand wringing" and criticized European nations for failing to "summon the resolve to confront gathering evil." And he pointedly took issue with the U.S. State Department, which, some conservatives believe favors a diplomatic approach.

"The U.S. State Department would do well to remember that it answers to the president of the United States, not the European Union," DeLay said.

In an interview with CNN, DeLay said the State Department was "undermining this administration's ability to fight this war" and called on it to "be loyal to the president of the United States." He accused employees there of leaking items to the media and said, "They are being impertinent."

In his speech, DeLay ran through a litany of what he described as atrocities by the Iraqi leader, including the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds, firing at U.S. aircraft in the no-fly zones, its refusal to allow weapons inspections by U.N. teams, and the persecution of religious leaders in southern Iraq.

"Make no mistake about it: We're at war, and we don't have time to dawdle," DeLay said.

DeLay minced few words in his description of the Iraqi leader.

"Saddam Hussein is the most dangerous man in the world today," DeLay says. "We say that because he's used chemical weapons against his own people. He's invaded his neighbors."

DeLay asserted that Bush was "exactly right" in his approach to Iraq, and he said he would lead the effort to make sure the president has "unified support" in the House of Representatives.

Last week, some leading Republicans warned of risks in launching a war against Iraq and urged more diplomatic efforts.

In an opinion piece published last week, Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, said attacking Iraq now would be a mistake.

Scowcroft warned "an attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorist campaign we have undertaken." He said if the Iraqis are backed into a corner, they may attempt to use biological or chemical weapons in the hope of starting a war between Israel and the Arab states.

Monday, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president was not bothered by such comments, viewing them as a "constructive part of the process" in developing a consensus on what the United States should do to ensure that Hussein is removed from power.




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