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The following article is reprinted fromWichita Eagle in Kansas.The copy of the article serves as a "fair use" for educational purposes. This website has no authority to grant permission to reprint this article. We reformat onto a separate web page because links to newspapers are unstable as stories are moved into the paper's archives.
Posted on Sat, Aug. 31, 2002A time for questions on IraqSomething strange happened on the road to war with Iraq: The president forgot to make a case for it. He keeps promising to make a case for it. Says he's a patient man and all.But more and more people -- most notably leaders of his own party -- are growing impatient.And they're asking questions. Like: How many American casualties can we expect from an Iraq invasion? Does Saddam Hussein really have biological- and chemical- and nuclear-weapons capabilities that pose an imminent threat to our national security?President Bush says yes. But he offers no real proof -- not to the American people, not to our allies, most of whom are willing, even eager, to be convinced.Remarkably, it's Republican conservatives who are questioning the loudest: House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Sen. John Warner of Virginia. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt. Other voices of caution are joining in, like an ominous Greek chorus: James Baker, the first President Bush's secretary of state. His father's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Lawrence Eagleburger, who succeeded Baker as secretary of state.No doves here.Then there's Scott Ritter, who spoke last week in Wichita. He's a Republican, a Marine veteran of the Gulf War. He was also chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq until 1998, and he is adamant that "the case for war has not been made."Ritter argues that Iraq "was fundamentally disarmed as of 1998," with 90 percent to 95 percent of its weapons-making infrastructure dismantled. Contrary to the Bush administration's claims, the weapons inspections worked. "We were good," he says. "We were damn good."Although Ritter admits he hasn't been in Iraq since 1998, he insists that U.S. intelligence would know whether Hussein tried to reconstitute his weapons-making factories. Trying to produce enriched uranium for a nuclear device, for instance, would "spew gamma rays," he says, something easily detectable by U.S. intelligence.Ritter argues that weapons inspections need to be given another chance: "Don't send in the Marines, send in the inspectors." The world will support Iraqi disarmament, he believes, but not a military attack.But the administration -- sensing the momentum for war slipping away -- has launched a full-scale public-relations onslaught, with various administration officials coming forth to take a shot at explaining why "regime change" must happen.This week, Vice President Dick Cheney declared that Hussein could have nuclear capabilities "fairly soon," although he gave no evidence to support that -- if true, how soon? Wouldn't that warrant immediate action, not patience?U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage cited Iraq's offer to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.If that's the reasoning, then shouldn't we declare war on Saudi Arabia as well?Ritter fears that this drumbeat to war is being pushed by the ideological hawks around President Bush -- people who have staked their careers on "regime change" in Iraq. They're trying to keep the war momentum going to "save their butts," Ritter says.Is that a compelling reason to send Americans into harm's way?"The most patriotic thing you can do," Ritter told the Wichita audience, "is to ask questions."Lots of them.------------------------------------------------------------------------Randy Scholfield is an editorial writer for The Eagle. Reach him at (316) 268-6545 or firstname.lastname@example.org.