Stop-Saddam pressure is building up

January 18, 1991|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Evening Sun Staff

WASHINGTON -- Iraq's attack on Israel is increasing congressional demands that American-led forces remove Saddam Hussein as head of his country.

The Bush administration's official objectives for Operation Desert Storm don't include this goal, though Saddam could be killed in the ongoing air strikes.

But some lawmakers say last night's attack adds to the case for Saddam's ouster by one means or another.

"I would say that President Bush should add one more objective or at least seriously consider one more objective, and that is the removal of Saddam Hussein," Maryland U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, said yesterday.

"And what I mean by that is I think he ought to be held responsible for the atrocities against the Kuwaiti people and any other atrocity he might commit against the free world, including use of biochemical weapons or incidents of terror," McMillen said.

"This gives us a dose of reality," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., co-sponsor of the bill to authorize Bush to use force. "The man has no civil limits. It reinforces the need to stop Saddam and eliminate the threat."

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a strong ally of Israel, said, "If anybody wanted proof of how dangerous Saddam Hussein is, this is it."

"Iraq has deliberately bombed innocent people in residential neighborhoods so that he can expand the war and kill more innocent people," Reid said.

Maryland U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's attitude toward Saddam hardened after the attack.

"I think we would be delighted if we can take him out: That is part of our game plan and I hope it's successful," said Cardin, D-3rd.

Maryland Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, said: "They've got to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He's got to go, regardless, because as long as he's left we're going to have problems that keep coming back.

"I said on more than one occasion and it wasn't really in jest: What we really need to do is turn the Israelis loose on him so they'll get him out of the way."

The attack on Israel darkened what had been a positive day for many on Capitol Hill. The Senate approved a resolution supporting the troops and lawmakers received encouraging classified briefings on allied war plans.

Reflecting that buoyant mood, Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, D-N.Y., rhymed his reaction to the first day of the war: "Slam, bam, thanks, Saddam; you should have taken the letter. Take the loss, reverse your course, 'cause it ain't gonna get no better."

The House today planned to take up the resolution that the Senate approved 98-0 last night.

"The Congress commends and supports the efforts and the leadership of the president as commander in chief in the Persian Gulf hostilities," the resolution said.

"The Congress unequivocally supports the men and women of our armed forces who are carrying out their missions with professional excellence, dedicated patriotism and exemplary bravery," it said.

Although approved unanimously, the language praising Bush was a compromise between Republicans who sought to extol Bush "for his decisive leadership" and Democrats who preferred to cite only the troops.

That flurry of partisanship didn't affect the bipartisan praise of how the war is proceeding.

Cardin said Defense Secretary Richard Cheney's briefing of House members "was a very impressive presentation."

"The plan is a very comprehensive single plan that is going according to clockwork," Cardin said. "We're going to win. There's no doubt in my mind we're going to win."

Cardin said the war plan is built on a patient approach of air assaults to cut Iraqi troops off from supplies and their leaders.

"We're still hopeful . . . that Iraqis will either give up or will be so disorganized, and there will be such chaos, it won't be difficult at all" to defeat them, he said. "The Iraqis are sitting ducks. The casualties will be very high on their side."

But Cardin warned it may well be necessary to use ground troops to force Iraq from Kuwait. In that case, the campaign would require more time; three or four weeks would not be surprising, he indicated.

Some members of Congress are looking at other issues as well.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said she will try to get the government to do more to support families of reservists and National Guard members. With the gulf crisis having begun in August and threatening to continue much longer, the families need more help than they've received, she said.

"The other thing is Congress and the president have to get dead serious about an energy policy," she said.

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., said one of the war's unknowns is its aftermath. He added, "And then of course, there's what kind of precedent this sets in terms of U.N. actions in the future to deal with aggression."

The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.

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