The United States should continue "our present defensive position" in Saudi Arabia rather than wage war with Iraq, a former top-ranking intelligence official told Congress Friday.
Retired Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, who headed the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, said he had "no doubt that we could win" an offensive action against Saddam Hussein's forces.But Odom said attacking Iraqi forces in Kuwait - or Iraq itself - could mean an even longer U.S. military presence in the region than envisioned with the defensive posture now established.
Odom's testimony came at the end of a week in which members of the Senate Armed Services Committee heard an array of witnesses, including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urge caution on the Bush administration as it seeks to end Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.
"Every single witness we've had here with differing views on other things, all of them have felt we've over-deployed," committee Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., said at the conclusion of Thursday's testimony.
The Bush administration could have led off the hearings, perhaps setting the tone. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were invited to be the initial witnesses.
But they declined and the spotlight has been captured by a series of witnesses who underscored doubts among Democratic senators. Cheney and Powell are to testify next week. And Secretary of State James A. Baker III said Friday morning that he also would testify.
Odom stressed in his testimony Friday that he supports Bush's buildup in the Persian Gulf but said he was bewildered by the administration's apparent impatience with the results to date.
"I am puzzled by the administration's failure to take the credit for its success on this slow route to its objectives," said Odom, joining others in urging more time for economic sanctions to work.
"Some of the administration's rhetoric makes it sound as though we are losing. That is clearly not true," said Odom, now a national security expert at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank.