After briefings with the Bush administration, two Utah congressmen predicted two different futures Friday for the Persian Gulf crisis.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said odds are strongly that war will break out there sometime before Feb. 15.The only way to avoid that, he said, is for Congress to convince Saddam Hussein that it stands in unity with President Bush - as does the United Nations - by passing a resolution endorsing possible attack if Iraq does not withdraw from Kuwait by Jan. 15.
But Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, believes odds favor that war still will somehow be avoided through compromise. He also opposes, for the time being, a resolution endorsing an attack. He says economic and diplomatic sanctions should be given more time to work.
Both received briefings this week from Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Secretary of State James Baker III. Owens received his with other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Hatch received his in a caucus of the Senate. He is also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Both members said the administration reports it is making virtually no progress with Iraq and that war is appearing more than likely.
"My best guess is we will go to war," Hatch said. "It would likely happen within a month of the Jan. 15 deadline."
But he added, "I can't really believe that Saddam Hussein wants to commit suicide because literally we have the firepower there to remove him."
Hatch said Saddam is not convinced the United States will really attack because he watches Cable Network News programs quoting many members of Congress saying there should be no attack and that sanctions should be given more time to work.
"Members of Congress are causing this problem," Hatch said. He added that he feels the way to avoid war is to show the United States is willing to wage war in the first place. Only then will Saddam retreat.
"The best thing Saddam Hussein can have happen to him is to know that the Congress and the people are behind the president and that we mean it: If he doesn't withdraw from Kuwait . . . then we're going to take him on. It's that simple," Hatch said.
Hatch believes a resolution supporting Bush would likely pass Congress. Owens does too, but he would not vote for it yet."Given the current facts, I wouldn't support it," he said. Owens said that before war, all economic and diplomatic efforts should be exhausted. He is not convinced that has yet happened.
And despite the front the administration is presenting that war is now all but unavoidable, "I believe - and hope - that war will somehow be avoided through compromise, the economic sanctions or greater unified diplomatic efforts."
Owens and Hatch also disagree on whether Bush needs permission from Congress before he may attack. Congress has canceled a scheduled three-week recess to act if needed on some type of resolution permitting attack.
Hatch said the Constitution clearly shows the president does not need congressional permission to act, and Owens said it clearly shows the opposite.
Hatch noted that formal war has been declared only five times in American history, but U.S. troops have been committed to hostilities more than 200 times. Owens said the Constitution still gives only Congress the power to declare war.
Hatch also said he feels strongly that the United States and other nations should not compromise with Saddam. And even if he withdraws from Kuwait to avoid attack, economic sanctions should not be lifted until he gives up chemical, biologic and nuclear weapons capabilities.
"If he walks around with his aggression rewarded, he will become the new hero of the Arabs," Hatch said. "Then it's Katy bar the door. There's going to be problems in the Middle East . . . and I think millions of people will be lost at that point (instead of possibly thousands now)."
Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, also said this week that he believes Bush should ask Congress for authority before launching any attack.
He added that he would support war only as a last alternative after all diplomatic efforts have failed. He said he also does not feel that the United States has exhausted all those options yet.