As Congress began Thursday to formally debate whether Iraq's continuing refusal to withdraw from Kuwait means war, Utah's delegation was split.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, felt no option but war remains after Iraq's refusal to be flexible in meetings Wednesday with Secretary of State James Baker. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, still hoped a way to avoid war would emerge.Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said from his Salt Lake office that Wednesday's stalemate between Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz might have been avoided if Congress had taken a stand on U.N. resolutions in December.
Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, was uncertain what lay ahead. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, did not respond to inquiries from the Deseret News.
Members responding all said they were disappointed in the results of Baker's meeting with Aziz, and all were uncertain to what degree Congress may support President Bush with a resolution.
Hatch said, "President Bush has clearly gone the extra mile in trying to avoid war. But if Saddam Hussein won't accept even a letter from President Bush (which was refused in the Baker-Aziz meeting), he certainly won't accept our demand that he withdraw from Kuwait."
Hatch added that he feels Bush has now "exhausted every means available to settle this conflict without the use of force. He has tried economic sanctions, diplomatic condemnation, defensive military deployments and direct dialogue.
"Iraq's truculent defiance unfortunately leaves us no alternative but the use of force to expel Iraq's occupation forces," Hatch said. He is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and has received constant briefings on the Persian Gulf.
But Owens - a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - has "a gut feeling" that some agreement to avoid war would still emerge, said his press secretary Art Kingdom. "We still have six days," Owens said.
Garn said he agrees with Bush that every peaceful solution should be pursued but warned that doing nothing to reverse Saddam's aggression on Kuwait would initiate a chain of events similar to those in the 1930s when Adolf Hitler's Nazi troops rolled through Europe one country at a time.
"I really don't give a damn whether the Emir (of Kuwait) is back on his throne or not. It's not a democratic government," Garn said. "But if the world is stupid enough to allow another man like this to do it again, then we deserve what we get in the future. It appears to me to be exactly the same thing we went through in the '30s." Hussein has essentially "Stiff-armed everybody and told them to go to hell," Garn said, adding that the fence-sitters in Congress should take a lesson from Wednesday's stalemate between Baker and Aziz. "A world community has said `get out,' but the Congress hasn't."
Congress should have been called back into session in December to debate the Gulf crisis, the president's authority and United Nations resolutions authorizing the use of force against Iraq, Garn said.
Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, said, "I am discouraged at what has taken place. I wish the Iraqi foreign minister was more open to the diplomatic approach. It's very disconcerting that he even rejected President Bush's letter, and wouldn't even take it to Saddam Hussein.
"I'm discouraged, although keep in mind that the man we're dealing with has shown in the past to be a real gambler. You never know what may happen. He may withdraw the last day, or he may never withdraw," Orton said.
Orton said he was unsure whether a resolution to support the president would pass or how strong it may be. Final votes are expected late Friday or over the weekend.
"I personally haven't concluded what to do," Orton said. He said he will support offensive use of force only when he is convinced that all other options are exhausted - and has been attending numerous briefings by the administration and other groups to determine if that has occurred.
"I am not yet convinced that it has, and I'm not sure that it hasn't," Orton said. "I am going to listen and participate in the debates and come to a conclusion (on how to vote) . . . I do want to support the president and hope we can pass some resolution of support."
Hatch and Owens have said they believe Congress will pass a resolution supporting the president.
Owens, however, has said that so far he is not ready to vote for it. "Given the current facts, I wouldn't support it," he said last week, saying he hopes more time for economic sanctions to work will be allowed.
Hatch strongly supports a resolution backing Bush. Even if one doesn't pass, he said Bush has constitutional power to commit troops without a declaration of war - which Owens and other liberals dispute.
If the conflict turns into a shooting war, Garn said it would be a big mistake to allow the politicians to turn the conflict into protracted war like this nation experienced in Vietnam. The United States should avoid confronting Hussein on the ground but rather initiate massive air strikes to make a decisive attack on Hussein's army. Garn said the use of nuclear force against Iraq would not be necessary or appropriate.