Bush Tells Saddam to Go by Wednesday

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The president, commander in chief of 250,000 U.S. troops poised at the borders of Iraq, told the Iraqi people, "The day of your liberation is near."

Bush issued his ultimatum after U.N. allies refused to back his bid for a resolution sanctioning military force. The diplomatic defeat forced Bush to move toward war accompanied by Britain, Spain, Australia and a handful of other nations in his self-described "coalition of the willing."

Bush warned that war could lead to retaliatory strikes by terrorists on U.S. interests at home and abroad, and said he had ordered increased security at airports and along U.S. waterways.

"These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible," Bush said. "We will not be intimidated by thugs and killers."

Bush spoke after deciding to raise the nation's terrorism alert from yellow to orange, the second-highest category of risk.

For the first time since he drew the nation's attention to Iraq last fall, Bush focused on the questions most asked by Americans: Why war? And why now?

Spelling out the threat, he said Saddam has weapons of mass destruction he might share with terrorists, has a history of hating America and is a destabilizing force in the Middle East.

"The United States did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety," the president said from the White House.

"The tyrant will soon be gone," he said.

He expressed disappointment that the United Nations had failed to stand beside the United States.

"The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities so we will rise to ours," he said.

"Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours," Bush said. "Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict to commence at a time of our choosing."

An intense White House debate over whether to establish a timetable was settled hours before the president's speech. Some argued that Bush should not set a deadline because Saddam could use the notice to build opposition to the president's case or even launch a pre-emptive strike against U.S. interests.

Bush said that after 12 years of diplomacy and weapons inspections, "Our good faith has not been returned. The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage."

"We are not dealing with peaceful men," he said.

Bush renewed his warning to Iraq troops.

"If war comes, do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life," Bush said. He told soldiers to listen carefully to his warning that they should not destroy oil wells or use weapons of mass destruction.

To civilians in Iraq he said, "If we must begin a military campaign it will be directed to lawless men who direct your country and not at you."

He pledged the United States would provide food, medicine and other assistance as Iraq recovers from war.

The address came 24 hours after Bush's return from an Atlantic island summit, where he joined with allies from Britain and Spain to give the U.N. Security Council one day consent to disarming Saddam with force.

A quick round of telephone calls Sunday night and Monday morning confirmed what aides said Bush had concluded before the summit: The allies' U.N. resolution was doomed to fail.

He ordered the measure withdrawn to avoid an embarrassing defeat, then gave the go-ahead for a long-planned ultimatum address.

The American public, by a 2-1 margin, generally supports military action against Iraq to remove Saddam, a slight increase from recent weeks, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll out Monday. Opinion was evenly divided when people were asked about an attack without an attempt to gain U.N. backing.

White House and congressional sources said Bush intends to send Congress a bill seeking more than $70 billion to pay for the war.

More Key Developments

  • As President Bush prepared the nation for war, the administration raised the terror alert to orange, the second-highest level, warning that terrorists may strike United States interests at home or abroad in response to action against Iraq.

  • Saddam, giving no sign of heeding U.S. demands that he step down, warned that American forces will find an Iraqi fighter ready to die for his country "behind every rock, tree and wall."

  • U.S. officials said the White House would ask Congress by Friday for up to $90 billion to pay for a war with Iraq and other expenses.

  • Australia's Prime Minister John Howard his government would commit 2,000 military personnel to Bush's "coalition of the willing" in a war against Iraq. Poland also pledged to send up to 200 soldiers.

  • Australia also ordered the five diplomats who work at the Iraqi embassy and their families to leave the country, giving them five days to pack their bags.

  • The United Nations ordered its weapons inspectors out of Iraq, widening the stream of diplomats and foreign journalists heading for the exits before any shooting starts.

  • The United States and Britain urged their citizens to leave Kuwait immediately, citing the risk of chemical or biological attack by Iraq or by terrorists.

  • U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, ignoring the threat of a possibly imminent war, prepared to give the Security Council a 30-page report listing about a dozen key remaining disarmament tasks that Iraq should complete in the coming months.

  • Turkey's top political and military leaders called on the government to take urgent action to allow in U.S. troops.

  • British senior government minister Robin Cook quit as a revolt inside the ruling Labor Party escalated over Prime Minister Tony Blair's backing of military force to disarm Iraq without U.N. approval.

  • Israel's military instructed Israelis to acquire all the equipment they need to protect themselves in case of an Iraqi attack.

  • A poll found eight in 10 Americans would support a U.S. invasion if the U.N. passed a resolution; 54 percent would support it if the resolution did not pass; people were just about evenly split on an invasion if the United States did not offer a U.N. resolution and said it would proceed with military action without any new vote.