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Bartlett urges caution on Iraq attack

February 15, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Bartlett urges caution on Iraq attack

Striking Iraq without full United Nations support would be a "PR disaster for us," U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett said Sunday.

Bartlett, R-Md., said bombing Iraq would kill innocent civilians without achieving its objectives.

"This is the most telegraphed military strike in the history of mankind. If he has any weapons of mass destruction, he's hidden them," he said. "We're not going to get them."

The Clinton administration, with the support of the Republican leadership in Congress, has threatened air strikes if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein does not comply with a U.N. resolution demanding that international weapons inspectors be given full access.

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But Bartlett, a member of the House National Security Committee, said the United States risks alienating the rest of the Arab world and key U.S. allies by forging ahead with the bombing.

"We are essentially going it alone. We have very few people backing us," he said.

Bartlett criticized Clinton for boxing himself into a corner.

"It's almost impossible for the president not to bomb Iraq He's kind of given them an ultimatum," he said.

Bartlett, who said he has long held his position, expressed satisfaction that other representatives have come around. He took a jab at House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who has backed Clinton's position.

"Newt says Hussein is a bad guy. Of course he's a bad guy," Bartlett said. "That's not the question."

If the United States ultimately does decide to attack Iraq, Bartlett said Clinton must do a better job preparing the public for the potential consequences.

"The president needs to communicate to the American people the necessity of doing this. He has not done that," he said.

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