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Tuesday, March 4

Former senators issue statement opposing war with Iraq

By Chuck Raasch

WASHINGTON — A group of former U.S. senators, including some who vocally opposed the Vietnam War, have announced their opposition to a potential war with Iraq.

They released a statement warning that an Iraqi war could increase terrorism and send the American economy back into recession.

The former senators who signed the statement include George McGovern and James Abourezk of South Dakota, John Culver of Iowa, Adlai Stevenson III and Paul Simon of Illinois, Fred Harris of Oklahoma, Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland, John Tunney of California, Gary Hart of Colorado, William Hathaway of Maine and Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio.

All are Democrats except for Mathias.

McGovern was a leading critic of the Vietnam War and ran as a peace candidate for president in 1972. Hart managed McGovern’s ’72 campaign. Hart, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988, is contemplating another run in 2004

"We favor multiplying (United Nations) inspectors in Iraq — if necessary accompanied by U.N. forces — to complete the U.N.’s task more quickly and effectively," the former senators said in their joint statement. "This will be eminently less expensive in lives and treasure than all-out war."

The former senators said they were concerned about "serious damage that can be done to the United States by terrorism triggered by an attack on a sovereign Arab nation."

The statement went on: "All Americans should be concerned that an invasion, when carried to Iraq’s cities, will result in the needless killing of innocent Iraqi civilians, especially women and children, who have no voice in their government’s policies."

The former senators said that a first strike on Iraq is not authorized under international law because Iraq poses "no imminent or unavoidable threat to the United States. And there has been no confirmable evidence of any connection between Iraq and al-Qaida."

Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence to the United Nations earlier this month that the Bush administration said proved Saddam Hussein had not only hidden weapons of mass destruction, but also had provided haven for suspected al-Qaida operatives.

President Bush has said that he considers war a last resort, but has increasingly warned that time is running out for Saddam to reveal and destroy his weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously in November for Iraq to allow inspectors to verify it had destroyed those weapons, but there has been wide disagreement between the U.S. and some allies on the effectiveness of the inspections so far.

In a speech prepared for delivery Wednesday night, Bush sought to justify a potential war in Iraq as a way to bring peace to the Middle East and encourage the development of democracies in the region.

"Stable and free nations do not breed the ideology of murder, they encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life," Bush said in remarks released before his speech.