The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 18, 2003; 10:55 AM
President Bush declared on Tuesday that he wouldn't be deterred by global protests against war with Iraq, saying "I respectfully disagree" with those who doubt that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace.
He said such a war remains a final resort, but "the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned."
Despite heavy opposition at the United Nations and protests around the world, the Bush administration appeared ready to push ahead this week for a new Security Council resolution that could open the way for war.
Bush said that the size of the protests against a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq was irrelevant.
"Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based up on a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security - in this case - security of the people."
Millions of people around the world took to the streets over the weekend to protest such a war.
"Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion," Bush said.
"Some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace," he added. "I respectfully disagree."
Bush said that Saddam Hussein continued to pose a very real threat to Americans and to the world.
The president expressed confidence that the United States would come up with an acceptable aid package for Turkey, a close U.S. ally in the region who will play a vital role if there is military action against Baghdad.
Bush said Turkey has "no better friend than the American government" and that Washington and Ankara were still working out details of an aid package.
The U.S. military plans to use bases in Turkey both for aircraft and for ground forces in the event of an attack on Turkey's neighbor to the south.
Bush indicated that he was running out of patience. Asked if he planned to set an ultimatum for Saddam's compliance, Bush suggested that would be pointless, like extending "another, another, another last chance."
"He knows my feelings, and that is, he needs to disarm - completely and totally disarm. He's a fellow that likes to buy time and buy it through deception and delay."
The global anti-war protests have put the White House on the defensive. Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer began his daily briefing by reading newspaper clips about demonstrations against the staging of missiles in Germany in the early 1980s, and said, "This is not the first time there have been mass protests and in a previous instance America stood on principle ... and as a result the Berlin Wall came down."
He also told reporters that former President Franklin Roosevelt overcame protests from isolationists to lead American into World War II.
"Often the message of protesters is contradicted by history," he said.