Rep. George Nethercutt offered qualified support Wednesday for airstrikes against Iraq, but Sen. Patty Murray said she might vote against military action if the Pentagon isn’t taking steps to avoid a new round of Gulf War syndrome.
Republican Nethercutt likened Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler and said President Clinton should have used more force earlier in dealing with the Iraqi leader.
“I think the president deserves our support. I just hope he’s careful,” Nethercutt told a Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “I don’t think it ought to be as simple as bomb or not bomb.”
The United States could expand the no-fly zone across all of Iraq and turn over the assets seized during the Gulf War to a group trying to oust Saddam, Nethercutt said.
He would support a resolution for airstrikes as part of a clearly stated American foreign policy that leaders who threaten their neighbors or their own people must be contained and punished. He wouldn’t support using ground troops against Iraq.
“I don’t think we’re in the business of occupying countries to take down regimes,” he said.
When he asked the crowd of about 30 business men and women for their opinions, some were unconvinced of the need for a military strike.
Why can’t America’s allies supply the weapons inspectors to get around Saddam’s refusal to allow U.S. experts on the teams, asked one. How can we attack Iraq for its chemical and biological weapons and allow the Israelis to develop theirs, asked another.
“Bombs kill citizens and women and children. I think it’s a mistake,” said Tony Lazanis.
Nethercutt said he isn’t sure if the House is ready to vote on a resolution on Iraq.
But Murray, in Spokane for an Economic Development Summit, said the Senate is expected to begin debate on such a resolution as early as next week.
Before she votes for a resolution, the Democrat said she wants assurances the Pentagon can do a better job of preventing conditions that some have linked to medical problems known as Gulf War Syndrome.
This week, Murray joined other members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in asking what the military has changed since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Their letter to Defense Secretary Bill Cohen asks what’s being done to “avoid the mistakes of the past” by protecting troops against chemical and biological warfare and tracking of the troops’ medical records.
“I want to see the answers before we vote,” said Murray, who held hearings in Spokane and Seattle on the medical problems that some veterans link to their service in the gulf.
“We’ve been struggling with this for six years. I don’t want to be here in a year and a half, facing the same thing.”
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