Bush renews pledge to strike first to counter terror threats
President Bush today used a visit to the troops that battled Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan to renew his vow that the United States will strike pre-emptively against countries developing weapons of mass destruction, telling 2,000 cheering troops that ”America must act against these terrible threats before they’re fully formed.”
As Mr. Bush stood surrounded by the camouflage-clad troops of the 10th Mountain Division, among the first sent to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan last fall, one of the soldiers yelled, ”Let’s get Saddam!” Mr. Bush, dressed in shirt sleeves, just smiled for a moment as a roar of approval raced through the crowd. He did not mention Iraq but hardly stepped in to quell the cheers.
Mr. Bush was visibly relieved today to be back in a welcoming military setting after two weeks of questions about his handling of the corporate scandals that have rocked Wall Street and dominated talk in Washington. The country’s economic troubles have been Mr. Bush’s first major distraction from his intense focus on the effort to curb terrorism.
The cheers that followed him around this sprawling military base in upstate New York seemed more like the kind of reception he routinely received in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks. He used the moment to rail against the newly created International Criminal Court, a tribunal intended to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes and major human rights violations.
”The United States cooperates with many other nations to keep the peace, but we will not submit American troops to prosecutors and judges whose jurisdiction we do not accept,” Mr. Bush said.
European nations in particular have been highly critical of Mr. Bush’s opinions regarding the court, saying he is trying to put Americans above international law.
Until today, Mr. Bush had said relatively little about the strategy of pre-emptive action that he first described at a speech in June at West Point. At that time, he made it clear that he envisioned several types of pre-emptive action, from boosting foreign aid to acting covertly against potential enemies to sending in troops. Today, Mr. Bush suggested he would not hesitate to send troops into any country that poses an imminent threat to the United States.
”Some parts of the world, there will be no substitute for direct action by the United States,” he told the troops. ”That is when we will send you, our military, to win the battles that only you can win.”
The White House announced today that Mr. Bush planned to spend roughly four weeks this summer at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., beginning Aug. 6. But a rigorous travel schedule from Texas will take Mr. Bush to many of the states with the most hotly contested House and Senate races around the country. Autor: David Sanger