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March 21, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Bush at Camp David With Close Advisers
President Bush's First Weekend at War to Be Spent at Camp David With Close Advisers

The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON March 21

President Bush, at Camp David for the first weekend of the war, told Congress on Friday he can't predict the length or scope of the mission given to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.

Citing the Vietnam-era War Powers Act, the president formally notified Congress he had concluded "only the use of armed force" can disarm Iraq, protect U.S. security and bring stability to the region.

"It is not possible to know at this time either the duration of active combat operations or the scope or duration of the deployment of U.S. armed forces necessary to accomplish our goals fully," the five-paragraph letter said.

The White House said Bush watched television coverage of Friday's stunning attacks from his study. Still, press secretary Ari Fleischer said, "I don't think the president needed to watch TV to understand what it means to authorize force."

Before leaving for Camp Davis with his wife, Laura, and one of their daughters, Barbara, the president told congressional leaders the war was going well.

"We are making progress," he said.

"We will stay on task until we've achieved our objective, which is rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and free the Iraqi people so they can live in a society that is hopeful, democratic and at peace with its neighbors," he said as lawmakers gathered in the Oval Office at midmorning.

Bush, commander in chief of 250,000 U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf, also said, "All of us involved here in Washington are extremely proud of the skill and bravery of our young Americans who are willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves."

The 1973 War Power Act, designed to curb executive branch powers after the Vietnam War, lets presidents send troops into conflicts for up to 60 days but requires congressional approval beyond that. Ever since its passage, presidents have considered the law an infringement on their constitutional authority but still have filed brief reports to Congress.

"These military operations have ben carefully planned to accomplish our goals with the minimum loss of life among coalition military forces and to innocent civilians," read the letter signed by Bush.

Then, he was off to Camp David under more intense security than usual.

Several foreign policy aides, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, planned to join Bush on Saturday. The Marine-run facility 60 miles from the White House is equipped with advanced communications allowing the president to keep tabs on the war and other world events.

The White House said he was following a precedent set by his father, who led the nation in the first Persian Gulf War. The elder Bush spent the first weekend of that conflict away from the White House, official said.

Friday was the second straight day that Bush had summoned reporters and photographers into a White House meeting. In both cases, he refused to take questions about the status of the war.

Two polls released Friday showed that about two-thirds of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq and think he did enough diplomatically before invading.

As bombs fell on Baghdad and, halfway around the world, protesters massed outside the White House, Fleischer said Bush was well aware of the risks of war. "There will be innocent civilians lost and the president deeply regrets that Saddam Hussein has put innocents in a place where their lives will be lost," the spokesman said. He added that memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are fresh on the minds of Americans.

Though the White House has never cited a connection between Iraq and the 2001 attacks, Bush and his spokesmen have said disarming Saddam is part of his global effort to prevent future terrorist attacks.


photo credit and caption:
President Bush leaves the White House, Friday, March 21, 2003, to spend the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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