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
"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
Then, he was off to Camp David under more intense security than
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
|President Bush leaves the White
House, Friday, March 21, 2003, to spend the weekend at the
presidential retreat at Camp David. (AP Photo/Ron
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