Editorial pages reacted differently to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.
Most said Powell made a powerful case against Saddam Hussein. Many said he failed to make an effective link between Baghdad and the al Qaeda terrorist network. A number expressed reservations about rushing unilaterally into war.
Powell “painted a clear case that Saddam Hussein is both dangerous and devious,” said the Houston Chronicle. “Still, the case of present danger that compels us to war is deficient.”
Powell produced no “smoking gun,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which said that the U.S. government “must convince wary nations, and an ambivalent American public, that Iraq is not merely duplicitous but also dangerous.”
“Like most Americans, we would like to think there is a middle course between precipitous military action with its loss of life and other, imponderable consequences and an endless appeasement of Iraqi obstructionism,” the editorial said.
The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger said, “Powell laid out a grim picture of deceit, subterfuge, and evil intent.”
Noting the increasing opposition to war, the editorial referred to President Jimmy Carter’s recommendation that the solution was not war, “but taking more time to isolate Saddam, surround him, contain him and outlast him.”
The New York Times said Powell’s presentation made “the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions.”
The Times referred to the links between Baghdad and the terror network as “tenuous.”
Powell’s case “may not have produced a ‘smoking gun,’ but it left little question that Mr. Hussein had tried hard to conceal one,” the Times said.
Urging President Bush to “let diplomacy work,” the Times said, “Because the consequences of war are so terrible, and the cost of rebuilding Iraq so great, the United States cannot afford to confront Iraq without broad international support.”
The Tennessean said, “If Saddam’s menace can only be destroyed through war, let that war be brought by the community of nations, not the United States alone.”
The Baltimore Sun expressed a unique view that Powell offered a sober way out of war: “He was persuasive, and not bellicose. He marshaled facts; he didn’t rattle sabers.”
Powell “offered an indictment rather than a call to arms,” the Sun said, seeking solidarity with the international community. “Getting the world to speak with one voice may be the only way that force can be ruled out.”
Other papers took a less patient line. “We were not convinced of the Al Qaeda connection,” said the Los Angeles Times, but it would be “irresponsible for the United Nations to ignore Hussein’s history.”
The Times said, “The United Nations must … give Hussein one final chance to avoid war.”
The Washington Post said Powell’s evidence “was overwhelming,” suggesting that if the U.N. does not act then the U.S. could.
If the U.N. will not act, the Orlando Sentinel said, the president “will have to decide whether Iraq and its weapons are such a serious and immediate threat to the United States and its interests that a preventive war is necessary.”
The Indianapolis Star said, “Iraq’s continued defiance merits military action to force compliance with U.N. resolutions.”