WASHINGTON -- When President Bush addressed the nation about Iraq Monday night, it took only a few moments for him to play his strongest card.
Barely a few breaths into the speech, he linked the potential threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the unprecedented losses suffered by America in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"We must never forget the most vivid events of recent history," Bush declared. "We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America."
With that, Bush demonstrated how the attacks restructured the national security debate in America -- and created almost irresistible political momentum behind his push to confront Saddam.
Almost as if handing down an indictment, Bush on Monday night systematically laid out for the public the most detailed inventory yet of Iraq's progress in developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, its links to terrorist organizations, and Saddam's crimes against his own population.
But these particulars were not the core of his argument. Instead, Bush repeatedly suggested that what was known about Iraq was less important than what wasn't known: whether Saddam might someday either seek to use weapons of mass destruction directly against American interests or provide them to terrorists.
"I'm not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein," Bush insisted.
After Sept. 11, most members of Congress in both parties now agree with that statement, which is why a resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq seems certain to pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the next few days.
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