Bush Makes Case Against Iraq

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

CINCINNATI (AP) - President Bush sold his plan for action against Iraq to an audience of area civic leaders that needed little convincing.

Meanwhile, anti-war protesters filled the streets outside and briefly blocked traffic as audience members left Monday night. Six people were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct or obstructing official business, police said. One man was charged with punching a police horse.

Bush told 800 invited guests, "Saddam Hussein must disarm himself or for the sake of peace we will lead a coalition to disarm him." He received a two-minute ovation when he finished his 29-minute speech in a former railroad terminal turned museum.

"This is Bush country," said Daniel Deters, brother of state Treasurer Joe Deters and a political consultant for the Republican Party, which has many ties in Cincinnati, Gov. Bob Taft's hometown.

"It's imperative the U.S. Congress give the president its strong endorsement," said John Dyess, 48, a United Way vice president for financial resources development. "The nation needs to be unified when undertaking something as serious as this."

Bush said Hussein is a "murderous tyrant" who may be plotting to attack the United States with biological and chemical weapons.

Outside, more than 1,000 protesters marched from a park to the terminal now known as the Cincinnati Museum Center. Many carried signs with slogans such as, "War is a failure of government" and some chanted, "If we attack Iraq, we create more enemies."

"We've become cowards," said David Miller, 53, of Loveland, speaking with tears in his eyes from the bed of a pickup in the park. "We're so afraid of what might happen we're resorting to war. ... I'm not going to protect my family with bombs."

Barricades, police on horseback and about two dozen uniformed officers standing shoulder-to-shoulder kept protesters a few hundred yards away from the terminal. The somber crowd packed sidewalks and a highway overpass, spilling into the street leading to the terminal.

The charge of assaulting a police horse is punishable by up to a year and a half in jail. The maximum penalty for the disorderly conduct charge is a $100 fine.

The Rev. Jeff Scheeler, 50, one of two Benedictine monks shaking protesters' hands as they passed, said he hopes the nation's leaders get the message that many oppose force.

"Unfortunately, deep down inside, I believe the decision's already been made," he said.

Patty Frondorf, 39, a Cincinnati homemaker, stood with her sons, Ryan, 5, and Ross, 7, on a street corner surrounded by protesters. They held a sign that said, "We support you, Mr. Bush" and waved small American flags.

Frondorf leaned down and told her sons, "It's important that you support your president."

"Nobody wants war. But sometimes you just have to do it," Frondorf said.

The speech came as Congress prepared to vote on resolutions authorizing force against Iraq. A vote in the Republican-controlled House is expected Wednesday or Thursday; a vote in the Democratic-led Senate should come by next week. The resolutions are expected to prevail by a wide margin in both chambers.

Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card traveled with the president and attended the speech, said Brian Hicks, Taft's chief of staff.

Rabbi Hanan Balk of Golf Manor Synagogue in Cincinnati, who attended the address, said war should be a last resort, but Bush was taking the correct steps so far.

"I think he's right in being poised," said Balk, 44.

Ronn Rucker, an administrator at the Cincinnati Health Department, said the city's most influential people were at the terminal Monday night.

"I think the president understands in a situation like this, where time is of the essence, you go to the leadership in the community," he said.

In Cincinnati, Bush has benefited from a politically friendly environment.

The city for decades has provided generous financial support to Republican candidates and officeholders.

Ohio's two senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, are Republicans, as are House members Steve Chabot and Rob Portman, whose districts split the Cincinnati metropolitan area.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)