President Bush will use his State of the Union address Tuesday night to tell the American people the prospect for war with Iraq is “very real,” say White House officials.
The president will not issue any sort of declaration of war at that time, said White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett.
“[The president] understands and sees this as a real opportunity to talk about that fact that we are a nation preparing for a potential war,” Bartlett told reporters.
“This is an opportunity for him to talk directly to the public about the prospect of war, to talk about why the world came together in the first place requiring the disarmament of this regime,” Bartlett said. “This is not a declaration speech. This is not a speech where he will be declaring war.”
The president will emphasize that the impasse with Iraq is in its “last diplomatic phase,” Bartlett said.
As the Pentagon continues a highly visible buildup of troops and weapons in the Persian Gulf, it is also quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons in a war against Iraq, according to a report by a defense analyst.
Although they consider such a strike unlikely, military planners have been actively studying lists of potential targets and considering options, including the possible use of so-called bunker-buster nuclear weapons against deeply buried military targets, says analyst William M. Arkin, who writes a regular column on defense matters for The Times.
Military officials have been focusing their planning on the use of tactical nuclear arms in retaliation for a strike by the Iraqis with chemical or biological weapons, or to preempt one, Arkin says. His report, based on interviews and a review of official documents, appears in a column that will be published in The Times on Sunday.
Administration officials believe that in some circumstances, nuclear arms may offer the only way to destroy deeply buried targets that may contain unconventional weapons that could kill thousands.
Some officials have argued that the blast and radiation effects of such strikes would be limited.