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Will the public buy Bush’s explanation?

A year ago Oct. 7, President George W. Bush went on national television to announce that a United States offensive had begun in Afghanistan.

“Now the Taliban will pay a price,” Bush proclaimed to the American public.

One year later to the day, Bush took to the airwaves again, this time to explain why he thinks military action against Iraq is necessary.

What a difference a year can make.

On Oct. 7, 2001, less than a month after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, the American public, as well as several other countries throughout the world, were squarely in favor of Bush’s agenda. Now, a year later, and with the post-attacks fervor dying down, the United Nations is teetering on indecision, and the American public does not seem completely convinced that war is the appropriate action.

In the meantime, Congress continues to debate whether to give the president the powers to attack.

And there are many questions to be answered.

However, Bush stood at the podium Monday with a different mission in mind. Instead of leading the charge, Bush played the role of debater and persuader, attempting to convince the public that an invasion of Iraq is necessary.

The speech, as most speeches do, had its good and bad points. Bush wanted to answer the questions of why the United States should attack Iraq. His main reason: the ability of Iraq to build and deploy both chemical and atomic weapons.

Bush attempted to drive this point home by repeatedly using fear-stirring words, such as “nuclear” and “mass destruction.” His speech gained momentum when he offered an ultimatum, calling for Iraq to allow U.N. weapons inspectors unlimited access to the country’s stockpiles.

But it seems the American public’s concern might be with the idea of a war several thousand miles away and an attack that could prove to be an unnecessary loss of life. The United States has prided itself on not being the aggressor in war. But the public has wondered what imminent danger Iraq presented that would require an invasion.

Bush offered his answer by again playing the nuclear weapon card.

He described an attack as a preemptive strike, coming before the reality of an Iraqi nuclear attack could be delivered to American soil or elsewhere.

Is there evidence that such a strike could happen? This was one of the weak points of Bush’s speech. He did not offer solid evidence that such nuclear capabilities are attainable in Iraq.

However, what the American public must decide is whether there is sufficient threat to warrant an attack or whether it is worth the risk to leave Iraq alone.

Another question: Is there enough international backing to go through with an attack?

In Bush’s defense, even with overwhelming support to attack Iraq during the Gulf War, there were some grumbling countries. In the current situation, the president has managed to swing both congressional and international opinion, most notably Saudi Arabia, slightly more toward his cause.

But should the United States go forward with a strike if there isn’t strong U.N. and international support? That again boils down to the public’s opinion of whether Iraq poses an immediate and dangerous threat.

Another key point in Bush’s speech was his repeated reference to Saddam Hussein’s rule as a “regime,” a term that has upset some in the international community. Bush wants the American public to see Hussein not as a leader but a Stalin-like dictator responsible for the deaths of thousands, maybe millions.Is this an overstatement? Again, that is left for the public to decide.And with that in mind, Bush’s speech does no more than present his side of the argument. Really, it was more important for him to offer explanations. And he did, without trying to preach.And so, the American public is left to decide along with its representatives.

The president had backing last Oct. 7. And now an important question remains for the U.S. and for the world for that matter: Will this Oct. 7’s speech will have a similar impact?