No decision has yet been made on when – or even whether – the U.S. will invade Iraq. But speaking to the graduating class at the U.S. Naval Academy on Friday, Vice President Dick Cheney vowed to take the war not just to terrorists like Osama bin Laden, but to terrorist regimes like Saddam Hussein's.
"At all times, at every turn, we will press on because the stakes could not be greater," Cheney said in a speech in Annapolis, Md.
The Bush administration believes the longer Saddam stays in power the greater the chance he will provide terrorists with chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons.
"Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists would expose this nation and the civilized world to the worst of horrors and we will not allow it," Cheney said.
Despite the high-stakes urgency coming from the top of the administration, senior officials at both the Pentagon and the State Department say complicating factors are slowing the rush to war with Iraq.
A top secret Pentagon war game called "prominent hammer" found that expanding the war beyond Afghanistan would severely strain a military already saddled with new missions like homeland security and tied down by long-term commitments in places like Korea.
No battle plan has yet been drawn up for Iraq, but two of the biggest concerns are whether Saddam, knowing that this was truly the mother of all battles, would actually use the chemical and biological weapons he has been hiding; and whether U.S. troops might become bogged down in house-to-house fighting as they pursued Saddam and his henchmen.
As one senior officer put it, could we do it: yes. Whether it's wise is another issue.