CHICAGO – Indicating the widening gulf between the Bush administration and much of the nation and world over the administration’s drive to war, a leading Republican senator is saying the U.S. should let Iraq weapons inspections work.

Beth Lee, press secretary for Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the World the senator feels “time is on our side” and we should work with our allies, including France and Germany, through the United Nations to “let the inspections work.”

Hagel’s view was echoed by people on the streets of a gritty working-class neighborhood here, who were willing to stop on a freezing cold day and give their opinion about the possible U.S. war on Iraq. When asked if the U.S. should consider a plan proposed by France and backed by Germany and others as an alternative to war, many readily agreed.

Dorothy Coleman, 50, told the World she hadn’t heard about the plan, but “we should try to stop from going to war.”

Pat Kamradt, 70, said a war with Iraq could be avoided if the president gave inspectors more time. Clarence Morgan, 48, said he wasn’t for war, but he wasn’t for dictatorship either. “I would love to see an alternative [to war] to dispose of any threat from Iraq,” he said.

Even Terrie Tantillo, 26, who said there should be a war “after what they did to us on Sept. 11,” agreed that if disarmament could be done peacefully that would be preferable.

The French proposal, which has the backing of Russia, China, Germany, Mexico and several other UN Security Council members, would increase the number of weapons inspectors and give more time and technical support to the inspection process. The proposal was to be presented to the Security Council on Feb. 14, after a second progress report by chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei.

The Bush administration war drive got support from 10 eastern and central European countries. But Secretary of State Colin Powell’s much trumpeted UN presentation was met with much skepticism. A British television station exposed that parts of Powell’s “evidence” were plagiarized from a doctoral thesis written 12 years ago.

International peace efforts gained momentum with reports of the French alternative plan. French President Jacques Chirac stated flatly that “nothing … justified a war.”

The split between the Bush administration and some of its key allies widened at a NATO meeting as France, Germany and Belgium refused to consider military action to defend Turkey from possible Iraqi reprisal in the event of a war, saying it was premature since war could still be avoided.

Millions of people in Europe and the world over oppose the Bush administration’s drive to war. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was met in Germany by thousands of protestors who made it clear they were “anti-war, not anti-U.S.” Susanne Breit Kessler, a German church leader, criticized any rush to war: “We know all the arguments for war, but we want to know that all the political possibilities for a peaceful resolution are first being pursued.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was “almost completely in agreement” with the French proposal. Chinese President Jiang Zemin said weapons inspections are “effective and should be continued and strengthened.” Jiang said, “Warfare is good for no one, and it is our responsibility to take various measures to avoid war.”

Beijing’s support means three permanent Security Council members – with veto power – are now lined up against the U.S. and Britain in opposition to war with Saddam.

U.S. officials on Feb. 11 laid out plans for a two-year military occupation of Iraq and told wary senators that “enormous uncertainties” made it impossible to say whether troops might stay even longer or how much it would all cost.

In imperial language, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “The administration has not yet decided on the organizational mechanisms by which [the oil] sector should be operated. We shall be consulting on this important matter.”

State Department spokesman Marc Grossman said the Iraqi opposition in exile would not be “allowed” to control decisions for Iraq. “While we are listening to what the Iraqis are telling us, the United States government will make its decisions based on what is in the national interest of the United States,” he added.

The Internet-based lobbying group “” is securing U.S. signatures for a letter addressed to the European countries who are opposing war. The letter expresses appreciation for those countries’ “principled opposition to our government’s misguided and dangerous policy toward Iraq,” and calls on the people of Europe to demand that their governments support the French-German initiative for additional inspections.

The author can be reached at

PDF version of ‘France, Germany propose alternative to war’