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White House Prepares Americans for Casualties

White House Prepares Americans for Casualties

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- War against Iraq will be as short as possible but Americans must be prepared for loss of life, the White House warned Wednesday as the deadline neared for Saddam Hussein to flee.

Bush met with his war council and the White House sent Congress formal notification of justification for war. The three-paragraph document says diplomacy has failed to protect America's security, and it links Saddam's regime with the al-Qaida network, implicated in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"On the brink of war with Iraq, Americans should be prepared for what we hope will be as precise, short a conflict as possible, but there are many unknowns and it could be a matter of some duration," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. "We do not know."

"Americans ought to be prepared for loss of life," he said. "Americans ought to be prepared for the importance of disarming Saddam Hussein to protect the peace."

The White House had no public plans to mark the 8 p.m. EST Wednesday deadline. Aides said war wouldn't automatically start the moment the deadline expires but that Bush would rely on the advice of his military commanders.

In the event of war, Bush would address the nation from the Oval Office, Fleischer said. White House speechwriters have been working on the speech for several days, aides said.

Bush met Wednesday morning with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other members of his foreign policy team.

Later, the president met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made a pitch for more money to help his city prevent a terrorist attack and respond to any that occurs. The president warned Monday that terrorists might retaliate for a U.S. attack on Iraq.

Emerging from the White House, Bloomberg said the lengthy national debate about whether to go to war is over. "The president has listened and he has made his decision, and I know all New Yorkers are behind him and the troops overseas," he said. "He's not going to be cowed or dissuaded. He's going to go out there and do what we all pray is right."

New York and Washington were attacked by terrorists Sept. 11, 2001. Though Iraq was not implicated, the strikes set Bush on a course to combat terrorism across the globe -- a mission that led him to the brink of war with Saddam.

Bush contends that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that could get in the hands of terrorists.

The White House released a letter Bush sent Congress on Tuesday night that, in compliance with a war resolution approved by lawmakers last year, outlined his rationale for military conflict. It says diplomacy has failed to bring Iraq into compliance with United Nations resolutions and protect America's interests.

It also says the Constitution gives the president authority to "take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001."

White House spokesman Sean McCormack said the language refers to the administration's belief that there are links ties between al-Qaida and Iraq, and that Bush was not accusing Iraq of being involved in the attacks.

Bush has said he has no proof that Iraq was linked to the 2001 strikes.

As he has nearly every day since the Sept. 11, 2001, Bush met Wednesday with FBI director Robert Mueller and CIA director George Tenet to start his day. He raised the nation's terrorism alert status Monday to the second-highest level.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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