President Bush scoffed Tuesday at the Iraqi parliament's recommendation that the latest United Nations arms-inspection resolution be rejected, calling it "nothing but a rubber stamp for Saddam Hussein.''
"If Saddam Hussein does not comply to the detail of the resolution, we will lead a coalition to disarm him,'' Bush said as he toured the operations center of the District of Columbia Police Department and pushed anew for passage of legislation creating a new Department of Homeland Security.
The parliament voted hours after Saddam's son urged the resolution's acceptance if Arabs were included on the inspection team. Lawmakers said the final decision rests with Saddam.
Earlier, White House spokesman Sean McCormack called that vote "pure political theater.
If Saddam hopes to use the unanimous parliament vote as a ploy to extract concessions, McCormack said, he will fail. "There's nothing in this resolution that is negotiable,'' the spokesman said.
"I don't think there's anybody who believes the Iraqi parliament has a serious voice in what does or doesn't happen in Iraq,'' McCormack said. "There is only one voice that matters in this despotic regime and that is from Saddam Hussein. This is really, I think, pure political theater.''
Bush himself used two Veterans Day events to warn Monday that America was prepared for a battle to remove Saddam "tools of mass murder.''
"The time to confront this threat is before it arrives, not the day after,'' he told several dozen veterans during an East Room ceremony.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, meanwhile, said he doubted Saddam would agree to give up his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. He said Saddam has already started hiding his banned weapons at secret sites across Iraq, including underground.
"They've gone so far underground that the only way they can be found is through defectors,'' Rumsfeld told a business executives' forum sponsored by Fortune magazine. Finding all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would take months, Rumsfeld said.
Iraq is also stockpiling supplies of antidotes for nerve agents, suggesting Saddam is trying to protect his armies if he uses those weapons on the battlefield, a Bush administration official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Iraq has imported significant quantities of the nerve agent antidotes atropine and obidoxime chloride over the last two years, the official said, confirming a report in Tuesday's New York Times. Some came from Turkey, and while the administration is trying to stop future deliveries of the antidotes, they are not restricted for import into Iraq.
They are given to troops so they can survive on a battlefield where the nerve agents are used, the official said.
Behind the scenes, Bush has approved tentative Pentagon plans for invading Iraq should a new U.N. arms inspection effort fail to rid the nation of weapons of mass destruction. The strategy calls for a land, sea and air force of 200,000 to 250,000 troops, administration officials said, as they sought to build up pressure on Saddam to relent.
"We have to keep, in a sense, a gun pointed to the head of the Iraqi regime because that's the only way they cooperate,'' Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told National Public Radio's "The Tavis Smiley Show.''
The talk of war grew to a crescendo just three days after the U.N. Security Council approved a tough new resolution with an unexpected 15-0 vote. Iraq has until Friday to accept the resolution that would send U.N. inspectors back to Baghdad after an absence of nearly four years with broad new powers to go anywhere at any time backed by the threat of force.
With the clock ticking, Bush traveled across the Potomac River to visit Arlington National Cemetery, lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, praise America's veterans and pledge his resolve against terrorism and Iraq.
"This new kind of war also requires us to confront outlaw regimes that seek and possess the tools of mass murder,'' the president said. "We will not permit a dictator who has used weapons of mass destruction to threaten America with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. This great nation will not live at the mercy of any foreign plot or power.''
Standing beneath the marble dome of the cemetery's flag-draped amphitheater, the president drew cheers and whistles of approval when he declared, "The dictator of Iraq will fully disarm or the United States will lead a coalition to disarm him.''
Rumsfeld said he had no doubt that the United States would prevail in the event of war. He said a postwar Iraq would have to remain a single country and have "some sort of representative government.''
"It will be something that is distinctly Iraqi,'' he said, like the new interim government of Afghanistan was chosen by the Afghan tradition of the loya jirga.
Iraq without Saddam and the U.N. sanctions on his regime would be an economic boost to the Iraqi people and the entire region, Rumsfeld said.