President Bush returned to the White House Monday afternoon for his first briefing on a detailed plan for invading Iraq, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports.
The details are secret but military officers say it would take 60 to 90 days just to move all the forces into position; about half the time it took to build up the half-million man force used for the Gulf War in 1991. It is a plan that carries the risk that American troops could be attacked by Saddam's chemical and biological weapons and become bogged down in bloody house-to-house fighting in Baghdad.
Earlier in the day, the president did not mention Iraq by name, but said he would not flinch at the prospect of casualties.
"We understand the price of freedom is high but we are willing to pay the price," Mr. Bush said. "That's the message we're sending to the enemy and to our friends."
Saddam apparently is beginning to believe the Bush administration is serious about getting rid of him and has started dangling the prospect that weapons inspectors might be allowed back into Iraq.
One invitation to let members of Congress tour suspected weapons sites was quickly dismissed as a joke by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"I can't think of anything funnier than a handful of congressmen walking around. They'd have to be there for the next 50 years trying to find something. It's a joke," he said in an interview with a group of journalists.
Iraq's parliament speaker, Sadoun Hammadi, invited the lawmakers, accompanied by arms experts of their choice, for a three-week visit.
Administration officials said that would not satisfy the president's demand for rigorous inspections in Iraq.
Administration official also dismissed an Iraqi offer to meet with Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. inspection team.
Iraq's obligations go beyond permitting inspections to fulfilling a commitment to disarm, State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said.
"Our position on inspections and disarmament is well-known," said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Blix could accept the invitation for talks in Baghdad if Saddam agreed to the return of U.N. inspectors.
"It is interesting that they write to invite inspectors to come in at this stage. It has not happened before," said Annan.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said "the letter seems to be another attempt by the Iraqi leadership to deflect attention from their unwillingness to fulfill a commitment they've already made to the international community."
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said the invitation should not be considered until Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions for weapons inspections.
And Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic whip, rejected Iraq's invitation as "disingenuous." She said "every country should insist that Iraq allow United Nations weapons inspectors into the country."
In the meantime, a group of key leaders of the Iraqi opposition is expected in Washington on Friday at the invitation of the State and Defense Departments.
The aim is to end infighting between the rival opposition leaders and unnerve Saddam.
Mr. Bush signed an order earlier this year authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency to increase support to Iraqi opposition groups and allowing the use of CIA and military special forces teams against Iraq.
The United States is capable of launching a rapid attack on Iraq by marshaling 50,000 troops at the Kuwaiti border in roughly a week, airlifting them in and bringing their tanks and heavy equipment on ships through the Strait of Hormuz, according to experts.
However, many U.S. officials and lawmakers believe 200,000 or more soldiers could be needed to topple Saddam, a force that would require months to move to the region.