Secretary of State Colin Powell said over the weekend the United States has evidence that Iraq has illegal weapons. He hopes to make that information public, possibly within the week. We hope so.

We also hope President Bush makes a clear and convincing case against Iraq during his State of the Union address tonight. Frankly, the people who oppose war at all costs are winning the public relations battle over Iraq. If the United States is determined to disarm Iraq and replace Saddam Hussein, it can't afford to do so without some type of national consensus.

The recent waffling on the part of allies and members of the U.N. Security Council has created confusion about the purpose of Resolution 1441. It does not call for international inspectors to prove that Iraq is building and maintaining harmful weapons. Rather, it warns Iraq to come clean. Any false statements or a failure to comply and cooperate was to be considered a "material breach" that could lead to war.

The lead weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said Monday Iraq was not taking its obligations to disarm seriously. He also said he disbelieves Iraqi claims that it was not able to produce VX nerve agent, and that evidence shows both a VX weapon and a mustard gas precursor may be under development.

At the same time, Iraq has not shown that it destroyed its biological weapons program, including anthrax. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government still refuses to allow U-2 reconnaissance planes to scan for weapons of mass destruction, even as it also blocks inspectors from talking with scientists. So far, inspectors have searched 106 sites, but without cooperation their task is virtually impossible.

The president, it would seem, has a good case for a host of material breaches. He needs to make that argument publicly.

Saddam made a habit in the '90s of dividing the U.N. Security Council and pushing for concessions. He eventually got rid of inspections entirely, simply because the world's leaders no longer had the stomach to confront him and because some of their nations had grown fond of profiting off him.

After 9/11, the United States and Britain, at least, regained a sense of motivation. The only way to avoid war is for Saddam to understand that he must disarm; that his old games won't win him any more time.

But first, the president needs to rally the support of the people by laying out the evidence and showing the threats.