TOBYHANNA, Pa. (AP) - President Bush strongly rebuked
congressional critics of his Iraq war policy Friday, accusing them
of being "deeply irresponsible" and sending the wrong signal both to
America's enemy and to U.S. troops.
"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the
national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out
false charges," Bush said in his most combative defense yet of his
rationale for invading Iraq in March 2003.
Bush's charges brought a forceful response from senior Democrats
in Congress, who accused the president of misleading the country
about the justification for war. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who ran
unsuccessfully against Bush last year, accused the president of
playing "the politics of fear and smear."
Bush's speech was part of a coordinated White House effort to
bolster the president's waning credibility and dwindling support for
the war, in which more than 2,000 U.S. troops have died.
|(AP) President Bush speaks about the war
against terror at Tobyhanna Army Depot in
casualties have climbed, Bush's popularity has dropped. His approval
rating now is at 37 percent in the latest AP-Ipsos poll, an all-time
low point for his presidency.
"When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power,
Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support," Bush said in a
Veterans Day speech at Tobyhanna Army Depot.
"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the
conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the
history of how that war began."
Bush's remarks brought a few jabs from fellow Republicans as well
as a sharp counterattack from Democrats.
In a speech in Philadelphia, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.,
criticized how the war has been presented to Americans - both by the
media and the White House. Afterward, Santorum said the war has been
"less than optimal" and "maybe some blame could be laid" at the
White House. "Certainly, mistakes were made," Santorum said.
|(AP) U.S. President Bush shakes hands with
veterans and active duty personnel after he spoke
Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who is weighing a run for president in 2008,
has said he agrees with Democrats who are pressing the chairman of
the Senate Intelligence Committee to move forward with an
investigation into whether the administration manipulated
"I was probably the main driver on the Republican side because I
thought we needed the answers to whether intelligence was misused,
intentionally or unintentionally," Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald
in a story published Friday.
Defending the march to war, Bush said foreign intelligence
services and Democrats and Republicans alike were convinced at the
time that Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, had weapons of
mass destruction. The United Nations, he noted, had passed more than
a dozen resolutions citing Saddam's development and possession of
Accusing his critics of making false charges, Bush said: "These
baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy
that is questioning America's will.
"As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our
way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who
voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them."
|(AP) Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy
chief of staff, left, is seen walking behind Bush
Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Democrats would continue
to press for a full airing of the facts about prewar intelligence
and said asking tough questions was his party's way of standing with
"Americans seek the truth about how the nation committed our
troops to war because the decision to go to war is too serious to be
entered into under faulty pretenses," Reid said.
White House officials fanned out to television appearances to
reinforce Bush's argument and Republican National Committee Chairman
Ken Mehlman added his voice. He said Democrats who once worried that
Saddam was amassing weapons of mass destruction now want an
investigation of the intelligence. "Maybe this investigation will
reveal that they were brainwashed," Mehlman said in a speech to be
delivered Friday evening in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Criticism about prewar intelligence has been stoked by the recent
indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, in the CIA leak investigation.
The probe aims to identify who leaked the identity of an
undercover CIA officer whose husband, a former ambassador, alleged
that the administration relied on faulty intelligence to justify the
invasion of Iraq.
|(AP) Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy
chief of staff, left, walks with Chairman of the
accused the president of playing politics on a holiday set aside to
"This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking
intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition. That's why
Scooter Libby has been indicted. That's why a statement in the State
of the Union Address was retracted," said Kerry, who voted in 2002
to give Bush the authority to wage war but later voted against
additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction.
"It's a dangerous day for our national security when an
administration's word is no good," Kerry said.
Bush chose to go on the road this Veterans Day to make his
forceful defense of the war, leaving Cheney in Washington to attend
traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., accused Bush of using Veterans Day
as "a campaign-like attempt to rebuild his own credibility by
tearing down those who seek the truth about the clear manipulation
of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War."
Bush's political adviser Karl Rove, who is still under the cloud
of the CIA leak investigation, hopped Air Force One to attend the
speech, an indication that it was a political event.
Bush shared the stage with a tan Army depot vehicle, and banners
behind him read "Strategy for Victory.""Hail to the Chief," which is
rarely played to mark Bush's arrival, blared from speakers in the
Associated Press writers Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia and Will
Lester in Washington contributed to this report.