Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy yesterday said President Bush shouldn’t be re-elected because the administration marched the country to an unjustified but long-planned war with Iraq by twisting the truth and capitalizing on fear.

“The administration capitalized on fear created by 9/11, put a spin on the intelligence, and put a spin on the truth to justify a war that could very well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of foreign policy,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a speech yesterday. “We did not have to go to war.”

He said the military operation that ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has made the war on terrorism harder to win by giving al Qaeda time to regroup in Afghanistan, put Americans in greater danger of terrorism, killed American troops and dramatically thinned American military strength.

“The president should never have sent [our troops] in harm’s way in Iraq for ideological reasons and on a timetable based on the marketing of a political product,” he said. “No president who does that to this land we love deserves to be re-elected.”

His sharp words spurred House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, to condemn Mr. Kennedy’s remarks as a “hateful attack” against Mr. Bush. Mr. DeLay said the Kennedy speech “explained to the American people why the Howard Dean Democrats cannot be trusted to protect the national security of the United States.”

Mr. DeLay said Mr. Kennedy “insulted the president’s patriotism, accused the Republican Party of treason, and resurrected the weak and indecisive foreign policy of Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis.”

The Bush administration has sought repeatedly to befriend Mr. Kennedy. In 2001, Mr. Bush named the Justice Department building for Mr. Kennedy’s late brother, Robert F. Kennedy. The president’s father, former President George Bush, last year presented Mr. Kennedy with the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

In his speech, Mr. Kennedy said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had desperately wanted to oust Saddam since the 1990s and worked with Vice President Dick Cheney and others to ensure that it happened.

Mr. Kennedy said recent remarks by former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill confirmed that Mr. Bush and his aides made the removal of Saddam part of their agenda from the earliest days of their administration.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the Bush administration made the capture of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda members a priority, Mr. Kennedy said, but then turned its focus back to Saddam, linking him to the September 11 attacks. The 2002 State of the Union address shifted focus to countries such as Iraq, made no mention of Osama bin Laden and hardly mentioned al Qaeda, Mr. Kennedy said. He cited Bush administration claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was on the verge of obtaining nuclear capability.

Yet after toppling Saddam, “the administration found no arsenals of chemical or biological weapons. It has found no persuasive connection to al Qaeda,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Mr. Kennedy said the administration’s “scare tactics worked,” and enabled Republicans to focus public attention on Iraq before the 2002 elections, dividing Democrats and allowing Republicans to recapture control of the Senate. Mr. Kennedy said the administration’s plan to transfer power back to the Iraqi people this summer is also a political move designed to boost Mr. Bush’s momentum before the November election.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide