- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

From combined dispatches

In the sharpest White House attack yet on critics of the Iraq war, Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday that accusations the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify the war were a “dishonest and reprehensible” political ploy.

Mr. Cheney called Democrats “opportunists” who were peddling “cynical and pernicious falsehoods” to gain political advantage while U.S. troops died in Iraq.

The charge that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence on Iraq is, he said, “one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.”

“Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing force against Saddam Hussein,” Mr. Cheney told the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a conservative policy group.

Democrats shot back immediately, with the party’s losing 2004 presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, saying, “It is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq” than Mr. Cheney.

Mr. Cheney made his remarks after two speeches from President Bush in recent days that painted Democrats as hypocrites for criticizing the Iraq war after earlier supporting the idea that Saddam should be deposed.

During a press conference today in Gyeongju, South Korea, Mr. Bush was asked about Mr. Cheney’s comments. “I agree with the vice president,” he said.

“I think people ought to be allowed to ask questions,” Mr. Bush said. “It is irresponsible to say that I deliberately misled the American people.”

The Republican National Committee posted on its Web site (www.rnc.org) a video compilation of statements by prominent Democrats — including several who have been mentioned as 2008 presidential candidates — who supported a hard line against Saddam.

“These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions that was made by this administration and by the previous administration,” Mr. Cheney said.

“The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone — but we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history,” he said.

He said there was “broad-based, bipartisan agreement” that Saddam was a threat, had violated United Nations Security Council resolutions and possessed banned weapons.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Mr. Cheney was “playing politics like he’s in the middle of a presidential campaign.”

“I would urge the members of the Bush administration to stop trying to resurrect their political standing by lashing out at their critics,” he said. “Instead, they need to focus on the job at hand, giving our troops a strategy for success in Iraq.”

Democrats have said they received their information on U.S. intelligence assessments about Saddam’s government from the administration. They have suggested that top administration figures manipulated that intelligence to make a stronger case for invasion.

In October 2002, the Senate voted 77-23 to give Mr. Bush the authority to invade Iraq, with the support of 29 Democrats, including Mr. Kerry and Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

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