15
Jan
04

Kennedy Hits Bush On War (washingtonpost.com)

Kennedy Hits Bush On War (washingtonpost.com): “President Bush marketed the war on Iraq as a ‘political product’ to influence the 2002 elections and is doing so again this year, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) charged yesterday in a scathing speech accusing Bush of putting politics ahead of national security.
In a speech to the liberal Center for American Progress, Kennedy said the war has increased hatred for the United States abroad, diverted attention from the broader war against terrorism and put the country more “at risk” than it was before.

Kennedy, a leading Democratic liberal who was among the small minority of lawmakers to vote against the congressional authorization for war in 2002, has been criticizing Bush on Iraq for months, but rarely in such a sweeping fashion. He accused the administration of distorting intelligence and pursuing an ideological agenda in building the case for war.

“No president of the United States should employ misguided ideology and distortion of the truth to take the nation to war,” he said. “In doing so, the president broke the basic bond of trust between the government and the people. If Congress and the American people knew the whole truth, America would never have gone to war.”

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) denounced the speech, calling it a “hateful attack against the commander in chief.” He said 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.”

Kennedy referred approvingly to an assertion by former Treasury secretary Paul H. O’Neill in a new book that Bush began planning for war against Iraq shortly after taking office in 2001. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has denied the assertion, but Kennedy indicated he believes it, praising O’Neill’s “integrity, intelligence and vision” and saying the book has “now revealed what many of us have long suspected.”

Kennedy said “the steamroller of war was moving into high gear” by fall of 2002. “The administration insisted that Congress vote to authorize the war before it adjourned for the November elections. Why? Because the debate in Congress would distract attention from the troubled economy and the troubled effort to capture [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden. The strategy was to focus on Iraq and do so in a way that would divide the Congress. And it worked.”

Now, Kennedy said, “there is little doubt as well that the administration’s plan to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people by this summer — and the pressure to hold elections in Afghanistan at that time — are intended to build momentum for the November elections in this country.” The war, he said, “could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy.”

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