One of the U.S. Senate's most senior Democrats is accusing President Bush of
exaggerating the threat that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed to the world. Massachusetts
Senator Ted Kennedy used a speech Friday to question why CIA Director George
Tenet waited until last month to say that Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction
did not pose an imminent danger.
Senator Kennedy launched one of his party's strongest attacks yet on President
Bush's decision to go to war, accusing him of deliberately manipulating the
threat posed by Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which
have yet to be found. In his speech, the senator used some of the administration's
own words against it.
"Nuclear weapons. Mushroom cloud. Unique and urgent threat. Real and dangerous
threats. Grave threat. This was the administration's rallying cry for war.
But those were not the words of the intelligence community. The community recognized
that Saddam was a threat, but it never suggested the threat was imminent or
immediate or urgent," he said.
Now, nearly a year after the start of the war, Senator Kennedy wants to know
why CIA Director George Tenet did not come forward earlier with this assessment,
offered in a speech only last month, about what U.S. intelligence officials
believed about Iraq's weapons programs.
"They never said there was an imminent threat," he said.
Senator Kennedy questioned why other top Bush administration officials, in
the period before the war, continued to make public statements that were not,
in his view, supported by fact.
"Why wasn't CIA Director Tenet correcting the president and the vice president
and the secretary of defense a year ago, when it could have made a difference,
when it could have prevented a needless war, when it could have saved so many
lives?" he said.
White House spokesman Scott McCellan said there was nothing new in Senator
Kennedy's charges and that they were just as false as when he made them before.
"I don't think this is the first time we've heard Senator Kennedy make such
unsubstantiated and baseless charges. And I imagine that given that it's an
election year, it won't be the last time," he said.
A consistently outspoken Bush critic, Senator Kennedy is playing a prominent
role in the presidential campaign of fellow Massachusetts Senator John Kerry
and told his audience to vote for Mr. Kerry in November.