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Bush Again Defends Decision to Go to War with Iraq - 2004-02-05


President Bush has again defended his decision to go to war in Iraq. In a speech at the windswept port of Charleston, South Carolina, the president said the liberation of Iraq was an act of justice and the right thing to do.

With Charleston harbor to his back and a coast guard ship nearby, the president called attention to his national security record.

"I made a pledge to this country," the president noted. "I will not stand by and hope for the best while dangers gather."

Mr. Bush said deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein proved he had the intent and the will to use weapons of mass destruction. He cited the comments of former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay, who said large stockpiles have not and may not be found. But the president stressed the search must continue.

"As the chief weapons inspector said, we have not yet found the stockpiles of weapons that we thought were there. Yet the survey group has uncovered some of what the dictator was up to," he said.

President Bush built his case for war largely around the assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

In his speech in South Carolina, Mr. Bush did not say such weapons will never be uncovered. Instead he focused on other evidence provided by the inspectors - evidence that Iraq had the capability to produce chemical and biological weapons and was working on new delivery systems.

"Knowing what I knew then, and knowing what I do today, America did the right thing in Iraq," he said.

The president stressed that America must stay on the offensive in the war on terrorism, both at home and abroad. He said one important consideration is port safety, noting that Charleston is one of the busiest container ports in the country.

"We are determined to keep lethal weapons and materials out of the hands of our enemies and away from our shores," he said.

President Bush went to South Carolina just two days after that state's Democratic presidential primary, which was won by Senator John Edwards of neighboring North Carolina.

During the flight from Washington to Charleston, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan was asked by reporters if the Democrats are determining the president's travel schedule. Mr. McClellan said there are a lot of primaries taking place these days, and President Bush is going to continue traveling the country to talk about action he is taking to boost America's national and economic security.

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