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Bush Defends Decision to Go to War in Iraq - 2004-02-08

President Bush is again defending his decision to invade Iraq and says he will cooperate with a commission he has established to find out why pre-war intelligence appears to have mistakenly concluded that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

President Bush says he has given the commission more than a year to complete its work because he does not want their work to be hurried. In an interview with NBC television, Mr. Bush dismissed criticism that he is trying to avoid bad news in an election year by telling the commission not to report back until next March.

"We are in a political season," he said. "I fully understand people saying, 'He's trying to avoid responsibility.' "There is going to be ample time for the American people to assess whether or not I made good calls, whether or not I used good judgment, whether or not I made the right decision in removing Saddam Hussein from power. And I look forward to that debate."

Some Democrats say the president misled the country in making his case for war against Iraq. They want the commission to examine how the Bush Administration used pre-war intelligence to justify the invasion.

President Bush says the nine-member panel will take a broader look at how U.S. agencies gather intelligence information.

"This is a strategic look, kind of a big picture look about the intelligence-gathering capacities of the United States of America, whether it be the capacity to gather intelligence in North Korea or how we used our intelligence to learn more information about A.Q. Khan," he said.

CIA Director George Tenet says U.S. intelligence uncovered the illegal weapons business of Dr. Kahn, who brought nuclear weapons to Pakistan.

Despite the apparent shortfalls in intelligence, President Bush says it was the right decision to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a grave and gathering threat who tortured his own people. The president says a new government in Iraq will help spread democracy in the Middle East.