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Bush Defends Use of Pre-War Intelligence

President Bush says opposition Democrats who are questioning his use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq are hurting U.S. troops fighting terrorism abroad. Some Democrats are pushing for an investigation into what they say was the president's manipulation of that intelligence to justify the U.S. invasion.

President Bush says Americans are free to disagree about the war in Iraq, but he says it is irresponsible to try and rewrite the history of how that war began.

The Bush administration admits that it was wrong in many of its claims about the immediacy of the threat from Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. That was the president's biggest justification for toppling Saddam Hussein, but none of those weapons have been found.

While Mr. Bush says he accepts responsibility for what has taken place in Iraq, he rejects allegations that he purposefully misrepresented pre-war threats to rally public opinion behind military action.

"Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war," said Mr. Bush. "These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs."

In a speech marking Veterans' Day, President Bush said intelligence services around the world agreed about the Iraqi threat, a view which he says was shared by former President Bill Clinton as well as his Democratic challenger in the last election, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

"Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force if necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat and a grave threat to our security," he added.

Among the leading critics of the president and his decision to go to war is Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean. He spoke on MSNBC television.

"All this started, frankly, because of the Iraq war. The president did not tell the truth when we got in. I think we now know that," said Mr. Dean.

Democratic Congressman Robert Menendez is part of a push to investigate what the Administration knew about Iraqi weapons before the invasion. He says lawmakers have an obligation to find out how President Bush decided to go to war and what role White House officials had in revealing the identity of a CIA official whose husband has been critical of the war.

"It is past time for Congress to take back its right to act as a check and balance against the executive," said Mr. Menendez. "It is past time for Congress to fulfill its obligation to the American people and demand information on the Iraq war and the leaking of the name of a CIA operative. It is past time for Congress to fulfill its responsibility to oversee the president and the executive branch."

President Bush says critics of his use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq are hurting U.S. troops and emboldening America's enemies.

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," explained Mr. Bush. "These baseless attacks send the wrong signals to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will."

Mr. Bush says American troops deserve to know that elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them when the going gets tough.

"And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush's speech was his most aggressive denunciation yet of critics questioning his use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Public opinion polls show the president's approval ratings falling to the lowest levels of his presidency as more Americans question whether the war in Iraq is worth the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. troops.