A prominent U.S. Senate Democrat is accusing the Bush administration of breaking faith with the American people by waging what he calls "an unnecessary war" with Iraq. Senator Ted Kennedy says the administration used the war and its aftermath for Republican political gain.
Senator Kennedy says the Bush administration came to office determined to find a rationale for ousting former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
In a speech in Washington, Mr. Kennedy said the White House capitalized on the fear created by the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States and 'distorted the truth' about Iraq's weapons programs to justify going to war.
He said the decision to go to war, "could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy."
"No president of the United States should employ misguided ideology and distortion of the truth to take the nation to war," said Senator Kennedy. "In doing so, the president broke the basic bond of trust between government and the people. If Congress and the American people knew the whole truth, America would never have gone to war."
Mr. Kennedy, the leading liberal Democrat in the Senate, praised President Bush's former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill for his comments this week that the administration began planning the Iraq war long before the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The administration has denied such assertions, saying the president decided to go to war last March, only after all other options were exhausted.
In his speech, Senator Kennedy said the administration's decision to go to war, and to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people were timed to influence U.S. congressional elections in 2002 and President Bush's re-election campaign this year.
But at the same time, Mr. Kennedy acknowledged the United States cannot abandon Iraq.
"We cannot simply walk away from the wreckage of a war we never should have fought, so that President Bush can wage a political campaign based on dubious boasts of success," he said. "Our overarching interest now is in the creation of a new Iraqi government that has legitimacy in the eyes of its own citizens, so that in the years ahead, the process of constructing democratic institutions and creating a stable peace can be completed. The date of Iraq's transition must not be determined by the date of U.S. elections."
Mr. Kennedy also took issue with the Bush administration view that the war with Iraq has made the United States safer.
"The war has made America more hated in the world, especially in the Islamic world," continued Senator Kennedy. "And it has made our people more vulnerable to attacks both here and overseas. By far the most serious consequence of the unjustified and unnecessary war in Iraq is that it made the war on terrorism harder to win. We knocked al-Qaida down in the war in Afghanistan, but we let it regroup by going to war in Iraq."
Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network are blamed for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.