President Bush, in the most forceful defense yet of his Iraq war policy, accused critics Friday of trying to rewrite history and charged that they’re undercutting America’s forces on the front lines.
“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,” the president said in his combative Veterans Day speech.
“While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began,” the president said.
Bush’s combative defense of his policy came at a time of growing doubts and criticism about a war that has claimed the lives of more than 2,050 members of the U.S. military. As casualties have climbed, Bush’s popularity has dropped. His approval rating now is at 37 percent in the latest AP-Ipsos poll, an all time low point of his presidency.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., quickly returned Bush’s criticism.
“Its deeply regrettable that the president is using Veterans Day as a campaign-like attempt to rebuild his own credibility by tearing down those who seek the truth about the clear manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war,” Kennedy said in a statement.
“Instead of providing open and honest answers about how we will achieve success in Iraq and allow our troops to begin to come home,” Kennedy said, “the president reverted to the same manipulation of facts to justify a war we never should have fought.”
The president spoke at the Tobyhanna Army Depot on a stage decorated with posters that said “Strategy for Victory.”
His appearance came as his primary justification for the 2003 invasion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction has come under fresh attack on Capitol Hill. Democrats have seized on the indictment of a now-resigned senior White House aide in the CIA leak case to shine the spotlight on how the president and other officials used intelligence about Iraq in the weeks and months leading up to the war.