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[casi] Quote of the day ....

Quote of the day ....:

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer:
"I think the burden is on those people who think he [Saddam] didn't have
weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."


July 9, 2003
Bush Defends War, Sidestepping Issue of Faulty Intelligence


RETORIA, South Africa, July 9  President Bush brushed aside questions today
about the accuracy of a piece of evidence he used to justify war with Iraq,
saying he was "absolutely confident" he made the right decision to use
military force to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Speaking at a news conference here with President Thabo Mbeki of South
Africa, Mr. Bush did not directly answer a question about whether he
regretted including in his State of the Union address this year a statement
that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium in Africa for use in a nuclear
weapons program. The White House acknowledged on Monday that the
intelligence behind the statement was incomplete and perhaps inaccurate,
drawing criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill who said it raised doubts
about the administration's case for the war.

But Mr. Bush, in his first comments on the matter, made clear that the
specific piece of evidence in question did not make any difference to his
basic position that Mr. Hussein's government posed a threat to the United
States and the stability of the Middle East.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to world
peace," Mr. Bush said. "And there's no doubt in my mind that the United
States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him
from power. And there's no doubt in my mind, when it's all said and done,
the facts will show the world the truth."

The administration's failure so far to find any substantial caches of
chemical or biological weapons and the weakening of its case that Mr.
Hussein was trying to rebuild his nuclear program have fed the longstanding
and deep skepticism among many opponents of the war that Iraq was as much of
a threat as Mr. Bush made it out to be.

Some Democrats have seized on the doubts about the accuracy of the
intelligence on the uranium as new justification for a full-scale
investigation, seeking to put Mr. Bush on the defensive over his handling of
the war at a time when his reelection campaign is stressing his role as
commander in chief of a continuing war against terrorism.

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said the Bush administration was
being "forthright" in acknowledging that information that it received after
the State of the Union address led it to pull back the assertion that Iraq
had been trying to purchase uranium in Niger, in West Africa.

"This information should not have risen to the level of a presidential
speech," Mr. Fleischer said. "There was reporting, although it wasn't very
specific, about Iraq's seeking to obtain uranium from Africa."

But he also suggested that the White House continued to put some store in
the intelligence that was the basis of Mr. Bush's statement.

"Just because something didn't make it to the level where it should have
been included in a presidential speech, in hindsight, doesn't mean the
information was necessarily inaccurate," Mr. Fleischer said.

The White House has faced questions about Mr. Bush's assertion about the
uranium purchase for months, and they intensified this week after an article
was published on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times on Sunday by Joseph C.
Wilson 4th, a former ambassador who was sent last year to Niger to
investigate reports of the attempted purchase. Mr. Wilson, who said he was
dispatched after Vice President Dick Cheney's office took an interest in the
matter, reported back that the intelligence was likely fraudulent.

But Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Wilson's report was vague and did not
specifically address the main problem with the intelligence, that documents
purporting to document Iraq's efforts were almost certainly forged.

"He spent eight days in Niger and concluded that Niger denied the
allegation," Mr. Fleischer said. "Well, typically nations don't admit to
going around nuclear nonproliferation."

He said there had been "other reporting" beyond the apparently forged
documents about Mr. Hussein's efforts to acquire a lightly processed form of
uranium known as yellow cake, but did not specify what it was.

"I think the American people continue to express their support for ridding
the world of Saddam Hussein based on just cause, knowing that Saddam Hussein
had chemical and biological weapons that were unaccounted for that we're
still confident we'll find," Mr. Fleischer said. "I think the burden is on
those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell
the world where they are."

Mr. Bush said that the United States had underestimated how close Mr.
Hussein was to building a nuclear weapon in 1991, before the first Persian
Gulf war, and that there had long been evidence that Iraq was trying again.
He dismissed the criticism of his justification for war as "attempts to try
to rewrite history."

"Imagine a world in which this tyrant had a nuclear weapon," Mr. Bush said.

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