I grabbed it off yahoo for when Karl Rove orders it taken down.


White House Retreats From Weapons Claims
 
WASHINGTON - The White House retreated Monday from its once-confident claims that
Iraq (news - web sites) had weapons of mass destruction, and Democrats swiftly sought to
turn the about-face into an election-year issue against President Bush (news - web sites).
 
The administration's switch came after retired chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay said
he had concluded, after nine months of searching, that Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)
did not have stockpiles of forbidden weapons. Asked about Kay's remarks, White House
spokesman Scott McClellan refused to repeat oft-stated assertions that prohibited weapons
eventually would be found.

McClellan said the inspectors should continue their work "so that they can draw as complete
a picture as possible. And then we can learn it will help us learn the truth."

Kay, meanwhile, was called to appear at a public hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee
(news - web sites) on Wednesday and agreed to attend, a Senate aide said.

Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites), seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said Bush
had misled the nation. "When the president of the United States looks at you and tells you something,
there should be some trust," Kerry said from the campaign trail in Keene, N.H. "He's broken every
one of those promises."

Howard Dean (news - web sites), another Democratic candidate, said, "The White House has not
been candid with the American people about virtually anything with the Iraq war."

The U.S. war against terrorism is Bush's strongest suit against Democrats, and his handling of Iraq
has the approval of more than half of Americans questioned in polls. Analysts said it was doubtful
the weapons issue would hurt Bush much.

"It depends on how the Democrats play it," said James Thurber, director of the Center for
Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. "Basically they're dominating
the news as much as the president is these days, and if they continue to criticize the president o
n this, then it begins to hurt a little bit.

"But basically he is doing so well in the polls at this point, on the economy but also even on the war,
that I don't see it as a major hit," Thurber said.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle called for an investigation either by the Senate Intelligence
Committee or an independent commission into the "administration's role in the intelligence failures
leading up to the war with Iraq."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (news - web sites), another Democratic candidate, campaigning in New Hampshire,
also urged an investigation or congressional hearings "on the intelligence that some of us saw directly,
and the statements that the administration was making and the emphasis the administration was putting
on weapons of mass destruction."

Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites), meeting in Rome with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi,
did not answer when a reporter asked if he felt prewar intelligence was faulty. Cheney was one of the
administration's most forceful advocates of war and was outspoken in describing Iraq's alleged threat.

Kerry has questioned whether Cheney tried to pressure CIA (news - web sites) analysts who wrote
reports on Iraq's weapon programs.

A senior administration official on the Cheney trip said the "jury is still out" on whether the intelligence
accurately reflected what kind of weapons were in Iraq.

"Obviously we want to compare the intelligence from before the war with what the Iraq Survey Group
learns on the ground," McClellan said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites), traveling in Vienna, Austria, said the Iraq war was
justified, even if banned weapons are never found, because it eliminated the threat that Saddam might
again resort to "evil chemistry and evil biology."

Saddam's willingness to use such weapons was sufficient cause to overthrow his regime, Ashcroft said,
referring to the use of chemical and biological arms against Iraqi Kurds in 1988 and during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

McClellan made the same point. "The decision to remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power was
the right decision," he said. "Saddam Hussein was a dangerous and gathering threat, and the president
made the right decision to remove him from power."

Even before Kay announced his conclusion, Bush had changed his public rationale about the war as the
search for weapons proved fruitless. Bush cast it as a broader war against terrorism, calling Iraq the
central front, and said democracy would spread in the Middle East if it took hold in Iraq.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it was disappointing that inspectors have not found
evidence "of what the whole of the international community believes, and genuinely believed, about
weapons programs and weapons stockpiles which Saddam had."

Kay, in a weekend interview with National Public Radio, tried to deflect heat from Bush.

Asked whether Bush owed the nation an explanation for the discrepancies between his warnings and
Kay's findings, Kay said, "I actually think the intelligence community owes the president, rather than
the president owing the American people."


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