Bush Asserts Pre-Emptive Strikes Policy
Published on Monday, July 12, 2004 by the Financial Times/UK
Bush Asserts Pre-Emptive Strikes Policy
by Edward Alden in Washington

President George W. Bush said on Monday his administration would maintain its policy of pre-empting potential security threats despite growing doubts over the adequacy of US intelligence to assess such dangers.

In a speech at the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in Tennessee, Mr Bush made clear he would not rethink the approach after Friday's damning report by the Senate intelligence committee. The report concluded that the Central Intelligence Agency made serious errors in asserting that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction.

While acknowledging that the report "has identified some shortcomings in our intelligence capabilities", he said that would not cause him to reconsider the approach that led the US to invade Iraq.

"America must remember the lessons of September the 11th," Mr Bush said. "We must confront serious dangers before they fully materialize."

The president said that before the US went to war with Iraq, the administration, Congress and the United Nations Security Council all agreed intelligence showed that Iraq posed a serious threat.

"Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq," Mr Bush said. The war removed an enemy "who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder and could have passed that capability to terrorists".

The Senate findings have fueled an already bitter election-year debate over Iraq, even though John Kerry, the Democratic presidential hopeful, and John Edwards, his running mate, both voted for the Senate resolution authorizing war against Iraq.

Mr Kerry said on the weekend that the Senate findings bolster his argument that Mr Bush misled the country in launching a war that has hurt the US. He refused, however, to reconsider his vote, saying that "based on the information we had, it was the correct vote".

But Dick Cheney, the vice president, accused the Democrats on Monday of developing "a convenient case of campaign amnesia". He said Mr Kerry and Mr Edwards "are criticizing the president for looking at the same information that they did and coming to the same conclusion that [he] did. If the president was right, and he was, then they are simply trying to rewrite history for their own political purposes."

Mr Bush's trip to Oak Ridge, where remnants of Libya's dismantled nuclear program are being stored, was aimed at bolstering the argument that his strategy of pre-emption has made America more secure. He said his administration was "leading a steady, confident, systematic campaign against the dangers of our time", which has thinned the ranks of the terrorists.

© 2004 Financial Times