Bush 'misled every one of us', says rival for White House

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The Independent US

The leading Democratic presidential contender John Kerry has brought the Iraqi weapons controversy to the forefront of the White House race, accusing George Bush of "misleading every one of us" when he took the US to war against Saddam Hussein.

Senator Kerry said the President made the case for war based on at least two faulty intelligence findings - that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger, and that the Baghdad regime had drones able to mount biological attacks on the US. Mr Kerry, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, said Mr Bush broke his promise to build an international coalition against Saddam and then waged a war based on questionable intelligence. "He misled every one of us," the Massachusetts Senator said. "That's one reason why I'm running to be President of the United States."

Despite Mr Kerry's robust language, it remains to be seen whether his broadside will ignite a political debate on Iraq's missing weapons. The debate in the United States has been relatively low key compared with the controversy in Britain, despite the post-conflict turmoil which has seen several American soldiers killed by Iraqis.

One reason that Mr Bush has had an easier ride than Tony Blair is the continuing public support for the war. The divisions among the nine Democrats seeking to win his job in 2004 have also helped. Three of the main candidates, Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator John Edwards and the former House minority leader Dick Gephardt, have strongly backed the war. Two other candidates, the former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Senator Bob Graham, have sharply questioned pre-war intelligence and the use made of it by the Bush administration.

But none of them has the stature on security issues of Mr Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran who later became a vehement opponent of that war.

On Iraq, he has been somewhere in the middle. He supported the congressional resolution last autumn giving Mr Bush the right to use force against Saddam, yet has been a strong critic of how the President went about the job.

But he has not always judged the mood right, running into a storm of criticism on the eve of the war when he suggested that there was a need for regime change in Washington as well as Baghdad.

He is on safer ground now, with his call for a full-scale investigation on Capitol Hill. Mr Kerry said said that it was too early to conclude whether or not war with Iraq was justified. But a congressional investigation into US intelligence on Iraq was essential.

He said: "I will not let him off the hook throughout this campaign with respect to America's credibility and credibility to me, because if he lied, he lied to me personally."

He said that it was not clear whether Mr Bush acted on poor, distorted or politicised intelligence. "I don't have the answer," Mr Kerry said. "I want the answer and the American people deserve the answer. I will get to the bottom of this."

* Former vice-president Al Gore, once a newspaper reporter, may be returning to the media business.

Mr Gore has been meeting potential investors interested in establishing a cable television network, according to Time magazine's online edition. Democrats are reportedly keen to launch a network to counter dominant Republican voices in the American media.