On Veterans' Day, the president fought back. In a major speech Friday at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania, President Bush defended the war in Iraq. Most notably, he defended the probity and honesty with which his administration made the case for the war to remove Saddam. At last, the president confronted the slander that he "lied us into war" — a slander propagated by his opponents with amazing success.
Here is the key passage in Bush's 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. Some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs. They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: 'When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat and a grave threat to our security.' That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.
And then the president went on offense:
These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that, whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united and we will settle for nothing less than victory.
Bush's counterpunch hit home. Ted Kennedy was upset. He found the speech "deeply regrettable." How dare the president try "to rebuild his own credibility?" How dare the president defend his honor — and the country's? For the nation's honor is at stake, too. If we went to war based on lies told by our president, then it is a disgrace to us all. It is a further disgrace that we reelected him. It is yet a further disgrace that Congress continues to support this war, by appropriating funds for it. It is a disgrace that Senator Kennedy has not moved to have the president impeached.