|Defensive: Saddam’s legacy seen
behind Iraqi attacks on US troops
Highlighting Baathist hopes to retake the country, Rumsfeld said: “To the extent it’s not proven that he is not alive, there are people who might fear he could come back. If they fear he could come back they might be somewhat slower in an interrogation to say what they know.”
US forces have suffered almost daily casualties in the last few weeks, despite President Bush’s announcement on 2 May that the invasion was all but over.
Meanwhile, an explosion at an Iraqi ammunition supply depot has killed three Iraqis and wounded two others, the US Central Command said on Tuesday.
Occupation troops suffered no casualties in Monday morning’s blast in the southern city of Diwaniyah, Centcom said.
Later on Monday, a series of explosions ripped through another ammunitions depot, belonging to US troops in the central city of Karbala.
No casualties were reported but US forces established a four-kilometre buffer zone around the dump in response.
Centcom would not comment on whether the explosions were the result of Iraqi resistance to occupation, but said an investigation had also been launched.
Rumsfeld and US President George Bush also defended the administration’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq against those who say it was based on a lie, flatly denying they exaggerated the threat posed by the former Iraqi government.
However, a US Defense Intelligence Agency report written in September, but only made public earlier this week, stated there was “no reliable information” that Iraq was producing and stockpiling chemical weapons.
The report further fuels charges that the administration used intelligence selectively to support its case.
One Democrat has openly stepped up attacks on the administration for overstating or manipulating the intelligence.
“Even if we should find weapons of mass destruction, that won’t disguise the fact that they misled the American people,” Senator Bob Graham said on Monday, accusing the administration of soft-pedaling “the level of uncertainty” in intelligence reports.
US invites Japan
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Tuesday he’d like to see Japanese troops help with the reconstruction of Iraq, giving support to a government plan for a law to allow such deployment.
Japan’s pacifist constitution has been interpreted to mean the Self-Defence Force (SDF) is restricted to defending Japan but parliament has passed ad-hoc laws to allow troops to take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions and US military operations around Afghanistan.
Using a baseball analogy, Armitage said Japan ought to be on the playing field in Iraq, not in the stands as it was during the 1991 Gulf War when it pitched in $11 billion but sent no troops.
“You can’t play at all unless you’re on the baseball diamond,” he said after meeting Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s top aide.