Democrats may turn WMD into election issue

US Democratic presidential contenders sought to turn the Bush administration’s inability to provide evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into an election issue over the weekend. Candidates drew parallels between the current situation and the Watergate scandal.

Democrat presidential hopeful
Carol Moseley Braun

During a rally on Sunday in the state of Iowa, several candidates accused the White House of lying to the American people.

US Senator Bob Graham of Florida described the most recent reports that the administration may have inflated the alleged threat of Iraq as “the latest outrage”.

Graham said the American public should have known that intelligence reports may have been over-exaggerated before Washington launched its war on 20 March.

The Florida Senator said the White House had not yet revealed how much the occupation would cost.

“There has been a pattern of deception and unwillingness to share with the American people from the very beginning of this administration,” he said.

“Even if we should find weapons of mass destruction, that won’t disguise the fact that they misled the American people.”

Graham added the administration did not tell Americans about the “level of uncertainty” contained in intelligence reports used to justify the invasion.

Representative Dennis Kucinich, who was opposed to the invasion from the start, called on fellow Democrats to challenge Bush on the weapons issue.

“They’ve misrepresented the cause of war in Iraq,” he said, calling for proof that Baghdad possessed WMD.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean compared the present situation to the Watergate scandal, which broke out over charges of Republican spying against Democrats and brought down President Richard Nixon in 1974.

“The American people are now faced with this question that we heard almost 30 years ago: ‘What did the President know and when did he know it?’”

Another presidential candidate, former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun called the Iraq war a “misadventure” that is distracting Washington from fighting al-Qaeda and addressing domestic issues.

Powell insisted Iraq was hiding
WMD, despite mounting doubts

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” programme Braun said while billions of dollars would be poured into Iraq, schools across America were crumbling.

Firm belief

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell stood by his February statement to the United Nations Security Council in which he outlined US claims that Iraq was hiding WMD.

“Not only have I been studying this for many, many years, but, as I prepared that statement I worked very closely with the Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet,” said Powell. He was speaking on the “Fox News Sunday” programme.

Powell insisted he spent days working with the CIA to ensure his statement was backed by intelligence reports.

US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice also insisted on another TV programme that weapons would be found in Iraq, despite growing doubts that they have ever existed. 

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