At a military base in Pennsylvania, President George W. Bush used Veterans Day as an occasion to defend his Iraq policy. The speech comes after the release of more information earlier this week suggesting that the Bush administration used intelligence on an Iraq and Al-Qaeda connection that many in the government, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), knew was false in the winter of 2002. In response, Bush cited a letter intercepted in October 2005 from Al-Qaeda’s second in command, Zawahir to Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Despite questions about the letter’s authenticity and a statement from Al-Qaeda in Iraq charging that the letter was a fabrication, Bush used the letter as a segue into a discussion of the importance to the Iraq War in relation to the “war on terror.” Bush went on to state that “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” and attacked Democrats and anti-war critics for claiming that the intelligence on Iraq was manipulated. The President even read a quote from Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party presidential candidate in the last election, and used it to explain that over 100 Democrats in the House and Senate voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the United States to use military force in Iraq. Moreover, Bush described how “the stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges” and that the “baseless attacks” undermine the troops in Iraq.
The speech also came as new poll numbers released this week show that Bush’s job approval rating has fallen to 38% and that 6 in 10 US citizens believe that Bush “deliberately misled people” to increase support for the Iraq War. The Bush administration’s new strategy for dealing with critics of the war is to ignore evidence that the intelligence was greatly flawed, an assertion made by his own Presidential Commission on WMD Intelligence which found that the intelligence was “dead wrong,” while attacking Democrats for supporting the war at the time and changing their position now. Of course, this strategy, like previous attempts to link Iraq to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will likely fail to convince the majority of US citizens who realize that the Bush administration told repeated lies as part of a systematic campaign to gain public support for the invasion of Iraq that included more than 237 misleading statements from Bush administration officials.