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FORD CHALLENGES BUSH ON WMDs, IRAQ UNREST

FORD CHALLENGES BUSH ON WMDs, IRAQ UNREST

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U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, a member of his party’s congressional Blue Dog caucus and of the equally moderate-to-conservative Democratic Leadership Council, continues, somewhat conspicuously, to try to find a middle way on Iraq and other national controversies. But, like Massachusetts senator John Kerry, whom he supports for president, Ford may be edging toward a position of sharper opposition to President Bush on some key issues. In a statement scheduled for release on Tuesday, Ford stayed well clear of the accusations of dishonesty that some Democrats have levied at Bush concerning the simmering WMD issue, but he called upon the president to publicly address the issue of “whether intelligence was twisted or exaggerated.” As Ford noted, "In January, the President came before the Congress and delivered a compelling case for immediate military action to be taken against Iraq. The case was predicated on Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against our interests at home and abroad.” Ford himself subsequently voted with a congressional majority to authorize Bush’s use of appropriate force to quell such a threat. A successful military campaign in Iraq targeting its then leader, Saddam Hussein, ensued -- but unrest and guerilla action have continued, and American troops seem consigned to an indefinite presence. . Ford’s statement expresses misgivings both about his vote for the war resolution and about the prospect of a quagmire in Iraq: “As much as I wanted a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, I believed that the President had sound intelligence to justify an invasion and a comprehensive plan in place to stabilize Iraq after a successful military campaign.” But, says the Ford statement, "Since President Bush declared the military effort successful and over in May, assertions about exaggerated claims of weapons of mass destruction and poor postwar planning abound. As a matter of fact, it is obvious from daily news reports that the Administration is struggling with bringing stability to Iraq. Moreover, a group of senators returning from the region last week report that our soldiers are growing restless and that Iraqis are less supportive of the U.S. presence. "Over the weekend, another disturbing claim was made by a respected foreign service officer -- that he had informed the Administration that the reports of Iraq attempting to purchase uranium from Niger were false. In spite of this, President Bush repeated these reports publicly and prominently in his State of the Union Address.” Ford’s statement concludes by “urging” Bush “[w]ith all the specificity the President can spare -- and without compromising the safety of the 146,000 troops who are struggling to maintain stability in an increasingly hostile environment” to “address the nation and the Congress in order to answer questions about whether intelligence was twisted or exaggerated and to discuss plans to rebuild Iraq.”

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