Bush confident of finding banned Iraqi weapons
President hits back at critics on WMD question
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush dismissed what he called "revisionist history" about the war in Iraq on Tuesday, and his spokesman said the president is still confident a Pentagon-led search will find Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.
Bush has said the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was necessary to strip Baghdad of stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Two months after former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's ouster, no such weapons have been found.
Bush said Tuesday that Saddam's ouster removed a threat to the United States and its allies.
"I know there's a lot of revisionist history now going on, but one thing is certain -- he is no longer a threat to the free world, and the people of Iraq are free," he said during a speech at a community college in Virginia.
It was the second day in a row that Bush has used the "revisionist" label to hit back at critics who are questioning the president's justification for war. Bush and his main ally in the Iraq war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have been accused of overstating the Iraqi threat before the war.
Robin Cook, Blair's former House of Commons leader, said Tuesday that evidence that did not support the government's warnings of an Iraqi threat was ignored.
"I think it would probably be fair to say that there was a selection of evidence to support the conclusion rather than a conclusion that arose from a full consideration of the evidence," Cook, a former foreign secretary, told a parliamentary committee.
Before the war, Bush, Blair and other officials argued that action was necessary against Iraq because it had chemical and biological weapons and was trying to obtain nuclear weapons. They warned that Saddam could provide the weapons to terrorists to attack the United States and its allies.
"We made it clear to the dictator of Iraq that he must disarm," Bush said Tuesday, not specifically mentioning weapons of mass destruction. "We asked other nations to join us in seeing to it that he would disarm, and he chose not to do so, so we disarmed him."
Iraq repeatedly insisted that it had destroyed its chemical and biological weapons, as required by the cease-fire that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991. U.N. inspectors found no sign of such weapons, but they said Baghdad was unable to account for chemical or biological weapons it claimed to have destroyed. The United States and Britain argued that Baghdad had hidden them.
"We still are in an environment where whatever they hid and whatever they concealed could remain hidden and concealed," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Bush "has every confidence the intelligence he received was accurate intelligence, and weapons of mass destruction will be found," he said.
Saddam's government collapsed April 9 ahead of advancing U.S. troops. Those troops are still facing resistance from his supporters in Iraq and have struggled to restore basic services, as well as law and order.
Since Bush declared the end of major combat operations in May, 50 American troops have been killed in ambushes or accidents in Iraq.
After searching more than 300 sites suspected of harboring weapons of mass destruction, all U.S. forces have found are two tractor-trailers that Pentagon officials say could have been used as mobile biological weapons laboratories. A 1,300-member Pentagon-led survey team has taken over the search effort.
Fleischer said the Clinton administration and numerous members of Congress, including several Democrats planning to challenge Bush in 2004, also believed Iraq harbored banned weapons.
"The president has said before that he is patient, the American people are patient, and he is confident that in time we will find this," Fleischer said.