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Bush defends Iraq war in face of WMD findings

President Bush said he has
President Bush said he has "great confidence" in the U.S. intelligence community.

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Despite the recent statements by Iraq weapons inspector David Kay declaring no WMD in Iraq, President Bush defends his decision to go to war. CNN's Dana Bash reports (January 27)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush remained steadfast Tuesday that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had made the world safer, even as investigators have failed to find weapons of mass destruction -- a key reason cited for going to war.

"There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a grave and gathering threat to America and the world," Bush said, speaking to reporters at the White House in an appearance with Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, a U.S. ally in Iraq.

The United States invaded Iraq in March after the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein's regime had failed to comply with U.N. resolutions requiring it to give up all chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

David Kay, former director of the Iraq Survey Group, a CIA/Pentagon team searching for weapons programs, has said he found no evidence to suggest that Iraq was producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons before the war. (Full story)

Top Bush administration officials had warned that Saddam's government could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorists -- an argument Bush repeated Tuesday after a meeting with the Polish leader.

"We know he was a dangerous man in a dangerous part of the world," Bush said. "We know that he defied the United Nations year after year after year. And given the offense of September 11, we know we could not trust the good intentions of Saddam Hussein because he didn't have any."

Bush said he has "great confidence" in the U.S. intelligence community.

"I think it's very important for us to let the Iraq Survey Group do its work, so we can find out the facts and compare the facts to what was thought," he said.

Kay resigned as the group's director last week. Charles Duelfer, a longtime U.N. weapons inspector, will replace him. (Full story)

In an interview Monday night with NBC, Kay said that prewar intelligence regarding Iraq was "clearly" wrong -- that his inspectors found no sign of weapons of mass destruction or a "real connection" between Iraq and terrorists.

But he said Baghdad was becoming "more dangerous in the last two years than even we realized" because "Saddam was not controlling the society any longer."

"In the marketplace of terrorism and WMD, Iraq well could have been that supplier if the war had not intervened," Kay said.

Democratic presidential hopefuls have seized on Kay's comments to argue that Bush misled the country about the war.

"When the president of the United States looks at you and tells you something, there should be some trust," said Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner heading into the New Hampshire primary.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose opposition to the war propelled his candidacy into the Democratic front ranks, said Monday he "wasn't entirely shocked" by Kay's remarks.

"They clearly tried to gin up every piece of intelligence to try to get us to go into that war," Dean said.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a Democratic presidential candidate who voted against the congressional resolution authorizing Bush to go to war, said the United States could have avoided a costly and dangerous occupation if it had listened to U.N. inspectors.

"We cannot take the president off the hook for an illegal war that was based on lies," Kucinich said.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle on Monday called for an independent look into "the intelligence failures leading up to war with Iraq," saying it was the Senate's obligation to do so.

The Bush administration went ahead with the invasion in the face of opposition from some members of the U.N. Security Council and reports by U.N. weapons inspectors that they had found no sign of renewed weapons programs to date.

Addressing the nation March 19, the night of the invasion, Bush said U.S.-led forces were "in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." (Full story)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who helped Bush make the case for war, also has come under pressure over the weapons issue. Blair and several key officials may face criticism this week when Lord Hutton publishes his report into the death of weapons expert David Kelly. (Full story)

More than 500 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq. More than 100,000 American troops remain in Iraq, battling insurgents opposed to the occupation.

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