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Bush raps 'revisionist historians' on Iraq

Administration criticized on WMD question

Bush greets small-business owners in Elizabeth, New Jersey, after a speech Monday.
Bush greets small-business owners in Elizabeth, New Jersey, after a speech Monday.

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ELIZABETH, New Jersey (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday strongly defended the U.S.-led war to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein against "revisionist historians" he suggested were trying to diminish the threat once posed by the deposed Iraqi leader.

The president made his comments on Iraq as he addressed a group of business leaders about the economy, touting recent tax cuts he signed into law as the kind of boost small businesses need.

But, as he often does when addressing audiences outside Washington, he talked about the war on terrorism, and he briefly turned his attention to Iraq.

"This nation acted to a threat from the dictator of Iraq," Bush said. "Now there are some who would like to rewrite history -- revisionist historians is what I like to call them.

"Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and the free world in '91, in '98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world, so the United States and friends and allies acted."

To applause, Bush added, "And this is for certain: Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States and our friends and allies."

The president's comments followed weeks of criticism from some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, and critics in Europe who question whether the administration manipulated intelligence data on Iraq to bolster its case for war.

In particular, some have said the administration exaggerated Saddam's development of weapons of mass destruction, a claim various Bush aides have rejected.

The president never directly mentioned the WMD question in his comments and he never mentioned anyone by name.

But his use of the phrase "revisionist historians" is similar to a line used by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who earlier this month warned against "revisionist history" in the context of Iraqi WMD.

Some Democrats, however, continue to push for public congressional hearings into the matter.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday his panel would likely issue a public report and may hold public hearings after a closed review of U.S. intelligence used to build the Bush administration's case for war against Iraq.

"We are going to have administration officials," Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told CBS's "Face the Nation."

"I issued an open invitation to anybody who believes their analytical product was skewed in any way, or if they were intimidated or if they were coerced, that they can come to us. We've already had one individual say that he'd like to do that.

"At the end of the hearings, we will probably have a classified report and an open report and possibly a public hearing if we think it is warranted," Roberts said.

The House Intelligence Committee and Senate Armed Services Committees are participating in the review, which falls short of a formal congressional investigation.

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