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Kennedy: Iraq war based on politics

U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy calls the invasion of Iraq
U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy calls the invasion of Iraq "a war of choice."

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Edward Kennedy

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, an elder statesman among liberal Democrats, slammed President Bush and his administration for going to war in Iraq based on political considerations.

In a speech Wednesday, Kennedy said the decision to invade Iraq was grounded in the "gross abuse of intelligence," an "arrogant disrespect for the United Nations" and the GOP's desire to seize control of both houses of Congress in 2002.

The senator from Massachusetts spoke to the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

He was flanked by Brian and Alma Hart, whose son John was killed in Iraq, and Army Sgt. Peter Damon, who lost both arms serving in Iraq.

Kennedy called the invasion of Iraq "a war of choice, not of necessity" and laid out what he called a timeline of the "drumbeat to war" that he said began in the earliest days of the Bush presidency.

In support of his criticism, Kennedy cited recent revelations about Iraq policy by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in the Ron Suskind book "The Price of Loyalty" and in TV and magazine interviews.

"Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has now revealed what many of us have long suspected," Kennedy said.

"Despite protestations to the contrary, the president and his senior aides began the march to war in Iraq in the earliest days of the administration, long before the terrorists struck this nation on 9/11."

Bush officials have denied the administration had a predisposition to invade Iraq, saying the White House was continuing former President Clinton's policy of regime change.

The senator insisted the Bush administration built the case for war as a distraction from the failed search for Osama bin Laden and the failure to roust al Qaeda in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In going to war, Kennedy said, the administration made the United States "a lesser and less respected land."

There was "no compelling reason for war," and "the war has not made America safer," Kennedy said, adding that there is no convincing evidence connecting Saddam Hussein's Iraq and September 11.

Kennedy said the administration continues to be guided by a "misguided and arrogant foreign policy" that makes the world more dangerous because it increases the threat of terrorism and erodes international of support for the United States.

He said Americans will see through the administration's failed polices and express their anger at the voting booth in November.

"The election cannot come too soon," he said.

Kennedy has been a consistent critic of the administration's policy toward Iraq. He was one of 23 senators who opposed the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war.

In a September interview, the senator called the war "a fraud" that had been cooked up in Texas.

Leading congressional Republicans denounced his remarks. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas said Kennedy went too far and called on Democrats to repudiate his comments. (Full story)

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