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Thursday, June 24

Gore blasts Bush's Iraq strategy

By Larry Bivins | GNS

WASHINGTON - As Americans think about whom they want to lead them for the next four years, their views may be distorted by a president who persists in lying about the connection between 9/11 terrorists and Iraq, former Vice President Al Gore warned Thursday.

In a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, Gore accused President Bush of abusing his powers and playing on the emotions of Americans to wage a campaign of deception for political gain.

Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee, said that soon after the strikes that destroyed the World Trade Center and heavily damaged the Pentagon, Bush began linking al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein `'in a cynical mantra designed to fuse them together as one in the public's eye.''

Bush and Vice President Cheney were so effective, Gore noted, that nearly three out of four Americans believed Hussein had a role in the 9/11 attacks. Many of those Americans still support the war against Iraq, Gore added, despite mounting evidence that there was no link between Hussein and bin Laden.

"They have such an overwhelming political interest in sustaining the belief in the minds of the American people that Hussein was in partnership with bin Laden,'' Gore said, `'that they dare not admit the truth lest they look like complete fools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever.''

The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said last week that while there was some contact between al-Qaida and Iraq, there was no credible evidence that Iraq was involved in the attacks. Nevertheless, the White House maintained that Iraq provided a haven for terrorists.

Gore, who spoke in sober tones, was less fiery than in previous attacks on Bush's Iraq policy. Last month, he called for the resignations of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Republicans have tried to paint Gore as a marksman for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and a shrill sore loser.

`'Al Gore's history of denial of the threat of terrorism is no less dangerous in his role as John Kerry's surrogate than it was in the 1990s in his role as vice president, a time when Osama bin Laden was declaring war on the United States five different times,'' said Jim Dyke, a spokesman for the National Republican Committee.

Thursday's event was sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, a progressive group of lawyers, so it seemed appropriate that Gore's remarks would be predicated on the musings of the nation's Founding Fathers as they wrote the document that is the foundation of American democracy.

`'I think it is safe to say that our founders would be genuinely concerned about these recent developments in American democracy,'' Gore said, `'and they would feel that we are now facing a clear and present danger that has the potential to threaten the future of the American experiment.''

Gore said that Bush has bullied Congress, the courts and the media into abdicating their respective roles in maintaining a check and balance in the system.

Gore said that while other presidents have pushed the envelope of power - he singled out Richard Nixon, who resigned over the Watergate scandal - `'there has never been this kind of systematic abuse of the truth and institutionalization of dishonesty as a routine part of the policy process.''