On the eve of tonight's crucial debate, President Bush and Vice President Cheney defended the decision to invade Iraq in the wake of a report from US inspector Charles Duelfer that concluded Saddam Hussein put his illicit weapons programs on hold following the 1991 Gulf War. Sen. Kerry continued to seize on the Duelfer report, and according to some observers succeeded in keeping Bush on the defensive. As CBS News Radio reported this morning, the WMD report "has become the latest political fodder for John Kerry."
The network newscasts highlighted the tough position the Duelfer report has put Bush in. ABC World News Tonight said Bush "was on the defensive," while Kerry "is now using the President's handling of Iraq as a primary reason to throw him out of office." CBS Evening News saw the President's "original case for war wounded yet again" and said "today's headlines were a gift John Kerry could only wish for." NBC Nightly News called the report "the biggest challenge yet to the rationale for war in Iraq."
The exchanges between Bush and Kerry were among the sharpest of the campaign season. Kerry told a campaign audience in Colorado, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States and the Vice President of the United States may well be the last two people on the planet who won't face the truth about Iraq." On the NBC Nightly News, the Democratic nominee was shown saying voters now have "definitive evidence" of why Bush shouldn't be reelected. The Washington Post says this morning Kerry used "some of the most contemptuous language he has used against the president and Vice President Cheney during their bitter campaign. He said the administration had 'aggrandized and fictionalized' the threat posed by Hussein in the run-up to the war, was unprepared for the war's aftermath and remained intransigent now that prewar intelligence has been undermined by a series of inspection reports."
Responding to Kerry in Wausau, Wisconsin, the President described Kerry as "as a deeply flawed, even dangerous alternative to him," says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Bush "defended his decision to go to war with Iraq, tossing back at Kerry quotes the Massachusetts senator himself made three years ago about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. 'Who can say that this master of miscalculation will not develop weapons of mass destruction even greater a nuclear weapon, the re-invasion of Kuwait, push the Kurds out, attack Israel any number of scenarios to further his ambitions,' Bush said, quoting Kerry. 'Now my opponent today tries to say I made up reasons to go to war. Just who is the one trying to mislead the American people?' Bush said to a roar of approval from the invited crowd of about 7,000 in Wausau's Marathon Park."
Bremer Clarifies Iraq Troop Level Statements, Defends Bush.
After his remarks in speeches earlier in the week appeared to cast doubt on the Administration's conduct of the occupation in Iraq, former Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator Paul Bremer weighed in with a op-ed to the New York Times. In recent days, Sen. Kerry's campaign has seized on Bremer's comments to attack President Bush's conduct of the war. Bremer acknowledged that he "said that the United States paid a price for not stopping the looting in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of major combat operations and that we did not have enough troops on the ground to accomplish that task." But he adds that "during the 14 months I was in Iraq, the administration, the military and I all agreed that the coalition's top priority was a broad, sustained effort to train Iraqis to take more responsibility for their own security." Bremer said "for the sake of honesty," John Kerry "should also point out that I have repeatedly said, including in all my speeches in recent weeks, that President Bush made a correct and courageous decision to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein's brutality, and that the president is correct to see the war in Iraq as a central front in the war on terrorism."
Computer Disk Found In Baghdad Contains Information On US Schools.
In a chilling development, US authorities in Iraq discovered that "someone described as a captured Iraqi insurgent had downloaded school floor plans" from "elementary schools and high schools in" six states in the US, according to the ABC Evening News. ABC noted that the Department of Education "has sent a letter to educators across the country" which encourages them "to learn from the tragedy of the school in Russia a few weeks ago by increasing security and being on the lookout for people who might be conducting surveillance." The New York Times reports, "American military officials in Iraq discovered the computer disk several months ago." In what "officials described as a precautionary move, the F.B.I. several weeks ago began contacting school districts to alert them to the material found on the disk and determine where the information had originated."