LEBANON, N.H. – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Wednesday that President Bush broke his promise to build an international coalition against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and then waged a war based on questionable intelligence.
“He misled every one of us,” Kerry said. “That’s one reason why I’m running to be president of the United States.”
Kerry said Bush made his case for war based on at least two pieces of U.S. intelligence that now appear to be wrong — that Iraq sought nuclear material from Africa and that Saddam’s regime had aerial weapons capable of attacking the United States with biological material.
Still, Kerry said it is too early to conclude whether or not war with Iraq was justified. There needs to be a congressional investigation into U.S. intelligence on Iraq, he said.
“I will not let him off the hook throughout this campaign with respect to America’s credibility and credibility to me because if he lied he lied to me personally,” he said.
Kerry fielded several questions about Iraq from a small group of anti-war Democrats after he addressed about 250 people in a downtown Lebanon park.
Kerry supported the war and said Wednesday, “I’m glad Saddam Hussein is gone.” But the Massachusetts senator has criticized the president’s diplomatic efforts. He that concern Wednesday saying Bush had alienated U.S. allies in the runup to war.
As for the question about U.S. intelligence, Kerry said he has led the call for a congressional investigation and pledged, “We will get to the bottom of this.”
Kerry said his service in the Vietnam war and his experience as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and former member of the Intelligence Committee of the Senate make him the Democrat best suited to question Bush’s efforts on foreign policy.
“I believe I can hold President Bush accountable if they have misled us,” he said.
Addressing senior citizens in Hanover later in the evening, Kerry said he supported a congressional investigation because it was not clear whether Bush acted on poor, distorted or politicized intelligence.
“I don’t have the answer,” he said. “I want the answer and the American people deserve the answer. I will get to the bottom of this.”