WASHINGTON – The Democratic presidential candidates assailed the Bush administration Thursday after CIA Director George Tenet (search) revealed that government analysts never claimed before the war that Iraq was an imminent threat.
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search), the front-runner for his party's nomination, said Tenet's comments show President Bush misled when he said Saddam Hussein's regime posed a grave danger to the world.
"Today, we found out that George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld (search), and the rest of the administration weren't passing on sound facts on Iraq to the American people," Kerry said in a statement. "They were playing politics with our national security."
Kerry has joined other Democratic critics in demanding an independent commission to investigate why some intelligence about Iraqi weapons development turned out to be wrong. But he expressed skepticism that a commission comprised of officials appointed by Bush would be impartial.
"We need to restore America's credibility around the world and the trust of the American people in their government at home," Kerry said. "That's not going to happen with a sham commission hand-picked by George Bush to look into how these faulty facts on Iraq made it to the American people."
Tenet said in a speech Thursday that analysts held varying opinions about whether Iraq possessed chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and simply passed the CIA's objective assessment on to the White House.
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark (search) said Tenet's comments only confirm what Clark has been saying at every campaign stop.
"The facts now have been laid bare — the Bush Administration misled us into a war we didn't need to fight," Clark said in a statement. "He misled the American people. And the question now is: what did he know at the time?"
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) also criticized Bush and took a swipe at members of Congress who voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the war.
"Only our representatives in Congress had the power to stop this radical administration from its single-minded insistence on going to war," Dean said in a statement without naming Democratic rivals Kerry and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who voted for the resolution. "Instead, they gave the president a blank check."
Dean said Tenet's statement is proof that the march to war was based on "errors of political judgment and leadership" and renewed his call for a bipartisan commission to investigate the entire process that led to war.