NEW YORK – Al Gore (search) called the situation in Iraq a "catastrophe," angrily blamed the White House for it and demanded the resignations of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search), national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) and CIA director George Tenet (search).
The former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate attacked what he called the Bush administration's "twisted values and atrocious policies" in a speech Wednesday at New York University.
"Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign immediately," Gore bellowed. "Our nation is at risk every single day Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense. We need someone with good judgment and common sense."
He added that Rice "has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy. This is a disaster for our country."
Gore was gentler on Tenet, a Clinton administration appointee, describing him as a friend and "honorable man" who should nevertheless leave his position because of intelligence failures.
The Republican National Committee shot back at Gore, pointing out that he was vice president when terrorists attacked U.S. embassies in Africa, bombed the USS Cole and carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
"Al Gore's attacks on the president today demonstrate that he either does not understand the threat of global terror or he has amnesia," RNC spokesman Jim Dyke said in a statement.
Gore also argued that the evolving scandal of abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not the product of individual misdeeds.
"What happened at that prison, it is now clear, is not the result of random acts of a few bad apples. It was the natural consequence of the Bush administration policy," he said.
The reservists photographed abusing prisoners "were clearly forced to wade into a moral cesspool designed by the Bush White House," which, he said, had abandoned adherence to the Geneva Conventions.
Raising his voice to a yell, he drew early applause by angrily denouncing the administration.
"How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace! How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison!"
Gore said the problems in Iraq have engendered fierce anti-American sentiment around the world and provided a strong recruiting tool for terror groups.
President Bush "has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in every town and city to a greater danger of attacks by terrorists because of his arrogance, willfulness, and bungling at stirring up hornets nests that pose no threat whatsoever to us," Gore said.
The administration, he said, has also set up U.S. soldiers for "payback the next time they are held as prisoners."
The speech was one of several Gore appearances sponsored since August by MoveOn.org. The liberal interest group also has a television and radio ad calling for President Bush to fire Rumsfeld.
Gore said electing Democrat John Kerry was the first step toward dealing with Iraq.
He said Kerry should not "tie his own hands" while campaigning by offering any specific proposals for how he would handle a situation that is "rapidly changing and, unfortunately, rapidly deteriorating."