Lieberman Criticizes Republicans Who Assail War Critics

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Sen. Joe Lieberman on Friday criticized Republicans who accuse Democratic critics of the Iraq war of encouraging terrorists, arguing such talk "demeans the freedom we are all fighting for."

The three-term senator, who is running as an independent after losing the Connecticut Democratic primary last month, made the comments months after assailing members of his own party who complained about President Bush's war policies.

"It is wrong for some on the right to imply that some Democrats don't care if the terrorists succeed, or that debating the merits of the president's policies on the war on terrorism emboldens our enemies," Lieberman said in a speech at Fairfield University.

"That kind of attack on the motives of our fellow Americans and our right to debate and dissent demeans the freedom we are all fighting for and divides and weakens us as a nation," he said.

In December, the Connecticut senator publicly scolded anti-war critics within his party's rank-and-file, drawing criticism from many Democrats.

"It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be commander in chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril," Lieberman said.

Lieberman, the Democrats' nominee for vice president in 2000, has long been a maverick in his own party. But his support of Bush and the war cost him last month's Democratic primary, which he lost to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont.

The Connecticut race is seen as a referendum on Bush's policies and the war.

Lieberman on Friday renewed his call for bipartisan support of the war effort, although he took both parties to task. He criticized the Bush administration's warrantless search program and what he called an erosion of civil liberties.

"But it is wrong to go beyond dissent and demonize the president and impugn the motives of him and all who support him because that too divides and weakens us as a nation," Lieberman said.

"Like it or not ... we are all targets of the terrorists. We are all in this together. And to win it with the least amount of cost and human lives and national treasure, we've got to find ways to set aside our differences and put our country's safety first," he said.