Former Vice President Al Gore said in a Monday speech at Georgetown University that the Bush administration had always wanted to invade Iraq and never considered more peaceful options
“We were told by the president that war was his last choice,” Gore said. “It is now clear from the newly available evidence that it was always his first.”
Earlier this month, U.S. officials said they found no evidence that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein harbored unconventional weapons at the time of the March 2003 invasion.
Gore’s speech – his last major policy address before the presidential election on Nov. 2 – focused on Bush’s actions during the Iraq war. Gore, who temporarily withdrew from the public eye following the much-contested 2000 election, has criticized the war in Iraq for months.
On Monday, he accused the president of “a willful refusal to even consider alternative opinions or conflicting evidence, that poses the most serious danger to the country.”
Gore also blamed Attorney General John Ashcroft for ignoring warnings of a possible attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
“That is an extremely serious error in judgment that constitutes a reckless disregard for the safety of the American people,” he said.
Gore contrasted Bush’s failure to consider warnings of terrorist activity to former President Bill Clinton’s responses to the threats of attack during the year 2000 festivities and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Gore also decried the failure of the Bush administration to take action against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his alleged complicity in the use of torture by American forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“The president never holds anyone accountable in his administration, no matter what they do,” Gore said.
Gore also outlined many negative outcomes of the war in Iraq, including the more than 1,000 American soldiers who have died there. Poland and Italy, who both have military contingents in Iraq, announced this week that they will soon withdraw their troops, he noted.
“The war in Iraq has become a recruiting bonanza for terrorists who use it as their most damning indictment of U.S. policy,” he said.
The former presidential candidate described Bush’s supporters as “economic royalists” interested in eliminating marketplace regulations and taxation of the wealthy. He also lambasted social conservatives who want to “roll back most of the progressive social changes of the twentieth century.”
Online liberal activism network MoveOn.org coordinated Monday’s event. MoveOn’s anti-war leader, 23-year-old Eli Pariser, introduced Gore as “the most influential vice president who used his powers for good.”
Gore, who lost the bitterly contested 2000 election to Bush, endorsed Democratic candidate John Kerry in March of this year. During the Democratic primaries, he supported former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
Republican National Committee officials told the Associated Press shortly after the former vice president’s speech that Gore and Kerry lack the knowledge to protect America from terrorism.
“Each time he speaks, Al Gore, like John Kerry, demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to protect America’s homeland and win the war on terror,” officials said.