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Senators Slam Shifting Iraq War Justification

InternationalWASHINGTON, July 30 - The Bush administration came Wednesday, July 30, under a barrage of criticisms from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who charged the administration had "shifted justification" of the Iraq war from alleged weapons of mass destruction to simply the human rights violations of ousted president Saddam Hussein, a leading U.S. daily reported Wednesday, July 30.

During a stormy three-hour hearing, Republican and Democratic senators said the administration's prewar focus on Iraq's alleged WMDs had now been replaced by reports on Saddam's human rights violations and arguments by grilled Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that Iraq has become the "central battle in the war on terror," the Washington Post said.

"In the months leading up to the war, it was a steady drumbeat of weapons of mass destruction," said Senator Lincoln D. Chafee, a Republican.

"All the testimony this morning . . . is about what a tyrant Saddam Hussein is, who brutalizes the people. . . . So I'll ask the question, Secretary Wolfowitz: What are we doing there (in Iraq)?"

Trying to water down the harsh criticism, Wolfowitz argued that deposing Saddam was not only in the interest of the Iraqi people, but it also protected the U.S. national security and the peoples of the Middle East.

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee agreed in June to broaden the scope of its probe into Iraq’s alleged WMDs and whether intelligence had been exaggerated to justify war.

'Gross Exaggeration'

Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Democrat, charged that the Bush administration had "grossly exaggerated" the connection between Iraq and the global war on terrorism.

"In my view, the overemphasis on Iraq has caused a serious erosion of our ability to go after the actual [terrorist] operatives," he stressed.

Senator Barbara Boxer, for her part, derided the Pentagon's description of the current fighting in Iraq as "low-intensity conflict."

"I want you to know when your kid dies, it's not a low-intensity conflict," said the Democrat legislator.

A total of 52 U.S. soldiers have been killed in resistance operations since May 1, with more than half the deaths coming in July, according to AFP and Reuters accounts.

President George W. Bush warned in June that the U.S. forces in Iraq were facing a future of "danger and sacrifice" before the country is secure.

Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties further demanded the Bush administration to seriously consider seeking a second U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing greater U.N. participation in postwar Iraq, both in peacekeeping and reconstruction.

On July 10, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an amendment to a foreign aid bill containing an appeal to the White House to "formally and expeditiously" consider requesting a NATO peacekeeping force for Iraq.

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