Bush Pledges to Reveal Truth on Weapons
By TOM RAUM
DOHA, Qatar (AP) - President Bush argued Thursday the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was justified and pledged that ``we'll reveal the truth'' on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
``We've made sure Iraq is not going to serve as an arsenal for terrorist groups,'' Bush said, his coat off and shirt sleeves rolled up as he spoke to a sea of tan camouflage-clad U.S. soldiers at the command center for the Iraq war.
Bush noted the recent discovery in northern Iraq of what U.S. intelligence agencies say are probably each part of a mobile biological weapons production facility.
No complete production system has been found. Neither trailer had any biological agent inside, nor showed any signs that they had been used to produce biological weapons.
``We're on the look. We'll reveal the truth,'' Bush said, without specifically promising weapons would be found. ``But one thing is certain: no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime because the Iraqi regime is no more.''
Bush's visit came as questions swirl around his primary justification for the conflict in Iraq - that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was poised to use them.
U.S. and British forces have yet to find tangible evidence that Saddam had stocks of chemical and biological weapons ready to use. In a recent interview with Polish television, Bush pointed to the two trailers to say, ``We found the weapons of mass destruction.''
The president, fresh from a two-day mission aimed at bringing peace to the Middle East, emphasized the improvements the war brought to Iraq. He mentioned the word ``freedom'' repeatedly and spent little time on the weapons issue.
The troops are trying to thwart a wave of crime that Bush blamed on Saddam, who he said emptied jail cells of ``common criminals'' just before the war and left his people hungry and desperate.
``The world is now learning what many of you have seen,'' Bush told the more than 1,000 troops, who cheered every other sentence. ``They're learning about the mass graves. They're learning about the torture chambers. Because of you, a great evil has been ended. Because of you, the dignity of a great nation is being restored.''
Bush blamed Saddam for neglecting his country's infrastructure, without mentioning damage from the war.
``A more just political system will develop when people have food in their stomachs, and their lights work, and they can turn on a faucet and they can find some clean water - things that Saddam Hussein did not do for them,'' Bush said.
Bush spoke to troops in a warehouse at Camp As Sayliyah, the temperatures climbing despite the air conditioning. After his remarks, the president paused to shake his hands with troops. Soldiers held cameras and video recorders above their heads to get pictures.
``I've been on the road for a while and I hope you didn't mind us stopping by,'' Bush said. ``I'm happy to see you and so are the long-suffering people of Iraq.''
Earlier Thursday, Bush met privately with Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of all U.S.-led forces in the Persian Gulf and with L. Paul Bremer, the new head of the occupation authority in Iraq, to discuss the progress of Iraqi reconstruction.
He also paid a courtesy call to the emir of Qatar, a country that has been a longtime U.S. ally. Bush said he was the first U.S. president to visit the tiny Persian Gulf nation, and left for Washington immediately afterward.
``You have been a steadfast friend of the United States, and for that we are very grateful,'' Bush told Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
The president's major ally in the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is embroiled in the biggest controversy of his six years in power, accused of exaggerating the dangers posed by Iraq.
But Bush's approval ratings remain high in U.S. polls. And his visit here, his first to the region since combat ended, was akin to a victory lap after a seven-day trip to Europe and the Middle East.
Bush has blunted criticism of his role in the Iraq war by throwing his energy into drumming up support for an internationally drafted peace plan that would result in the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.
He won support for the effort from Arab leaders on Tuesday, and was able to wring concessions on Wednesday from both the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.
``Great and hopeful change is coming to the Middle East,'' Bush said in Aqaba as he shared a platform with the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the king of Jordan.
On the way from Aqaba to Qatar, Bush told reporters he was pleased with his initial successes on the Israeli-Palestinian front.
``It's progress,'' Bush said. ``These first signs of peace happen when people make up their minds to work toward peace, and that's what you saw.''
Still, he added, ``I am the master of low expectations. We accomplished what I hoped we'd accomplish. We met expectations.''
Qatar has been a close U.S. ally in the region since the 1991 Gulf War. During the latest war, the United States used Qatar as its command headquarters for the conflict.