US Vice President Dick Cheney offered the White House's most comprehensive rebuttal to a growing tide of skepticism about justifications for the Iraq war on Thursday, arguing that it would have been "irresponsible in the extreme" to ignore the threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons program. \nCheney's remarks, in a rare speech that was given at a conservative policy institute, sought to refute growing criticism, both on Capitol Hill and across the country, that the administration exaggerated the danger of Iraq's weapons to justify the war. His comments also reflected an effort to recast the Iraq war as part of the broader campaign against terror, a linkage that administration officials say puts Iraq in a better political light for them. \nCheney did not mention the debate over President Bush's State of the Union address in January, which included information, since discredited, that Iraq sought uranium in Africa for nuclear weapons. But his advisers said the speech was intended, in part, to tamp down that debate. "This was partly in response to the recent unpleasantness," one adviser said. "We had to get out of the hole we were in." \nIn his speech, Cheney tried to put the administration's critics on the defensive. "At a safe remove from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon the decision to liberate Iraq," he said. "Those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?" \nCheney then read from four sections of a recently declassified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons programs. That report's conclusions have also come under increasing scrutiny. \n"Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with range in excess of the UN restrictions," he said, reading from the document. "If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade." \nHe continued, "All key aspects -- the R and D, production and weaponization -- of Iraq's offensive biological weapons program are active, and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War." \nBut many of the assessment's conclusions are increasingly open to challenge and more attention is falling on a dissenting view attached to the intelligence estimate in which the State Department said "the activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case" that Iraq was pursuing a comprehensive plan to obtain nuclear weapons. Moreover, in the three months since Saddam's government collapsed, American military forces have found virtually no evidence of Iraqi chemical or biological weapons. \nCheney's assertions were toned down from some of his earlier warnings about Iraq. In March, he said on the NBC News program Meet the Press that Iraq "has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." On Thursday, he fell back on the more cautious language in the intelligence assessment. \nHe said on Thursday that Saddam had "cultivated ties to terrorist groups" but did not repeat White House assertions that Iraq had connections to al-Qaeda. \nOfficials at the American Enterprise Institute, where he spoke, said they were told on Tuesday that Cheney, a former trustee, wanted to give "a major address" on Thursday. Except at fund-raisers, Cheney rarely speaks in public, and, when he does, it is a usually a sign that the White House needs to deliver a message with exceptional impact. \nHis speech on Thursday coincided with the release of a congressional report critical of the government's failure to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. \nWhile aides said the timing was unrelated, Cheney used the occasion to underscore the administration's post-Sept. 11 commitment to rooting out terrorists and their sponsors worldwide. \n"We will not permit outlaw states and terror groups to join forces in a deadly alliance that could threaten the lives of millions of Americans," he said. "We will act and act decisively, before gathering threats can inflict catastrophic harm on the American people." \nHe warned that "loose and decentralized networks of terrorism are still finding recruits" to plot attacks against Americans. But he cautioned: "No one should doubt the intentions of our nation. One by one, in every corner of the world, we will hunt the terrorists down and destroy them." \nDemocrats on the Hill were mainly focused on the Sept. 11 report, but some accused Cheney of using the speech to try to divert attention from contentious intelligence issues and near-daily deaths of American soldiers in Iraq. \n"He's trying to put the events of recent weeks in Iraq in the broader context of the war on terror because that plays to the president's strengths," said one senior Senate Democratic aide. "Never mind that was not an extension on war on terrorism, but a distraction from it."
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged