Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards clashed last night over Iraq, the war on terror, Halliburton and their records in Congress in a heated debate in Cleveland Ohio. Edwards charged that Cheney and President Bush were "not being straight with the American people" on Iraq. He accused the administration of focusing on Saddam Hussein instead of Osama bin Laden and he questioned why Halliburton conducted business with Iran when Cheney headed the company. Cheney repeatedly shot back in an attempt to cast doubt on Edwards’ experience and the credibility of the Democratic ticket.
The debate came on a day where the Bush administration was repeatedly put on the defensive about why and how it attacked Iraq. The Bush administration began the day responding to statements by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the former head of the U.S. occupation, Paul Bremer, that sharply contradicted the administration’s official version of events. Rumsfeld admitted on Monday he had seen no "strong, hard evidence" showing a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. The comment created a firestorm in Washington, the Pentagon issued a statement saying Rumsfeld was misunderstood and that such a link did, in fact, exist. Meanwhile Bremer admitted to the Washington Post that "We never had enough troops on the ground" in Iraq, a claim that raised new questions about how effectively Bush had waged the war. Bremer, who was once seen as a possible candidate to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State, also criticized the Bush administration for failing to stop the looting. He said ""We paid a big price for not stopping it, because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness"
In addition the Washington Post reported last night that the forthcoming report by weapons inspector Charles Duelfer will show Iraq posed a diminishing threat to the U.S. at the time of the attack. In addition the 1,000 page report found Iraq did not possess or even have concrete plans to develop nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. From the campaign trail Senator John Kerry called on President Bush to acknowledge major mistakes in judgment and give the country a full accounting of what has gone wrong.
But last night Cheney defended the administration saying "What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action."
In Iraq, 3,000 U.S. forces launched a large offensive south of Baghdad. The New York Times reports the troops overran a training camp and detained 30 suspects. The attack comes a week after the large offensive in Samarra. Elsewhere in the country, a series of three car bombs killed seven Iraqis. Two car bombs went off in Ramadi and one in Mosul.
At the United Nations, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on Israel to end its deadly attack on the Gaza Strip that has killed over 85 Palestinians in the past week. 11 countries voted for the measure. Britain, Germany and Romania abstained from the vote.
A new book published in France has accused the US of regularly spying on French President Jacques Chirac by tapping his phone. The book’s title translated into English is "Chirac versus Bush, the Other War." One U.S. official reportedly told the authors, "The relationship between your president and ours is irreparable on the personal level. You have to understand that President Bush knows exactly what President Chirac thinks of him." The surveillance was possible because Chirac rarely uses secure phone lines. Last year British whistleblower Katherine Gun leaked internal documents that showed the US was spying on other nations in the Security Council in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. Former British minister Clare Short has also publicly said Tony Blair’s government spied on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at his UN headquarters in New York in the run-up to the Iraq war. The new book also charges that France was preparing to provide as many as 15,000 troops to the Iraq effort but didn’t after relationships soured between the Bush administration and Chirac.
And this news From Arizona, a 45-year-old mother died this week just days after learning her son had been killed in Iraq. Friends of Karen Unruh-Wahrer said she hadn’t stopped crying after learning her 25-year-old son was killed in Baghdad on Sept. 25. He had been in Iraq for less than a month. She died hours after she saw her son’s body. A hospital official said "Her grief was so intense — it seemed it could have harmed her, could have caused a heart attack. Her husband described it as a broken heart."