WASHINGTON — Seeking to dent criticism that the war in Iraq has detracted from the broader war on terrorism, President Bush said Monday that toppling Saddam Hussein was a crucial factor in making America and the world safer than they were three years ago.
In a speech in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he reviewed nuclear materials given up by a newly cooperative Libya, the president defended his administration's conduct of the war on terror, and said it would continue to take two courses: preemptive action, as against Iraq, when necessary, and increased cooperation with allies to rein in the foreign terrorist threat.
Emphasizing the safety of Americans, Mr. Bush listed examples of how cooperation with nations like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is reaping benefits for the US. But he gave no apology for a war that mounting evidence shows was based in part on faulty intelligence, saying: "We must confront serious dangers before they fully materialize."
He detailed what he sees as the benefits of ridding the world of Mr. Hussein's regime as well as examples of the US's stepped-up cooperation with allies on counterterrorism measures, saying: "The world changed on Sept. 11 - and since then we have changed the world."
Critics argue that the world is less safe as a result of the war in Iraq. They note that it has become a rallying point for Islamic extremists. But Bush reiterated his view Monday that the world is safer not only because the enemy is being confronted, but because more countries like Saudi Arabia are taking the threat more seriously.
The president offered his broad new defense of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq three days after the release of a Senate report that harshly criticized unsubstantiated intelligence cited in the run-up to the war in Iraq, which Bush called a crucial battle in the war on terrorism.
• Associated Press material was used in this report.