US Vice President Dick Cheney launched a new attack Monday on critics of the Iraq war, again denying that the administration manipulated prewar intelligence on Iraq.
"The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight. But any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false," Cheney said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
He accused Democrats and others who blamed President George W. Bush for misleading the country into war of "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety."
In response to a Democratic House member's call for immediate pullout of American troops from Iraq, Cheney said it was "a dangerous illusion to suppose that another retreat by the civilized world would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone."
Instead of questioning the patriotism and courage of Representative John Murtha, a Democratic from Pennsylvania, who made the call last week, the vice president echoed Bush by calling Murtha "a good man, a Marine, a patriot."
Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who voted for the Iraq war in October 2002, called the administration last week to withdraw US troops from Iraq.
The US forces had "accomplished its mission and done its duty" and had become "the primary target of the insurgency" in Iraq, he said.
In his speech on Monday, Cheney said he respected the right of Murtha to form his own opinion. "Nor is there any problem with debating whether the United States and its allies should have liberated Iraq in the first place," he said.
"Nobody is saying we should not be having this discussion," he noted.
The vice president nevertheless singled out Senate Democrats who voted in 2002 to give Bush authority to go to war in Iraq and who now opposed his policy, and called them "dishonest and reprehensible."
"What is not legitimate, and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible, is the suggestion by some US senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence," he said.
Cheney said some of the most irresponsible comments had come from "politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein."
A latest CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll showed 63 percent of the American public disapproved of the president's handling of the Iraq war, which has dragged on for more than two and a half years and killed over 2,000 American soldiers, and 52 percent said US forces should withdraw from Iraq within 12 months.