updated 11/15/2005 11:48:25 AM ET 2005-11-15T16:48:25

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld joined the Bush administration’s attack on Iraq war critics Tuesday, quoting Clinton administration officials who contended that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a security threat to the United States and its allies.

In remarks prepared for delivery at a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld noted that Congress in 1998 passed the Iraq Liberation Act, making it U.S. government policy to support efforts to remove the Saddam regime from power. He noted that President Bill Clinton ordered four days of bombing in December 1998.

President Bush on Monday hurled back at Democratic critics the worries they once expressed that Saddam was a grave threat.

“They spoke the truth then and they’re speaking politics now,” Bush charged.

Democrats have accused the president of manipulating and withholding some prewar intelligence and misleading Americans about the rationale for war.

Toll on Bush
Iraq and a host of other problems, from the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina to the indictment of a senior White House official in the CIA leak investigation, have taken a heavy toll on Bush.

Nearing the end of his fifth year in office, Bush has the lowest approval rating of his presidency. In AP-Ipsos polling, a majority of Americans say Bush is not honest and they disapprove of his handling of foreign policy and the war on terrorism.

Rumsfeld continued Bush’s assault on war critics, citing the words of Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser.

Rumsfeld quoted Berger as having said of Saddam in 1998, “He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983.”

War on terrorism
Referring to the current situation, Rumsfeld said, “We are in the midst of a war that threatens free people across the globe,” as evidenced by terrorist attacks in the United States, London, Madrid and other cities. He said the world must face up to the “dark vision” of a network of “Islamo-fascists” and extremists.

“They seek to build in Iraq what they once had in Afghanistan,” he said. “And then to expand throughout the region and beyond.”

While noting that many Americans want to know when U.S. troops will leave Iraq, Rumsfeld said it would be a grave mistake to leave prematurely.

“We must be careful not to give terrorists the false hope that if they can simply hold on long enough, they can outlast us,” Rumsfeld said.

There are about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

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