http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20040127.wxiraq27/BNStory/Front/ White House emissaries head abroad to recast war Toppling Hussein replaces weapons cache as main justification for U.S.-led attack By PAUL KORING From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Washington Seeking to recast its reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the Bush administration is sending high-ranking officials abroad to justify the war as good for humanity, despite increasing evidence that Baghdad did not possess stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. "The former dictator sits in captivity. He can no longer harbour and support terrorists, and his long efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction are at an end," U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney said yesterday in a speech to political and business leaders in Rome. Today, Mr. Cheney will take the same message to the Vatican on a fence-mending mission to Pope John Paul II, who had condemned the war as a defeat for humanity and whose personal emissary failed to dissuade President George W. Bush from attacking Iraq last spring. Mr. Cheney made no mention of recent statements by David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, who said he does not believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S.-led war began. The Vice-President, whose visit to Rome is part of a five-day European swing, has spent much of the past two years in undisclosed locations, rarely making public appearances, except at Republican fundraisers. But as the U.S. election year unfolds, he is expected to make more high-profile trips abroad. In Vienna yesterday, Attorney-General John Ashcroft said that even if weapons of mass destruction are never found in Iraq, the war was justified because Mr. Hussein can no longer resort to "evil chemistry and evil biology." Mr. Bush laid the groundwork for redefining the war's rationale in his recent State of the Union address. "For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place," he said. But he made no mention of a rogue regime that posed imminent danger to the United States because of stockpiles of weapons. And his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is sounding increasingly vague about the lack of evidence found in Iraq, despite months of searching. "What is the open question is, how many stockpiles they had, if any. And if they had any, where did they go? If they didn't have any, why wasn't that known beforehand?" Mr. Powell said on the weekend, en route to the Georgia capital of Tbilisi before heading to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the White House was adamant yesterday that the war was justified. "Saddam Hussein was a dangerous and gathering threat, and the President made the right decision to remove him from power," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. But Mr. McClellan also seemed to suggest that there would be no more pre-emptive wars against rogue regimes, the controversial Bush doctrine that many regard as flouting international law. "Iraq was unique," Mr. McClellan said. "Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, they used weapons of mass destruction on its neighbours and on his own people, and they failed to account for the weapons and weapons programs. . . . Given his history and given the events of Sept. 11, we could not afford to rely on the good intentions of Saddam Hussein." But Washington's efforts to recast its justifications for the war seem unlikely to satisfy critics, or defuse it as an election issue. Democratic presidential candidates have stepped up their attacks on the war. "We were misled," said Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who originally backed the war and is heading into today's New Hampshire primary leading the polls. "Misled not only in the intelligence, but misled in the way that the President took us to war." Gee, why would they have to resort to something like this if it weren't for the stress on WMD's being the main crux for this war?