Soros challenges reasons for war in US press

A billionaire philanthropist is running full-page ads in major US newspapers challenging the honesty of the Bush administration’s case for waging war on Iraq.

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros

George Soros’s ads titles, “When the nation goes to war, the people deserve the truth,” were published in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Houston Chronicle.

A dozen statements made by President George W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld making the case for war are reprinted and described as either exaggerated or false.

The statements largely focus on claims about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and large quantities of poison gasses.

The Hungarian-born Soros, 72, emigrated to the United States from Britain in 1956 and built a fortune as a financier. He is founder of a network of philanthropic organisations active in more than 50 countries that focus on education, public health, human rights and economic reform.

The ads, estimated to cost about $185,000, were co-sponsored by US philanthropists Dorothy and Lewis B Cullman.

“Both George Soros and Lewis Cullman have been deeply concerned about the deception used to justify the war in Iraq,” said Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros.

“They believe their fellow citizens should also be concerned and took out these ads to move them to action.”

Bush has defended the case for war, saying he is confident that weapons of mass destruction will eventually be found in Iraq and that criticism of intelligence about Iraq’s military capabilities amounts to quibbling.

But in recent speeches, Bush and other senior officials have launched a concerted effort to shift attention to the democratic promise of a post-war and Saddam Hussein-free Iraq.

Public opinion on the issue is closely divided, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released this week.

While 50 percent of US voters believe the administration did intentionally exaggerate evidence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, 44 percent disagreed.

The poll had a margin of error of 3 percent.