The political debate in Washington centered on whether the administration misused intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and when U.S. troops should be withdrawn. In Iraq, the insurgency continued.

In the United States: President Bush, on Sunday, sought to reduce the increasingly harsh political debate prompted by the call by Marine veteran Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Bush said, "People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq." He called Murtha "a fine man" but said he disagreed with Murtha's position.

But a day later, Vice President Cheney, a key architect of the 2003 invasion, raised the rhetorical level again. In a speech, he sharply criticized Democrats who say the administration distorted prewar intelligence information, calling the accusations "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety."

Recent polls show that a majority of Americans believe the president misled the public in making the case for the invasion. Support for the continuing U.S. presence in Iraq has been sagging, as has Bush's overall approval rating. Cheney has been at the center of the White House effort to rebuild support.

But even as Bush critics and supporters sparred publicly over the wisdom of withdrawal, administration and military officials began to talk of a gradual reduction in U.S. forces beginning next year, from about 150,000 to fewer than 100,000 by the end of 2006.

In Iraq:

* On Thanksgiving Day, 30 people were killed by an attacker who steered an explosives-laden car into a toy giveaway by U.S. soldiers at a hospital in Mahmudiyah.

* U.S. and Iraqi forces staged a massive raid on a house in northern Iraq where eight insurgents were hiding. But initial reports that leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was among them proved false.

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is a war veteran.