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Kerry Rebukes Bush's New Rationale for War

Kerry Rebukes Bush's New Rationale for War, Offers Plan to Win the Peace and Avoid Failure in Iraq

For Immediate Release

New York, NY - Delivering remarks at New York University Monday, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said the president’s wrong choices in Iraq have made America less secure and undermined our efforts in the war on terror. Kerry emphasized that the world is a more dangerous place today because the president was wrong in the way he prepared for and waged war in Iraq, and he outlined the steps we must take now to make America stronger and safer in the world.

Joined by families of 9/11 victims, Kerry stressed that the nation deserves an honest debate about the president’s handling of Iraq, as the president has made it a centerpiece of his war on terror.

“We must have a great national debate on Iraq,” Kerry said. “The president claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. I believe that Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. The question for this campaign… and for the American people… is whether the President has handled Iraq in a way that has made us stronger or weaker…safer or less secure.”

Kerry said that the president made the wrong choice at nearly every juncture in Iraq. In planning for war, he ignored the advice of key military advisors, failed to develop a plan to win the peace or secure the support of our allies. In post-war Iraq, he failed to properly train Iraqi security forces or implement a successful reconstruction plan.

Kerry noted that it did not have to be this way. Congress correctly gave the president the authority to use force in Iraq, but once given this authority, the president made the wrong choices.

“Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying that if we knew there was no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, no other imminent threat, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no – because a Commander-in-Chief’s first responsibility is to our national security.”

As Kerry said today, the results of these wrong choices have diverted crucial resources from the war on terror and made America less secure.

“Can anyone seriously contend that this President has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war on terrorism?” Kerry asked. “By any measure, the answer is no. Nuclear dangers are mounting. The international terrorist club is expanding. Radicalism in the Middle East is on the march. We have divided our friends and united our enemies. And our standing in the world is at an all time low.”

Not only did the President’s rush to war in Iraq alienate many of our longstanding, closest allies, but it also diverted our resources and attention from many critical aspects of our fight against terror. Osama bin Laden slipped away while America turned its eye towards Iraq, and Afghanistan today is marked by instability.

Monica Gabrille, one of the 9/11 families joining Kerry at today’s speech, said that Bush’s wrong choices have weakened our efforts in the war on terror.

“On 9/11, the world watched, in horror and shock, the events unfold. They shared our pain and grief and suffering,” Garbrille said. “That should have been utilized to fight the war against al-Qaeda. Instead, that good will was squandered. Instead of going into Afghanistan, and bringing back Bin Laden, dead or alive, this administration went into Iraq; Afghanistan almost completely forgotten, Bin Laden turned into Saddam. Instead of shutting down al-Qaeda, we have created a new hotbed of terrorists, who are easily able to cross our borders and land on our shores.”

Kerry said that George Bush continues to mislead the American people about the reasons for going to war.

“He failed to level with us about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to level with us about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens. By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded,” Kerry said. “His two main rationales – weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection – have been proved false… by the President’s own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.”

In Iraq, which played no part in September 11th and had no operational ties to Al Qaeda, we now find a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists.

“The President’s policy in Iraq has not strengthened our national security. It has weakened it,” Kerry said. “Our troops have served with extraordinary bravery, skill and resolve. Their service humbles all of us. When I speak to them… when I look into the eyes of their families, I know this: we owe them the truth about what we have asked them to do… and what is still to be done.”

Kerry described a worsening security situation on the ground in Iraq, with mounting U.S. casualties, a growing insurgency and the development of no-go zones. “Cities throughout the Sunni triangle – Falluja…Ramadi… Samarra – are now “no go zones”… breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shi’a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad than Prime Minister Allawi. That is the truth. The truth that the Commander in Chief owes to our troops and the American people.

Kerry stressed that it is not too late to change course in Iraq and turn things around.”

“Despite all that has gone wrong, I believe we can still achieve our vital national interests in Iraq. We have to start by recognizing what is – and what is not – happening. And we must act with urgency.”

In his remarks, Kerry laid out the steps we must now take. First, the president must secure international support. Second, we must commit to a serious effort to train Iraqi security forces. Third, we must carry out a reconstruction plan that brings benefits to the Iraqi people, and fourth, we must take the necessary steps to hold elections next year.

In closing, Kerry reminded his audience that for all of the president’s wrong choices, the choice now rests with the voters of America. “If you share my conviction that we can not go on as we are …that we can make America stronger and safer than it is… then November 2 is your chance to speak... and to be heard. It’s not too late to change course. We can still get this right.”


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