(CNSNews.com) - Sen. John F. Kerry on Monday called for a "great and honest" debate on Iraq. To rousing applause, he called the war in Iraq a "profound diversion" from the war on Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.
If we do not change course, Kerry said, "there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight." He said America owes its troops "the truth about what we have asked them to do and what is still to be done."
Kerry enumerated the rising death toll among U.S. troops. "We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever-widening war zone," he said.
He added that most Iraqis have lost faith in America's ability to help them. Removing Saddam Hussein, as bad as Saddam was, was not a reason to go to war, he said. "We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure," Kerry said.
Kerry mentioned his own anti-war days as proof that he is someone who is able to "speak truth to power."
Kerry delivered the speech at New York University, where it was well-received by students.
He listed all the ways he believes the Bush administration has been wrong about Iraq; and he said the administration's policy "has been plagued by a lack of planning, by an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence."
Kerry said the Bush administration's policy in Iraq has not strengthened America's national security -- but has weakened it. "If George W. Bush is re-elected, he will cling to the same failed policies in Iraq -- and even repeat somewhere else the same reckless mistakes that have made America less secure than we can or should be," Kerry said.
Kerry said President Bush has to get more international support for the war effort -- and he should do it this week.
Kerry also said the president "must get serious" about training Iraqi security forces -- both inside and outside Iraq.
Third, he said the president must "carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people." He indicated that poor planning has left the Iraqi people in limbo.
Fourth, Kerry said the president must take urgent steps to ensure a "credible election" in Iraq. That includes bringing in help from other countries, he said.
"This is what has to be done," Kerry said. "This is what I would do if I were pres today. But we can't afford to wait until January. And I can't tell you what I will find on Jan. 20."
Kerry said George W. Bush has "no strategy for Iraq," whereas Kerry does -- and has had all along.