Kerry: 'I Won't Say Mission Accomplished'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - Sen. John F. Kerry plans to hold a town hall meeting in Wisconsin on Monday, where he'll discuss his plan to "build a stronger America after four years of wrong choices by George W. Bush."

He's also expected to keep up his newly focused criticism of the way the Bush administration has waged war in Iraq.

As he arrived in Wisconsin on Sunday, Kerry issued a statement noting the growing death toll among Americans in Iraq.

Kerry also reminded voters of President Bush's May 1, 2003, visit to an aircraft carrier, where Bush proclaimed the end of major combat under a "Mission Accomplished" banner.

"My friends," said Kerry on Sunday, "when the president landed on that aircraft carrier, 150 of our sons and daughters had given their lives. Since then, tragically, since he said 'mission accomplished,' tragically, over 900 more have died," Kerry said, according to the statement released by his campaign.

President Bush did not use the phrase "mission accomplished" in his May 1 remarks on the USS Abraham Lincoln, although that's what the banner behind him said. "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," President Bush said at the time.

"In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."

The president also reminded Americans, "We have difficult work to do in Iraq...The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort."

Toward the end of his May 1 speech, President Bush said, "The war on terror is not over, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide."

In he remarks on Sunday, Sen. Kerry noted that "leading senators" in Bush's own party - Sens. Chuck Hagel, John McCain and Dick Lugar -- have criticized the President's Iraq policy. "George Bush owes the American people the truth and he owes the troops the truth," Kerry said.

Sen. Kerry told Wisconsin voters that he has a plan to "go after, hunt out, and kill the terrorists, and I have a plan to succeed in Iraq.

"But I'll tell you this -- we will find the terrorists, we will make America safer, but I will never be a president who just says, 'mission accomplished,' I'll get the mission accomplished. That's the difference, thank you."

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