Kerry Pounds Bush's 'Wrong Choices' in Iraq

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

( - In a foreign policy speech delivered Wednesday in Cincinnati, Sen. John F. Kerry confined his remarks to the war in Iraq rather than the long-ago war in Vietnam, and he received frequent applause for his efforts.

Speaking in the same place where President George W. Bush made his case for war in 2002, Kerry accused President Bush of leading America "in the wrong direction in Iraq" and leaving America "without the resources we need here at home."

President Bush has spent $200 billion in Iraq, Kerry said, at a time when eight million Americans are out of work, 45 million have no health insurance and the federal budget deficit has reached record levels.

While America is paying 90 percent of the costs in Iraq, the president has proposed cuts in education, job training, Medicaid and homeland security, Kerry added.

"Two-hundred-billion for going-it-alone in Iraq -- that's the wrong choice; that's the wrong direction; and that's the wrong leadership for America. It's time to make it right," Kerry said.


The Republican National Committee fired back immediately:

John Kerry Wednesday complained about the cost of waging and winning the war against global terrorism, but just a little over a year ago, Kerry told NBC's Tim Russert that he would increase funding for the war in Iraq "by whatever number of billions of dollars it takes to win," the RNC said in a press release.

According to a transcript of that Aug. 31, 2003, "Meet the Press" interview, Tim Russert asked Kerry: "Do you believe that we should reduce funding that we are now providing for the operation in Iraq?"

Kerry: No. I think we should increase it.

Russert: Increase funding?

Kerry: Yes.

Russert: By how much?

Kerry: By whatever number of billions of dollars it takes to win. It is critical that the United States of America be successful in Iraq, Tim."

In his speech on Wednesday, Kerry said he would spend millions of dollars at home, not in Iraq: "I believe it is wrong to be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America."

Kerry also criticized President Bush for not giving weapons inspectors enough time to get the job done; and therefore, Kerry said, going to war was not a last resort for President Bush.

Kerry said President Bush failed to build a "broad, strong real coalition" and he "rushed to war without a plan to win the peace."

Kerry said, "It's time to lead America in a new direction."

Kerry repeated that he would have handled Iraq very differently. He said he would have given U.N. inspectors more time to look for WMD; built a "genuine coalition of allies"; given soldiers the body armor and equipment they needed; and he would have listened to the "bipartisan advice that was given by the Congress of the United States."

Kerry also said he would never have gone to war without winning the peace.

"We're going to set a new direction for this country," Kerry said. "We're going to defend this country here at home and we're going to do all we can possibly do in order to protect it from another terrorist attack." Kerry said he would make homeland security "more than a political slogan."

He said Bush's mishandling of Iraq has led to "rising instability, spreading violence, growing extremism" and a haven for terrorists who weren't even in Iraq before America went there.

"We need a new direction," Kerry repeated. "We need statesmanship, we need leadership, we need the ability of a president with a fresh start and new credibility to open up the channels of communication. We need to do a whole bunch of things in Iraq that this president could have done and hasn't even tried to do.

"We need to really bring our allies to our side because they do have a stake in the outcome of Iraq, and one of the great failures of this administration is in not convincing the world of that reality."

Kerry said he wants other countries to share the costs and risks associated with Iraq. He said as commander in chief, he would train Iraqi military and police "more rapidly" so they can take over the job of protecting their own country.

Kerry 'pulled to the left'

The anti-war crowd is pulling Kerry to the left, said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the co-chairman of the Bush campaign's Texas leadership team.

"Trying to keep track of Kerry's position on Iraq from day to day is confusing to voters and unfair to our troops," Cornyn said in a statement.

"What is it that Kerry now finds so wrong with the liberation of Iraq?" Cornyn asked. "Is it wrong that tens of millions of people are now free from the brutality of Saddam Hussein? Is it wrong that Hussein is now in a prison cell, not a palace? Is it wrong that Iraq is now led by a prime minister instead of a tyrant? Or is it wrong that rape rooms and secret police have been replaced by a burgeoning democracy and hope?

"While I'm not surprised that he's taken yet another position on Iraq, America and our friends around the world don't need shifting positions. We need steady leadership in the war on terror," Cornyn said.

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