View Full Version : Kerry Raps Bush Policy on Postwar Iraq

07-11-03, 03:19 AM
Kerry Raps Bush Policy on Postwar Iraq
Failure to Win Peace Could Undercut War on Terrorism, Candidate Says

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 11, 2003; Page A01

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) sharply criticized the Bush administration's postwar policy in Iraq yesterday, accusing the United States of arrogance in not creating an international force to secure the country and warning that failure in Iraq will undermine the global war on terrorism.

The Democratic presidential candidate questioned whether the administration has a strategy for postwar Iraq. He urged President Bush to move quickly to augment U.S. forces by recruiting other nations to send troops, accelerate efforts to train an Iraqi police force and bring the United Nations and others more directly into the process of rebuilding the country and setting up a new government.

Failure to win the peace in Iraq, he said, would embolden terrorist organizations elsewhere, threaten the Middle East peace process and reduce this country's ability to gain the cooperation of other countries in fighting terrorism. "Failure will shut the door on many of the things we need to do and I think make the world a much more dangerous world," Kerry said at a luncheon with reporters and editors of The Washington Post.

Kerry, elected to his fourth term last year, offered his views on a wide range of issues during the 90-minute interview. He challenged Bush's record on job creation as the worst "since Herbert Hoover," pressed proposals for energy independence and expanded health care coverage, and defended his opposition to gay marriage.

Kerry also denounced Bush's prodigious fundraising -- the president's campaign expects to raise $200 million to spend between now and the Republican National Convention -- calling it a payoff for three tax cuts that Kerry said were aimed primarily at the rich. "I think President Bush has basically been running around the country collecting his rebate for the tax cut he gave people and I think it's polluting American politics to the worst degree," he said.

Brushing aside a question about the success of former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who led the Democratic field in fundraising during the second quarter of this year and poses a sharp challenge to the Massachusetts senator in New Hampshire, Kerry said his campaign has more money in the bank than either Al Gore or Bill Bradley did four years ago at this time.

Saying he did not want to get dragged into "the punditry weeds" about the state of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, he added, "I like where my campaign is and I am talking to all segments of our party."

On foreign policy, Kerry used the lunch and an earlier news conference on Capitol Hill to offer his toughest critique of Bush's handling of Iraq. He said the administration acted as if the United States had "stumbled into Baghdad" with no clue as to how to secure the country after President Saddam Hussein was driven from power. Since the fall of Baghdad, he said, the administration had shown an "arrogant absence of any international effort to build what's needed" to secure Iraq.

"I'm really disturbed that the administration is not being truthful in a sense with the American people about what's really at stake here," Kerry said. He added, "Winning the peace in Iraq is critical to us because it's going to have a profound impact on the war on terrorism. We literally cannot allow ourselves to fail."

Asked how Bush had been untruthful, he replied, "I don't think when you go to an aircraft carrier in a highly staged appearance and announce that the hostilities are over when they're not over, you're telling the truth."

Despite his criticisms, Kerry defended his vote last fall for the congressional resolution authorizing the president to go to war. "I am absolutely convinced my vote was the right vote," he said, adding that Bush's failure was in not using the resolution to build a broader international coalition before going to war.

Kerry said he is not prepared to draw a conclusion on whether the administration deliberately misled the country about the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but said his "level of concern is very high." He said Congress should have some kind of public investigation to resolve the questions. "There has to be some kind of public . . . accountability because the American people need to know," he said.

To help reduce the long-term threat of terrorism, Kerry said, the United States must use diplomatic efforts to push countries such as Saudi Arabia away from support for Islamic fundamentalism. "What we need in the Middle East is an aggressive, proactive, superengaged, leveraged kind of diplomacy that agrees on how we can begin to move them to modernity and in fact invests in it."

Calling the economy the worst "in many, many years," Kerry said Bush bears the responsibility for not creating jobs or a more robust recovery. "The Bush administration policy," he said, "is dead wrong." He said as president he would repeal the portion of the Bush tax cuts that primarily benefits the wealthiest taxpayers and provide a "payroll tax holiday" for workers. Kerry advocated infrastructure investments to create jobs and said he also would reduce the deficit.

On an issue related to corporate scandals, Kerry for the first time endorsed the carrying of stock options as a corporate expense. The use of stock options was abused by some companies and contributed to overly optimistic balance sheets. Kerry applauded steps by Microsoft Corp. to eliminate stock options for employees and said all publicly traded companies should be required to expense such options.

Kerry made an appeal for a plan to wean the United States off foreign oil through promotion of alternative energy. He said he would set a goal of producing 20 percent of the nation's electricity through alternative sources by 2020.

He called dependence on foreign oil a threat to national security but struggled to explain how U.S. foreign policy over the past decade would have been different if the country had not relied on Middle Eastern oil, particularly with respect to the 1991 conflict in the Persian Gulf, which he called a war over oil.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision striking down a Texas law against sodomy, Kerry said he remains opposed to gay marriages but said he would oppose any constitutional amendment to outlaw such marriages on grounds that it was "gay bashing."

Kerry said he supported civil unions and broad rights for gays but added, "I have a belief that marriage is for the purpose of procreation and it's between men and women. I see no great compelling rationale for changing that institution when measured against the rights that can be granted to people to live exactly as others do but not in that quote nomenclature."