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Criticizing Bush on Iraq, Kerry draws comparisons with Vietnam

Massachusetts Democrat served in Vietnam

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Drawing comparisons with the Vietnam war, Sen. John Kerry said Monday the Bush administration is letting "false pride" cloud its judgment in Iraq and interfere with efforts to seek international help rebuilding the war-torn country.

The Massachusetts Democrat, a presidential candidate and Vietnam war hero who has voiced increasing skepticism over Bush's leadership on post-war Iraq, said his "blood boiled over" when he read reports over the weekend that administration officials suggested they would be "humiliated" to return to the United Nations for help in post-war Iraq.

"You don't make a decision about protecting your own troops and winning your objectives based on false pride," Kerry said during a conference call with reporters, scheduled shortly before he boarded a plane from San Francisco to Washington.

"Half the names on the Vietnam Wall date from the time that that type of pride began to cloud the decisions in Vietnam. I refuse to believe that the morale and safety of the troops is helped by inserting hubris in this process now."

Democrats have started to aggressively criticize Bush's leadership in Iraq following White House acknowledgments that some of its pre-war intelligence was flawed.

But Kerry, noting that the search for weapons of mass destruction still could yield results "as early as tomorrow," focused on minimizing additional U.S. deaths and rebuilding post-war Iraq by "internationalizing" the process.

The four-term senator urged the administration to put aside "hubris" and form an international coalition to rebuild Iraq. He said the United States should rely more heavily on Pakistan and other Muslim nations that enjoy more credibility than U.S. troops on the streets of Baghdad.

"I feel this passionately. I feel this very strongly. You can't look a mother or father in the eye when their son or daughter is lost, and tell them you did everything possible to protect them unless you're taking those kinds of steps," Kerry said.

"There are 147,00 American troops in Iraq, compared to about 13,000 non-American troops," Kerry said. "The whole world has an interest in a peaceful Middle East, and the whole world has a stake in our winning the peace."

"This administration did not have a sufficient plan -- they didn't have any plan -- for how to secure nuclear facilities, for how to secure Baghdad, for how to wind up winning the peace," Kerry said.

"I regret that we have to be chiming in from the sidelines to get the administration to do what's right. But lives are at stake. We need to internationalize this. We need to do it now, and we need to do it openly and we need to do it in order to defuse the sense of occupation and protect the troops."

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