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Kerry slams Bush on Iraq, military

Democrat touts 'bill of rights' for military families

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

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Stay with CNN for ongoing updates and analysis of reactions to President Bush's speech marking the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
John F. Kerry
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America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a stinging broadside, Sen. John Kerry accused the Bush administration Wednesday of misleading the country about Iraq and neglecting soldiers who have been asked to fight that war.

Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Bush was more interested in tax cuts for the wealthy than providing the necessary equipment and body armor for service members in the field.

And he repeated his long-standing charge that Bush had driven allies away with what Kerry described as a "unilateral" approach to Iraq.

"We are still bogged down in Iraq and the administration stubbornly holds to failed polices that drive potential allies away,"Kerry told an audience at George Washington University. "What we have seen is a steady loss of lives and mounting costs in dollars, with no end in sight."

Kerry spoke at about the same time a huge blast rocked Baghdad.(Full story)

Kerry made no mention of the blast in his speech, which focused largely on his proposed "bill of rights" for military families.

Security, defense

The Kerry and Bush campaigns have been leveling charges at each other for days over the issue of national security and defense.

The Bush campaign recently launched a television ad that criticizes Kerry's vote against a spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan last year, saying it showed that he -- not Bush -- was failing to provide U.S. troops with the help they need.

Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts and decorated Vietnam veteran, said his "bill of rights" would -- among other things -- fully fund health care for service members and veterans, provide men and women in uniform with the best equipment, increase life insurance for reservists and allow military families who lose loved ones to live in military housing for up to one year.

Kerry gave no specifics on how he would pay for such items, but said they could be accomplished by "shifting priorities" and "scaling back some programs that do more for defense contractors than for the national defense."

The senator proposed adding 40,000 troops to the regular Army on a temporary basis to "ease the burden on troops" and he called for the creation of a "Civilian Stability Corps," a reserve organization of volunteers who would help troubled countries achieve stability.

Such a corps, he said, would include professionals such as judges, civil engineers, police officers and teachers. They could help, he said, in such areas as restoring roads and power systems, renovating schools and hospitals, drafting a constitution and building a police force.

As he has done before, Kerry said that some troops had been sent to Iraq without proper body armor, and he said some families were reduced to sending such protection to their loved ones on their own.

"I can tell you right now: In a Kerry administration, no one will be getting body armor as a gift from a loved one," Kerry said. "It will come from the armed forces of the United States of America."

Pentagon officials have said there was a shortage of certain types of body armor last year, but that the problem has been remedied.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.

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