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Transcript: Has the war been worth the loss of life?


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Sen. John Kerry and President Bush debate foreign policy issues Thursday night.
TRANSCRIPT
Full transcript of the September 30, 2004 presidential debates. 
• Question 6 -- When should troops come home? 
• Question 11 -- When will the war in Iraq end? 
• Question 15 -- Why not send troops to Sudan? 
• Question 18 -- Did Bush misjudge Putin? 
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CORAL GABLES, Florida (CNN) -- The following is a partial transcript of the debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry held Thursday night at the University of Miami. The topic of the debate is foreign affairs, and the moderator is Jim Lehrer of PBS:

LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes.

Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost of American lives, 1,052 as of today?

BUSH: You know, every life is precious. Every life matters. You know, my hardest -- the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide comfort for the loved ones who lost a son or a daughter or a husband or wife.

You know, I think about Missy Johnson. She's a fantastic lady I met in Charlotte, North Carolina. She and her son Brian, they came to see me. Her husband, P.J., got killed. He'd been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq.

You know, it's hard work to try to love her as best as I can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her loved one to be in harm's way.

I told her after we prayed and teared up and laughed some that I thought her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy. Because I understand the stakes of this war on terror. I understand that we must find al Qaeda wherever they hide.

We must deal with threats before they fully materialize. And Saddam Hussein was a threat, and that we must spread liberty because in the long run, the way to defeat hatred and tyranny and oppression is to spread freedom.

Missy understood that. That's what she told me her husband understood. So you say, "Was it worth it?" Every life is precious. That's what distinguishes us from the enemy. Everybody matters. But I think it's worth it, Jim.

I think it's worth it, because I think -- I know in the long term a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, will set such a powerful in a part of the world that's desperate for freedom. It will help change the world; that we can look back and say we did our duty.

LEHRER: Senator, 90 seconds.

KERRY: I understand what the president is talking about, because I know what it means to lose people in combat. And the question, is it worth the cost, reminds me of my own thinking when I came back from fighting in that war.

And it reminds me that it is vital for us not to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors. That happened before.

And that's one of the reasons why I believe I can get this job done, because I am determined for those soldiers and for those families, for those kids who put their lives on the line.

That is noble. That's the most noble thing that anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome honors that nobility.

Now, we have a choice here. I've laid out a plan by which I think we can be successful in Iraq: with a summit, by doing better training, faster, by cutting -- by doing what we need to do with respect to the U.N. and the elections.

There's only 25 percent of the people in there. They can't have an election right now.

The president's not getting the job done.

So the choice for America is, you can have a plan that I've laid out in four points, each of which I can tell you more about or you can go to johnkerry.com and see more of it. Or you have the president's plan, which is four words: More of the same.

I think my plan is better. And my plan has a better chance of standing up and fighting for those troops.

I will never let those troops down, and will hunt and kill the terrorists wherever they are.

LEHRER: All right, sir, go ahead. Thirty seconds.

BUSH: Yes, I understand what it means to the commander in chief. And if I were to ever say, "This is the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place," the troops would wonder, "How can I follow this guy?"

You cannot lead the war on terror if you keep changing positions on the war on terror and say things like, "Well, this is just a grand diversion." It's not a grand diversion. This is an essential that we get it right.

And so, the plan he talks about simply won't work.

LEHRER: Senator Kerry, you have 30 seconds. You have 30 seconds, right.

KERRY: Secretary of State Colin Powell told this president the Pottery Barn rule: If you break it, you fix it.

Now, if you break it, you made a mistake. It's the wrong thing to do. But you own it. And then you've got to fix it and do something with it.

Now that's what we have to do. There's no inconsistency. Soldiers know over there that this isn't being done right yet. I'm going to get it right for those soldiers, because it's important to Israel, it's important to America, it's important to the world, it's important to the fight on terror.

But I have a plan to do it. He doesn't.

Next question: When will the war in Iraq end?


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