War over the war
By Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "George Bush has not told the truth to the American people about why we went to war and how the war is going. I have and I will continue to do so," John Kerry said Monday.
Twenty-four hours before President Bush's speech before the U.N. General Assembly, the Democratic presidential nominee came to New York to deliver his hardest-hitting attack of the president's handling of the war in Iraq.
"His miscalculations were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment, and judgment is what we look for in a president."
Iraq today, Kerry charged, has become "a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who could someday hit the United States."
Kerry went on to say, "I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in the war on terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective war on terror that actually makes America safer."
He outlined a four step plan for action, including:More international support for U.S. troops.Better training for Iraqi security forces.A reconstruction plan with tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.Immediate steps to guarantee Iraqi elections early next year.
Bush supporters note that President Bush is already deeply engaged in those four steps.
"He didn't lay out anything that the president isn't already doing. All he seemed to imply [was] that he was going to do the things the president is doing but he would do them differently," said Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute.
But Kerry charged that the war was a diversion from a more dangerous enemy -- Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.
"Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not ... in and of itself a reason to go to war," said Kerry.
He defended his decision to vote for a resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein -- but charged that the president misused that authority, saying, "Instead the president rushed to war, without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work. He went purposefully by choice without a broad and deep coalition of allies"
Kerry did not address the other major point of criticism from Republicans -- his subsequent vote against the $87 billion to fund U.S. troops in Iraq.
Sen. Kerry insists that if his plan is implemented, a withdrawal of U.S. forces could begin next summer. He says a realistic aim is to bring all of the troops home within the next four years.