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Dean: U.S. can't win Iraq war

GOP says Democrat leader embraces 'retreat and defeat'

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Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean angered Republicans on Monday by comparing Iraq to Vietnam.

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(CNN) -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is drawing GOP fire after telling a Texas radio station that the idea the war in Iraq can be won is "just plain wrong."

In an interview with WOAI radio in San Antonio Monday, the head of the Democratic Party drew a parallel between efforts to hand over security responsibilities to Iraqis and similar efforts during the Vietnam War to the South Vietnamese.

That side ultimately lost the war.

"Of course, the South Vietnamese couldn't manage to support their own country," Dean said. "I do not believe in making the same mistake twice. And America appears to have made the same mistake twice."

Dean said he wished President Bush "had paid more attention to the history of Iraq before we had gotten in there."

"The idea that we are going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong," he said. ( Watch how the Bush administration is using the word 'victory' -- 1:59)

Calling Bush's plan in Iraq a "failed strategy," Dean said he and most Democrats support bringing home an estimated 80,000 National Guard and Reserve troops within the next six months.

He said that he backed the redeployment of 20,000 troops to Afghanistan and a force in the Middle East to deal with al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but not in Iraq.

"We cannot have our troops being targets there," he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman blasted his Democratic counterpart, accusing Dean of embracing "retreat and defeat" and "predicting that America will lose the war in Iraq."

"His outrageous prediction sends the wrong message to our troops, the enemy and the Iraqi people just 10 days before historic elections," Mehlman said in a statement. "Democrats across the nation should stand up and reject the pessimism of their chairman."

Responding to Mehlman's broadside, Dean spokeswoman Karen Finney said that Republicans were "cherry-picking" Dean's words "just like they cherry-picked the pre-war intelligence."

"We can only win if the Iraqi people are able to play a greater role in peacekeeping, and we can only win if the president gives an honest assessment of what's really happening on the ground in Iraq," Finney said.

"Staying the course and paying for good headlines are not a strategy. It's merely a bad excuse for not having a plan."

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