Washington Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on Saturday urged the deployment of more U.S. troops to combat the growing Taliban threat in Afghanistan while accusing the administration of trying to salvage its congressional majorities by playing on public fears of future terrorist attacks rather than fixing what he said was a disastrous policy in Iraq.
As the nation prepares to mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Kerry offered a pointed rejoinder to President Bush's recent rhetorical offensive on terrorism. He said Bush's policies have turned Iraq into a terrorist breeding ground, unleashed dangerous forces elsewhere in the Middle East and diverted resources from the battle against terrorism at home and in Afghanistan.
"We have a Katrina foreign policy, a succession of blunders and failures that have betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it," Kerry said in a speech at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall.
A copy of the prepared text was distributed by Kerry's office.
The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee also accused Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who recently spoke of "moral confusion" in the debate about how best to fight the radical Islamic terrorist threat, of smearing those who dissent from the administration's policies by suggesting they were similar to Nazi appeasers in the 1930s.
"It is immoral for old men to send young Americans to fight and die in a conflict without a strategy that can work," he said. "It is immoral to lie about progress in that war to get through a news cycle or an election. It is immoral to treat 9/11 as a political pawn."
Speaking a day after a suicide bomber killed 16 people, including two U.S. soldiers, in Afghanistan, Kerry charged the administration of "a policy of cut-and-run" in that country and said the Pentagon should deploy at least 5,000 more troops to help suppress the Taliban insurgency. He said allied forces there need more helicopters, drones, heavy equipment and reconstruction funds to help prop up the government in Kabul.
Kerry restated his call for the withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Iraq by next July, a recommendation that most of his fellow Democratic senators already have rejected. He also urged new policies to free the United States from its dependence on Middle East oil, which he described as the "great treasury of jihadist terrorism."
"There is simply no way to overstate how Iraq has subverted our efforts to free the world from global terror," Kerry said, according to the prepared text. "It has overstretched our military. It has served as an essential recruitment tool for terrorists. It has divided and pushed away our traditional allies. It has diverted critical billions of dollars from the real front lines against terrorism and from homeland security."
A Republican National Committee spokeswoman, Tara Wall, called Kerry's criticism ill-timed on the eve of the commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks and charged that Kerry's blueprint would embolden terrorists and diminish domestic efforts to prevent future attacks.