Iraq's Odious Debts

Edwards: Bush’s poor leadership has hurt U.S.

Anna Griffin
The (South Carolina)
August 30, 2004

Wilmington, North Carolina: Sen. John Edwards accused President Bush on Monday of betraying six decades of American commitment to international cooperation to solve the world’s problems.

Speaking the same day the Republican National Convention opened, Edwards offered the Democratic response to a week of Republican celebration just a quick cab ride from Ground Zero.

The North Carolina senator evoked the imagery of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, reminding his audience at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington of the weeks during which allied nations around the world displayed the American flag to show their sympathy.

He accused Bush of squandering that international good will – and almost a century of American influence in the world – through “a failure of leadership.”

“There was a time when a president didn’t just speak to Americans, he spoke to the world,” Edwards said. “Think, just for a minute, about those men and women in Nazi-occupied Europe who would huddle around short-wave radios to listen to President Roosevelt. Think of the people who cheered in Berlin when President Kennedy stood with them and said, ‘Like you, I am a Berliner.’ Think of the millions of people imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain who silently cheered the day President Reagan declared, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ Think of the millions of people who admired George Bush’s father as he helped unify Germany and led a broad coalition to victory in the Gulf War. . . .

“The hard truth is that the world does not look up to our president this way anymore. They did for a moment after September 11th, but that moment was lost.”

Edwards said Bush’s policies weakened America’s leadership in the world.

“The president rushed to war in Iraq with no plan to win the peace,” he said. “He pursued a go-it-alone foreign policy that has squandered America’s leadership in the world and alienated the allies we need to win the war on terror.”

Edwards, usually the Democratic Party’s grinning example of youthful optimism, was subdued and stern-looking Monday. Gone were the familiar fist pump and the wide grin after big applause lines. He entered and exited to rousing orchestral music, rather than John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” or anything by Bruce Springsteen, the favorite of running mate Sen. John Kerry. About 50 military veterans stood behind him.

This was a newer, tougher Edwards.

Islamic extremists, he said, want to kill Americans and must be destroyed.

“We have to win this war the way we won World War I, World War II and the Cold War – with our allies by our side,” he said.

“This is not some academic or Washington thing. This is about more than getting other people to like us. We need strong alliances to defeat the terrorists before they come after us.”

Edwards made several specific national-security promises.

He called Afghanistan “a nearly forgotten front” and said Kerry would urge NATO to place more troops in Afghanistan and work with Great Britain to crack down on the opium and heroin trades there.

Kerry, he said, would bring U.S. intelligence agencies together under a national intelligence director and give cities and states more support in ensuring that first responders have the training and equipment to handle and prevent terrorist attacks. A Kerry administration would begin new programs to track the materials that go into nuclear weapons, and would offer protection to foreign scientists who blow the whistle on nations and groups that are seeking to build nuclear bombs.

Edwards saved his strongest rhetoric for the war in Iraq. He said Kerry would ask NATO to place 4,000 troops in Iraq and send a “clear message” to other Middle Eastern nations, such as Iran and Syria, that might try to disrupt elections there or harbor former aides to Saddam Hussein.

He said a Kerry-Edwards administration would bring other nations into the postwar effort by asking them to forgive Iraq’s debt and help rebuild the war-ravaged economy.

Edwards also said the Bush administration provided billions of dollars’ worth of business for Halliburton Co., which Dick Cheney headed before he became vice president.

“I think it’s time that our allies – and not just Halliburton – rebuild Iraq,” he said.

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