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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
John Kerry speech: Key extracts
US Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry makes his most outspoken attack on President Bush over the conflict in Iraq in a speech at New York University.

In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straightforward.

The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them.

As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to America's ideals.

John Kerry delivers an electoral speech at New York University
Kerry's campaign is now focusing on the Iraq conflict

We must reach them.

To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart.

The greatest threat we face is the possibility al-Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

To prevent that from happening, we must call on the totality of America's strength.

Strong alliances, to help us stop the world's most lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands.

A powerful military, transformed to meet the new threats of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

And all of America's power - our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, the appeal of our values - each of which is critical to making America more secure and preventing a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

National security is a central issue in this campaign.

Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists

We owe it to the American people to have a real debate about the choices President Bush has made, and the choices I would make, to fight and win the war on terror.

That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq.

The president claims it is the centrepiece of his war on terror.

In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.

Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.

'Bravery, skill and resolve'

This month, we passed a cruel milestone: more than 1,000 Americans lost in Iraq.

Their sacrifice reminds us that Iraq remains, overwhelmingly, an American burden.

Nearly 90% of the troops - and nearly 90% of the casualties - are American.

Despite the President's claims, this is not a grand coalition.

Our troops have served with extraordinary bravery, skill and resolve.

The administration's own official intelligence estimate, given to the president last July, tells a very different story

Their service humbles all of us.

When I speak to them, when I look into the eyes of their families, I know this: we owe them the truth about what we have asked them to do, and what is still to be done.

In June, the President declared, "The Iraqi people have their country back."

Just last week, he told us: "This country is headed toward democracy... Freedom is on the march."

But the administration's own official intelligence estimate, given to the president last July, tells a very different story.

According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the president is saying to the American people.

So do the facts on the ground.

Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis.

We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war zone

Forty-two Americans died in Iraq in June - the month before the handover.

But 54 died in July, 66 in August, and already 54 halfway through September.

And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August - more than in any other month since the invasion.

We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever-widening war zone.

In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they attacked 2,700 times - a 400% increase.

Falluja, Ramadi, Samara... even parts of Baghdad are now no-go zones, breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers.

Worsening conditions

The radical Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, who's accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Violence against Iraqis, from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation, is on the rise.

Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.

Residents of Baghdad are suffering electricity blackouts lasting up to 14 hours a day.

Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees.

Insurgents are able to find plenty of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing US convoys

Children wade through garbage on their way to school.

Unemployment is over 50%.

Insurgents are able to find plenty of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing US convoys.

Yes, there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq.

Schools, shops and hospitals have been opened. In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails.

But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they're sitting on the fence instead of siding with us against the insurgents.

That is the truth.

The truth that the commander-in-chief owes to our troops and the American people.

It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger.

But it's essential if we want to correct our course and do what's right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again...

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war.

The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.
At every fork in the road, [President Bush] has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction

The president has said that he "miscalculated" in Iraq and that it was a "catastrophic success".

In fact, the president has made a series of catastrophic decisions from the beginning in Iraq.

At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

War rationales

The first and most fundamental mistake was the President's failure to tell the truth to the American people.

He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war.

If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales - weapons of mass destruction and the al-Qaeda/11 September connection - have been proved false by the president's own weapons inspectors and by the 9/11 Commission.

Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts.

Only Vice-President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

The President also failed to level with the American people about what it would take to prevail in Iraq.

He didn't tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for years, not months.

He didn't tell us that he wouldn't take the time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies.

He didn't tell us that the cost would exceed $200bn.

He didn't tell us that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

And America will pay an even heavier price for the president's lack of candour.

Plummeting credibility

At home, the American people are less likely to trust this administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to our security.

Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we seek to rally them against a common menace - as they are today.

Our credibility in the world has plummeted...

The president now admits to "miscalculations" in Iraq. That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history

This president's failure to tell the truth to us before the war has been exceeded by fundamental errors of judgment during and after the war.

The president now admits to "miscalculations" in Iraq.

That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history.

His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment, and judgment is what we look for in a president.

This is all the more stunning because we're not talking about 20/20 hindsight.

Before the war, before he chose to go to war, bi-partisan Congressional hearings, major outside studies and even some in the administration itself predicted virtually every problem we now face in Iraq.

This president was in denial.

He hitched his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military.

The result is a long litany of misjudgements with terrible consequences...

Lack of accountability

In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed.

This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candour, arrogance and outright incompetence.

And the president has held no one accountable, including himself.

In fact, the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones who told the truth.

General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. He was retired.

Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq would cost as much as $200bn. He was fired...

After the successful entry into Baghdad, George Bush was offered help from the UN - and he rejected it...

Increasing danger

Can anyone seriously say this President has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war on terrorism?

By any measure, the answer is no.

Nuclear dangers have mounted across the globe. The international terrorist club has expanded. Radicalism in the Middle East is on the rise.

The president's policy in Iraq precipitated the very problem he said he was trying to prevent

We have divided our friends and united our enemies. And our standing in the world is at an all-time low...

The president's policy in Iraq precipitated the very problem he said he was trying to prevent.

Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops.

Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States...

'Imminent threat'

Two years ago, Congress was right to give the President the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable.

This president - any President - would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This president misused that authority...

The president rushed to war without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work.

He went without a broad and deep coalition of allies.

He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armour.

And he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of the post-war. None of which I would have done.

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?

Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq?

My answer is no, because a commander-in-chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe...

Fresh start

We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq.

First, the president has to get the promised international support so our men and women in uniform don't have to go it alone. It is late; the president must respond by moving this week to gain and regain international support.

Last spring, after too many months of resistance and delay, the president finally went back to the UN which passed Resolution 1546. It was the right thing to do but it was late.

That resolution calls on UN members to help in Iraq by providing troops, trainers for Iraq's security forces, a special brigade to protect the UN mission, more financial assistance and real debt relief.

Three months later, not a single country has answered that call. And the president acts as if it doesn't matter.

The president must get serious about training Iraqi security forces

And of the $13bn previously pledged to Iraq by other countries, only $1.2bn has been delivered.

The president should convene a summit meeting of the world's major powers and Iraq's neighbours, this week, in New York, where many leaders will attend the UN General Assembly.

He should insist that they make good on that UN resolution. He should offer potential troop contributors specific, but critical roles, in training Iraqi security personnel and securing Iraq's borders.

He should give other countries a stake in Iraq's future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq's oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process...

Second, the president must get serious about training Iraqi security forces.

Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis were in uniform.

Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was exaggerated by more than 50%. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces.

But guess what? Neither number bears any relationship to the truth. For example, just 5,000 Iraqi soldiers have been fully trained, by the administration's own minimal standards. And of the 35,000 police now in uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program.

Is it any wonder that Iraqi security forces can't stop the insurgency or provide basic law and order?...

Third, the president must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people...

Now, the president should look at the whole reconstruction package, draw up a list of high-visibility, quick-impact projects and cut through the red tape.

He should use more Iraqi contractors and workers, instead of big corporations like Halliburton.

He should stop paying companies under investigation for fraud or corruption. And he should fire the civilians in the Pentagon responsible for mismanaging the reconstruction effort.

Fourth, the president must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to guarantee the promised elections can be held next year...

If the President would move in this direction, if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces, train the Iraqis to provide their own security, develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year, we could begin to withdraw US forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.

'Wrong choice'

This is what has to be done. This is what I would do as president today.

But we cannot afford to wait until January. President Bush owes it to the American people to tell the truth and put Iraq on the right track. Even more, he owes it to our troops and their families, whose sacrifice is a testament to the best of America.

The principles that should guide American policy in Iraq now and in the future are clear: We must make Iraq the world's responsibility, because the world has a stake in the outcome and others should share the burden...

At every critical juncture in Iraq, and in the war on terrorism, the president has made the wrong choice. I have a plan to make America stronger.

The president often says that in a post-9/11 world, we can't hesitate to act. I agree. But we should not act just for the sake of acting. I believe we have to act wisely and responsibly.

George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do.

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...

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