Kerry Says He Can Make U.S. Safer Place to Live
By Patricia Wilson
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Democratic White House hopeful John Kerry called terrorism a "mortal challenge" to the United States on Friday and said he could make Americans safer and more secure than President Bush .
Kerry offered a battle plan for the war on terror, including the use of military force when necessary, a "name and shame" campaign against countries that finance terror and elevation of the CIA director to intelligence czar with control over all national intelligence resources.
"We cannot win the war on terror through military power alone," Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, told the UCLA International Institute. "As president, if necessary, I will use military force to protect our security, our people and our vital interests."
The Democratic front-runner, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, voted for the war in Iraq but has since been highly critical of the way Bush conducted it and its aftermath. He said the United States must work with other countries "instead of walking alone."
Bush's actions since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States had fallen short, his doctrine of "unilateral pre-emption" had driven away allies and Iraq was in "disarray" with American troops "bogged down in a deadly guerrilla war with no exit in sight," Kerry said.
Dismissing Bush's plans for fighting the war on terror as "an ad hoc strategy to keep our enemies at bay," and asserting the president let Osama bin Laden slip away in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains two years ago, Kerry promised to prove to Americans that he knew "how to make them safer and more secure" with a more effective policy.
"We need ... an approach that recognizes the many facets of this mortal challenge and relies on all the tools at our disposal to do it," he said.
His plan included a more aggressive effort to cut off terrorist funds by naming banks and countries that refused to cooperate and cutting off their capacity to do business with the United States. He would appoint a high level official whose sole job would be to lead the effort against the spread of weapons on mass destruction to terrorist groups.
To replenish the overextended U.S. military, which is currently stretched with forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kerry would add 40,000 active duty Army troops, a temporary increase likely to last the rest of the decade.
"What George Bush and his armchair hawks have never understood is that our military is about more than moving pins on a map or buying expensive new weapons systems," he said.
Republicans, who see Kerry as the likely nominee after his 18 wins in 20 Democratic primaries and caucuses so far, have charged that the senator voted against many of the weapons systems now deployed in the war on terror and, by extension, being weak on defense.
"History has shown Sen. Kerry's vision to be wrong," Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota said on Friday.
Sen. John Kyl, an Arizona Republican, went even farther, saying, "For a senator to be critical of the commander in chief at the same time he refuses to support those troops by voting against the appropriation that would give them what they need ... I think is a little bit beyond the pale."
Kerry charged that Bush had done "nothing or too little, too late" in other international hot spots. He said the administration had disdained the Middle East peace process for 14 months, leaving it "paralyzed," and had failed to curb the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.