Bush to call up reserves after Nov. 2 selection
Kerry discloses plan by Bush to call up reserves and National Guard after Nov. 2 Selection. Kerry also attacks Cheney's ties to Haliburton.
Kerry Sees Plan to Call Up New Reserves After Nov. 2
By Elisabeth Bumiller and David E. Sanger
The New York Times
Saturday 18 September 2004
ALBUQUERQUE - Senator John Kerry on Friday accused the Bush administration of secretly planning a mobilization of Army Reserve and National Guard units immediately after the election.
At the same time, Mr. Kerry harshly attacked Vice President Dick Cheney for his financial ties to Halliburton, which has billions of dollars of government contracts in Iraq.
Mr. Kerry made his attacks as President Bush said for the first time that he planned to pull American troops out of Iraq as soon as Iraqi forces were trained to defend themselves and the country was "on the path to stability."
Officials of the Kerry campaign cited Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, as their source for information on the call-up plan.
"Hide it from the people, then make the move," Mr. Kerry told a town hall forum here.
In a statement and a telephone interview, Mr. Murtha, the top Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said that he had learned of the plan through conversations with Pentagon officials and that there was a "handshake deal" between officials at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the administration to delay the call-ups until after Nov. 2.
A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, denied any such secret plans, adding that the coming deployment of thousands of Reserve and National Guard troops was part of a normal rotation of forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, and that units were given enough notice.
In Charlotte, N.C., Mr. Bush did not address Mr. Kerry's accusations but went further than usual in discussing the preconditions for a withdrawal from Iraq.
"Once we get these folks trained and get them on the path to stability and democracy,'' Mr. Bush said, "our troops are coming home, with the honor they earned."
In the past, Mr. Bush has said only that the troops would not stay "a day longer" than necessary and he has criticized Mr. Kerry for saying he hoped to have troops out of Iraq within four years. Mr. Bush's choice of the word "stability" rather than democracy appeared to suggest that as long as the insurgency was quiet, troops could begin to withdraw even before democracy took hold.
Mr. Kerry, in his attack on Mr. Cheney, said the vice president still had a financial stake in Halliburton, the giant oil services and engineering company where he was chief executive from 1995 to 2000. The company has since charged Washington billions of dollars to feed American troops and rebuild Iraq.
"While Dick Cheney claims that he has gotten rid of all of his financial interests in Halliburton, he's actually received $2 million in bonuses and deferred compensation from his former company since taking office in 2001," Mr. Kerry said at the forum, which reflected the newly aggressive tone of his campaign.
The senator said Halliburton was profiting from "the mess in Iraq" at the expense of American troops and taxpayers and was engaging in extensive overcharging and waste under no-bid contracts.
"We need a president and vice president who aren't going to sacrifice the taxpayers' money on the alter of no-bid cronyism while our fighting men and women go without the armor and the equipment they need," Mr. Kerry said. "As commander in chief, I've got two words for companies like Halliburton that abuse the American taxpayer and the trust - you're fired!"
Mr. Kerry cited a report last year by the Congressional Research Service, an independent arm of Congress, that said federal ethics laws considered deferred compensation and unexercised stock options like Mr. Cheney's as "retained ties" to a company. Mr. Cheney holds 433,333 options on Halliburton stock, which he has publicly disclosed.
"Now, who's minding the store while all of this is happening?" Mr. Kerry asked. "We need a commander in chief and vice president of the United States of America who put the interests of our troops and our taxpayers ahead of their big-money friends."
Mr. Cheney's tax returns from 2001, 2002 and 2003 show he received a total of $1,997,525 in bonuses and deferred compensation.
Bush campaign officials said that before entering office in 2001, Mr. Cheney bought an insurance policy on his Halliburton compensation to guarantee that he would receive a set amount of money each year regardless of the fortunes of the company. The officials said Mr. Cheney's action, a common practice of executives who move to government, was within ethical guidelines and neutralized Mr. Cheney's ties to Halliburton.
"John Kerry's latest personal attack has as much accuracy as a Kitty Kelley novel," a spokesman for Mr. Kerry's campaign, Steve Schmidt, said, alluding to the writer of a book about the Bush family the campaign has attacked as rubbish.
Although Mr. Kerry has mocked Mr. Cheney about his ties to Halliburton in the past, his appearance at the forum was the first time he went into detail about Halliburton, which has been trying to tamp down accusations and investigations on overcharging. Mr. Kerry said Halliburton had charged the government $186 million for meals that it never served to American troops and overcharged the government by $61 million for importing fuel to Iraq.
Mr. Bush addressed the fuel charge last year. He said, "If there's an overcharge, like we think there is, we expect that money to be repaid." The meal and fuel charges are now subjects of Pentagon audits.
Mr. Bush's campaign responded to the no-bid accusation by saying that Halliburton's bids in the last six months were competitive, and that earlier no-bid contracts had been given to Halliburton because it had years of experience of moving quickly in emergencies like that of Iraq.
Bush campaign officials also made available to reporters Representative Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. Mr. Davis said the disputes over charges were not unusual.
"There is no evidence of a deliberate overcharge," Mr. Davis said. "But there are some things where there is no documentation, and they won't get paid. But that's not uncommon in a war zone."
In North Carolina, Mr. Bush appeared to allude to a forthcoming report by Charles A. Duelfer, the top American weapons inspector in Iraq, when he acknowledged that "we didn't find the stockpiles we thought we would find" of unconventional weapons in Iraq. The president insisted that President Saddam Hussein had the intent to build them.
That declaration on weapons is widely expected to be supported by Mr. Duelfer's report, which will find that clandestine laboratories run by Iraq's now-defunct intelligence serve could have produced small quantities of chemical and biological agents, but probably for selective use and not to attack cities or troops.
"Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision," Mr. Bush said, repeating a line from his stump speech.
On another day of charges and countercharges, Mr. Bush's campaign said Mr. Kerry had his own ties to Halliburton by way of David M. Marchick, a fund-raiser for Mr. Kerry who, the Bush campaign said, was a lobbyist for Kellogg Brown & Root, part of Halliburton.
Officials at Mr. Kerry's campaign said Mr. Marchick was a lawyer at Covington & Burling here who had Halliburton as a client.
A spokesman for the campaign, David Wade, said, "If there's one person on the Halliburton payroll Americans should have a beef with, his name is Dick Cheney."
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