- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday accused John Kerry of espousing an anti-American internationalism, charging that the Democratic presidential candidate holds U.S. allies in the Iraq war in “open contempt.”

“He speaks as if only those who openly oppose America’s objectives have a chance of earning his respect. Senator Kerry’s characterization of our good allies is ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom,” the vice president said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Library in California.

Listing allies including Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain and Poland, Mr. Cheney said Mr. Kerry calls the nations “window dressing.”

“They are, in his words, ‘a coalition of the coerced and the bribed.’ Many questions come to mind, but the first is this: How would Senator Kerry describe Great Britain coerced, or bribed? Or Italy which recently lost 19 citizens, killed by terrorists in Najaf was Italy’s contribution just window dressing?”

In Washington, Mr. Kerry initiated his general election campaign by reiterating his call for internationalism and accusing President Bush of weakening the military. He spoke at George Washington University.

“We’re still bogged down in Iraq, and the administration stubbornly holds to failed, unilateral policies that drive potential, significant, important, long-standing allies away from us,” said the Massachusetts senator who secured the Democratic nomination with Tuesday’s Illinois primary win.

Still he promised, to keep U.S. troops in Iraq if he becomes president, but he said his solution will be to try and rally support from more countries. He called on Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain’s prime minister-elect, to reverse his decision and keep his troops engaged in Iraq in order “to send a message that terrorists cannot win by their acts of terror.”

“We have to return more effectively to the international community and share authority, share the burdens with other nations,” he said, adding that he also will try to find “a way to share the cost for the American taxpayer.”

But Mr. Cheney, speaking an hour after the presumptive Democratic nominee, said Mr. Kerry who voted against the first Persian Gulf war, when a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait would delegate too much authority to foreign leaders and world bodies.

“Had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, today, in Iraq. In fact, Saddam Hussein would almost certainly still be in control of Kuwait,” the vice president said to laughter and applause.

Mr. Cheney accused the Democratic nominee of practicing an exclusionary diplomacy targeted only at nations that oppose U.S. policy and the Bush doctrine of pre-emption.

“If such dismissive terms are the vernacular of the golden age of diplomacy Senator Kerry promises, we are left to wonder which nations would care to join any future coalition,” Mr. Cheney said, drawing applause.

In his speech, Mr. Kerry said Mr. Bush has failed to take care of the military’s needs, even as the president has committed them throughout the world.

“We are weaker today militarily in some respects than we ought to be, but this administration stubbornly refuses to admit it,” he said. “Soldiers in Iraq are paying the price every single day, because our forces are spread too thin.”

Mr. Kerry criticized his Republican opponents for promising during the campaign four years ago that “help is on the way” to military families a line Vice President Dick Cheney used in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in Philadelphia.

“This time, help is on the way, and it won’t be coming from George Bush,” Mr. Kerry said.

He announced his own “military family bill of rights” in which he proposed increasing the size of the active-duty Army by 40,000 troops; promised not to cut special compensation for troops in combat; and supported providing housing, health care and assistance to families while a soldier is deployed.

Mr. Kerry also appropriated Mr. Bush’s own line from the 2000 convention, when then-candidate Mr. Bush said the Clinton administration “had their chance. They have not led. We will.”

Yesterday, Mr. Kerry said, “This president has had his chance, and this president has not delivered.”

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