Saturday, September 8, 2007

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who has dismissed the global war on terror as a “bumper sticker” slogan, said yesterday he would create an international organization to combat terrorism.

Mr. Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, blamed President Bush for the rise of terrorism, invoking the September 11, 2001, attacks in a speech at New York’s Pace University.

“Are we any closer to getting rid of terrorism than we were six years ago? … The terrible answer is no, we’re further away,” Mr. Edwards said. “Today, terrorism is worse in Iraq, and it’s worse around the world. … The results are in on George Bush’s so-called global war on terror and it’s not just a failure, it’s a double-edged failure.”

Mr. Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, accused Mr. Bush of leading America “down a garden path,” “instead of leading a truly visionary campaign against global terrorism.”

As Mr. Edwards spoke, government officials were studying a new tape from terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, and Mr. Edwards’ campaign sent a fundraising e-mail with excerpts from the speech, noting the tape.

“It’s unbelievable,” wrote Michael Signer, the campaign’s deputy policy director for national security. “Six years after 9/11, we have to ask ourselves — why is … bin Laden still out there?”

Rival presidential campaigns commented privately the Edwards speech had little new material, saying it seemed similar to remarks other Democrats have made this election cycle.

Mr. Edwards’ comments yesterday on Pakistan were nearly identical to Sen. Barack Obama’s remarks last month.

“But I want to be clear about one thing — if we have actionable intelligence about imminent terrorist activity and the Pakistan government refuses to act, we will,” Mr. Edwards said.

“Let me make this clear,” Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, said Aug. 1. “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistan] President [Pervez] Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Mr. Edwards, who authorized the Iraq war but has since called that vote a mistake, criticized several Republican candidates for “essentially doubling-down” on the “Bush approach.”

He also criticized Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for having said the U.S. is safer today than it was on September 11, 2001.

“Some running for the Democratic nomination have even argued that the Bush-Cheney approach has made us safer. It has not,” he said.

Mr. Edwards proposed:

• Creating a multilateral Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization that would share financial, police, customs and immigration intelligence.

• Strengthening diplomacy, ending the Iraq war and focusing on terror cells in Afghanistan.

• Spending $40 million for scholarships focusing on Arabic and other Middle Eastern language skills for students who agree to enter into intelligence or diplomatic careers.

• Engaging American Muslims, empowering local mosques to “counter extremist ideas” and to work with Muslim communities to “identify and isolate threats before they materialize.”

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