Kerry to attack Bush troop withdrawal plan


CINCINNATI, Reuters

Democrat John Kerry on Wednesday planned to attack President George W. Bush’s proposal to withdraw 70,000 American troops from Europe and Asia as a threat to national security that could blunt the war on terror, campaign aides said.

The Democratic presidential nominee also will say the military realignment plan sent the wrong message to countries like North Korea, where the United States has been working to deter Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programs, the aides said on condition of anonymity.

Kerry will make the remarks in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Ohio — a political battleground in the Nov. 2 presidential election. Bush addressed the same group on Monday, when he announced plans to move the 70,000 troops in a shift of focus from Cold War enemies Russia and China.

Bush said the pullback would create a more flexible military, improve the lives of military and better position the United States to fight emerging threats. The plan, to be implemented over 10 years, would not affect the 125,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Iraq.

Kerry will argue the plan “could impair the nation’s security, particularly in addressing North Korea’s nuclear program and in fighting the war on terror,” according to the aides, who provided excerpts from his speech.

There are more than 100,000 American service personnel in Europe, about 70,000 of them in Germany. Another 100,000 are in the Asia-Pacific region, the majority in South Korea and Japan.

The Kerry campaign has attacked the redeployment plan as politically motivated and said it would undermine the U.S. relationship with NATO.

In his speech to the VFW, Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War Navy lieutenant, will dispute Bush’s claim to be “getting things done” for U.S. veterans, the second time in recent weeks he has dismissed one of the Republican incumbent’s campaign slogans.

“The job will be done when there are no homeless veterans on the streets of America,” he said in the excerpts. “The job will be done when more than 320,000 veterans no longer are waiting for decisions on disability claims and another 100,000 are not awaiting appeals decisions.”

The four-term senator from Massachusetts also criticized Bush for his “go-it-alone” foreign policy.

While Kerry voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq, he has since said he would have proceeded differently than Bush: first exhausting diplomatic avenues, bringing in U.S. allies instead of alienating them and ensuring he had a plan to win the peace.

Kerry also has set a goal of bringing home a “significant” number of the U.S. troops in Iraq within his first six months in office — if conditions on the ground allowed it.

Bush has accused the Democrat of flip-flopping on Iraq and said setting a timetable to pull out troops sows doubts about America’s willingness to complete the mission.