Edwards: 'War on Terror' Has Hurt U.S.
John Edwards Denounces 'War on Terror,' Says U.S. Policies Have Strained Military Resources
By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Democrat John Edwards Wednesday repudiated the notion that there is a "global war on terror," calling it an ideological doctrine advanced by the Bush administration that has strained American military resources and emboldened terrorists.
In a defense policy speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Edwards called the war on terror a "bumper sticker" slogan Bush had used to justify everything from abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison to the invasion of Iraq.
"We need a post-Bush, post-9/11, post-Iraq military that is mission focused on protecting Americans from 21st century threats, not misused for discredited ideological purposes," Edwards said. "By framing this as a war, we have walked right into the trap the terrorists have set that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war on Islam."
Edwards is not the first presidential candidate to publicly reject the notion of a war on terrorism. In a speech last fall, Democrat Joe Biden also criticized the doctrine as "simply wrong."
In the first presidential debate last month in South Carolina, Edwards and Biden said they did not believe there was a global war on terror, along with Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel. Front-runners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama indicated that they did.
It was a new line of attack for Edwards, who often spoke out in support of pursuing a war on terror as a North Carolina senator and later as the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee.
"For us to be successful in this war on terrorism, we have to find these terrorist groups where they are, whether it's within our borders or outside our borders, and stop them and stamp them out before they do us harm," Edwards said in a 2004 CNN interview.
Edwards also voted in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq but has since become a harsh critic of the conflict. In his speech, he reiterated his call to remove American combat troops from Iraq within a year and vowed to "restore the contract we have with those who proudly wear the uniform to defend our country and make the world a safe and better place."
Edwards outlined several steps he said he would pursue as president to strengthen the military, including using force only to pursue essential national security missions, improve civilian-military relations, and root out mismanagement at the Pentagon.
He said he would created a "national security budget" to include the activities of several agencies, including the Pentagon, Energy Department, and Homeland Security. He also said he would boost the budget for military recruiting.
But Edwards saved his toughest words for the Bush administration, whom he accused of engaging in wrongheaded military adventures while abandoning U.S. "moral leadership" in the world. Because of the administration's poor stewardship, Edwards said troops were exhausted, overworked, and potentially ill-prepared for future threats.
"Leading the military out of the wreckage left by the poor civilian leadership of this administration will be the single most important duty of the next commander in chief," Edwards said.
Anticipating the speech, the Republican National Committee sent out a research document titled "Edwards' Troop Profiteering," noting that his campaign routinely solicits donations to help Edwards pursue his anti-war efforts.
"One can't help but wonder how John Edwards is comfortable beefing up his campaign coffers at the expense of our troops," RNC spokeswoman Summer Johnson said. "Edwards' profiteering isn't only in poor taste but it also illustrates his hunger for the White House trumps his sensitivity toward those serving America."
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