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Text: Kerry Lays Out Iraq Plan

Monday, September 20, 2004; 12:10 PM

Following is the text of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's speech delivered in New York.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS) KERRY: I am really honored to be here at New York University, at NYU Wagner, one of the great urban universities in America. Not just in New York, but in the world. You've set a high standard, you always set a high standard for global dialogue, as Ellen (ph) mentioned a moment ago. And I intend to live up to that tradition here today. This election is about choices. The most important choices a president makes are about protecting America, at home and around the world. A president's first obligation is to make America safer, stronger and truer to our ideals.

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Only a few blocks from here, three years ago, the events of September 11th remind every American of that obligation. That day brought to our shores the defining struggle of our times: the struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism. And it made clear that our most important task is to fight and to win the war on terrorism.

With us today is a remarkable group of women who lost loved ones on September 11th, and whose support I am honored to have. Not only did they suffer unbearable loss, but they helped us as a nation to learn the lessons of that terrible time by insisting on the creation of the 9/11 Commission.


I ask them to stand, and I thank them on behalf of our country, and I pledge to them, and to you, that I will implement the 9/11 recommendations. Thank you.


In fighting the war on terrorism my principles are straightforward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies.

But billions of people around the world, yearning for a better life, are open to America's ideals. We must reach them.


To win, America must be strong and America must be smart.

The greatest threat that we face is the possibility of Al Qaida or other terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons. To prevent that from happening we have to call on the totality of America's strength: strong alliances to help us stop the world's most lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands; a powerful military, transformed to meet the threats of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction; and all of America's power -- our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, our appeal to the values, the values of Americans, and to connect them to the values of other people around the world -- each of which is critical to making America more secure and to preventing a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

We owe it to the American people to have a real debate about the choices President Bush has made, and the choices I would make and have made, to fight and win the war on terror.

That means that we must have a great and honest debate on Iraq.


The president claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy.


Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and from our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.

Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.

This month, we passed a cruel milestone: more than 1,000 Americans lost in Iraq. Their sacrifice reminds us that Iraq remains overwhelmingly an American burden. Nearly 90 percent of the troops and nearly 90 percent of the casualties are American.

Despite the president's claims, this is not a grand coalition.

Our troops have served with extraordinary bravery and skill and resolve. Their service humbles all of us. I visited with some of them in the hospitals and I am stunned by their commitment, by their sense of duty, their patriotism. When I speak to them, when I look into the eyes of their families, I know this: We owe them the truth about what we have asked them to do and what is still to be done.


Would you all join me? My wife Teresa has made it through the traffic, and I'm delighted that she is here. Thank you.


In June, the president declared, The Iraqi people have their country back. And just last week he told us, This country is headed toward democracy; freedom is on the march. But the administration's own official intelligence estimate, given to the president last July, tells a very different story.

According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the president is saying to the American people and so do the facts on the ground.

Security is deteriorating for us and for the Iraqis. Forty-two Americans died in Iraq in June, the month before the handover. But 54 died in July, 66 in August and already 54 halfway through September. And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August; more than in any other month since the invasion.

We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever-widening war zone. In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they attacked 2,700 times; a 400 percent increase.

Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra and parts of Iraq are now no-go zones, breeding grounds for terrorists, who are free to plot and to launch attacks against our soldiers.

The radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in suburbs of Baghdad than the prime minister.

Violence against Iraqis, from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation, is on the rise.

Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.

Yes, there has been some progress. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq, schools, shops and hospitals have been opened in certain places. In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails.

But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to be able to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they're sitting on the fence, instead of siding with us against the insurgents.

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