In the 2004 presidential election, the situation in Iraq and the two major candidate's foreign policy positions are crucial to many voters.
The Republican incumbent, President Bush, argues that the war in Iraq is central to the broader war on terror, and that it has had made America and the world safer. He says that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a dangerous, brutal dictator who had knowledge of weapons of mass destruction that he could have passed on to terrorists. The president also believes a free Iraq will boost democracy throughout the Middle East.
His Democratic challenger, John Kerry, has termed the invasion of Iraq a "colossal failure of judgment" and a profound diversion from the war on terror. Mr. Kerry says Mr. Bush made Saddam Hussein his top priority, but Mr. Kerry says he would have kept the focus on Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist network. The senator from Massachusetts also accuses Mr. Bush of damaging U.S. relations with traditional allies and of failing to honor his promise to only go to war as a last resort.
Both candidates view nuclear proliferation as the greatest threat to the United States, but they have sharply differing views on how to deal with North Korea's nuclear program. Mr. Kerry advocates returning to bilateral talks with Pyongyang, while Mr. Bush insists on six-party regional talks on the issue, including China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.
The two men are also in broad agreement on the crisis in Sudan. Both candidates describe the killing in Sudan's Dafur region as "genocide", but neither one supports sending in U.S troops.