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Bush, Democrats Trade Barbs on Support of US Troops - 2004-08-16


National security continues to be a dominant issue in the U.S. presidential election campaign. President Bush cited his record before a veterans group on Monday, and his Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry, will speak to the same group later this week.

The president took his bid for re-election to a receptive audience, the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mr. Bush announced a major restructuring of U.S. military forces abroad that will involve the redeployment of up to 70,000 troops, now stationed in Europe and Asia.

The president also used the opportunity to criticize Senator Kerry's record on supporting the military, especially his vote against a bill last year funding the U.S. military effort in Iraq.

He also said Senator Kerry's pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within six months sends the wrong signal to friend and foe alike.

"It sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people, who wonder whether America means what it says," the president said. "Our friends and allies must know that when America speaks, we mean what we say. We will stay until the job is completed."

Senator Kerry did not make any campaign appearances Monday, but will speak to the same veterans group on Wednesday.

However, the Kerry campaign issued a statement noting that the president had threatened to veto the same $87 billion funding bill that Senator Kerry voted against.

Senator Kerry has promised to add 40,000 Army troops, if elected, and a Kerry spokesman said President Bush should be held responsible for the current situation in Iraq.

Tad Devine appeared on the CBS program Face the Nation.

"His alienation of our allies, his refusal to exhaust remedies at the United Nations, his refusal to go to war as a last resort has put this nation in Iraq today in a dangerous situation," he said. "And now, today, American troops and American taxpayers are bearing the burden in Iraq almost alone because of the failures of the president's policies."

Senator Kerry is expected to recall his military service during the Vietnam War when he speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Wednesday.

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