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Democratic Convention Speeches Focus on Iraq, Other Foreign Issues - 2004-07-29

Foreign policy issues, including the situation in Iraq, figured prominently in speeches during the third day of the Democratic national convention in Boston.

Political conventions have for decades provided politicians and others an opportunity to voice their feelings about a range of issues, domestic and foreign.

However, foreign policy plays a particularly prominent role this year, because national security has become unusually important in American politics in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

From the continuing military and security struggles in Iraq, to the situation in Sudan, many have tried to highlight issues that otherwise might be submerged amid talk about the economy, health care, education and other things.

Iraq continues to feature prominently as the convention moves toward its climax.

Addressing the convention Wednesday, Congressman Ike Skelton, top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, had this indirect criticism of Bush administration support for U.S. troops in Iraq.

"In a foxhole there are no political parties. It is a mistake to assume that military votes are Republican votes," he said. "The bulk of the [U.S.] enlisted military comes from inner cities and rural areas that form the Democratic core. Military personnel don't like being used as props for political purposes. We need to honor their service. Don't deploy them wantonly. Give them the compensation, the recognition and the tools they need and above all, don't patronize them."

Senator Kerry has pledged a range of steps to strengthen the U.S. and has received the endorsement of many veterans groups. At a campaign event Wednesday here in Boston, a dozen former U.S. generals and admirals endorsed Mr. Kerry for president.

The subject of Sudan, where government-supported militias have killed, injured and displaced thousands, made it to the floor of the Democratic convention.

Congressman Joe Hoeffel, who is running for a key Senate seat in the [Eastern] state of Pennsylvania, listed bloodshed and human rights violations in Sudan among issues he says a Kerry administration can be expected to aggressively deal with:

"The fierce urgency of now, demands that we respond to the genocide, rape and murder in the Sudan," he said.

One of the Democratic party foreign policy platforms is a pledge to exert more American leadership on situations such as that in Sudan's Western Darfur region.

However, most of the attention in the party platform is devoted to Iraq, and reflects Senator Kerry's view that the United States must remain engaged to create a stable and secure environment there, while seeking to internationalize military operations.

Senator Kerry, who voted for a congressional resolution authorizing military action in Iraq, is expected to address these issues again on Thursday as he accepts the Democratic nomination for President.