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One year after Bush declares �mission accomplished,� Kerry says Iraq is far from stable
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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- One year after President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq, Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry says the United States has not accomplished the mission of stabilizing the country.

�We need to put pride aside to build a stable Iraq,� Kerry said in a speech prepared for delivery Friday. �We must reclaim our country�s standing in the world by doing what has kept America safe and made it more secure before�leading in a way that brings others to us so that we are respected, not simply feared, around the globe.�

Kerry was speaking Friday at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., four days after Vice President Dick Cheney denounced the Democrat�s leadership on the same campus and one day before the anniversary of Bush�s speech.

On May 1, 2003, Bush spoke on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a banner that read �Mission Accomplished.� Critics have derided the banner�s declaration as U.S. casualties mounted, with fighting particularly deadly in April.

�I don�t think there�s anyone in this room today or 6,000 miles away who doesn�t wish that those words had been true,� Kerry said.  ï¿½But we�ve seen the news. We�ve seen the pictures. And we know we are living through days of great danger.�

Kerry has chastised the president for failing to get more international assistance. He has said that other nations have an interest in a peaceful Iraq, so the United States should reach out to them to share the cost.

Kerry said that attempting to achieve a stable Iraq with a representative government secure in its borders will be difficult and there will be no guarantee of success. But he said the anniversary of Bush�s speech �is a moment of truth.�

�This may be our last chance to get this right,� he said.

Westminster College President Fletcher Lamkin invited Kerry to speak on the campus this week, saying Cheney�s speech there Monday amounted to �Kerry-bashing� and the Massachusetts senator has a right to respond.

In 1946 the college was the site of British statesman Winston Churchill�s address warning of an �Iron Curtain� descending across postwar Europe. It�s also at the center of a battleground state in the presidential race, and Cheney sought to raise questions about Kerry�s vision in a time of war.

�The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security,� Cheney said during his visit Monday.

Kerry invoked the memory of Churchill and President Truman�a Missouri native�in his response. �President Truman could have used America�s power as an excuse to go it alone in the world.  Instead, he joined with the leaders of many nations to create institutions like NATO and other alliances to preserve peace, spur economic progress and address global problems.�

Kerry�s response was an opportunity for him to highlight what could become one of Bush�s biggest vulnerabilities in the election -- recent polls show public doubts are growing about Iraq and the president�s handling of the war. Yet this has not transferred into support for Kerry.

Kerry�s aides said this was designed to be a thoughtful address explaining his vision for Iraq rather than more partisan sniping with Republicans. But Kerry�s response on the campaign trail this week showed he was clearly miffed by Cheney�s accusations.

On Thursday, Kerry accused Republicans of distorting his record through �scare-tactic politics.� Kerry cited his service in the Vietnam War and on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and said he had voted for the largest defense and intelligence budgets in U.S. history.

�To suggest to Americans that I, who have already defended my country, wouldn�t defend it today is an insult to the intelligence of Americans,� he told donors gathered at Philadelphia City Hall.

Kerry�s campaign said he raised $200,000 on Thursday at each of two fund-raisers in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa. The campaign said he has raised more than $80 million this year, reaching his goal three months ahead of schedule.

The campaign set a goal of $20 million more before the Democratic National Convention begins in late July. Kerry still lags far behind Bush, who has raised more than $185 million since launching his re-election effort last May.


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