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Top Democrat: Kerry to hit Bush on Iraq

Mothers of troops to help 'tell the truth,' McAuliffe says

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(CNN) -- Mothers of U.S. troops serving in Iraq will help Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry make the case Monday that President Bush's optimistic view of the war does not reflect reality, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Sunday.

Kerry will make a "major address" on the issue at New York University, where at least five mothers of service members will criticize Bush's leadership in Iraq, McAuliffe told reporters in a conference call.

"They're sick and tired of George W. Bush and his rosy scenarios," he said. "They want America to know the truth, because they're talking to their sons and daughters" who have told them that Bush "is not telling the truth."

McAuliffe said the United States is "stuck in a quagmire" -- paying 90 percent of the costs of the war and suffering 90 percent of the casualties.

The speech will represent the kickoff of a weeklong focus by Kerry on Iraq, during which he will make the case that "George W. Bush has lost all credibility on the issue," McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe said Bush told the American people that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that he had a plan to win the peace, that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for reconstruction, that the United States would take democracy to Iraq and that U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators.

McAuliffe said none of that proved true.

He said the United States has become more isolated, with polls showing international opinion of U.S. policy plummeting.

"We're heading in the wrong direction in Iraq, and the president refuses to admit it," he said. "How can you fix a problem that you refuse to acknowledge exists?"

Instead, he said, Bush simply repeats that U.S.-led forces are making progress.

"He's like an ostrich with his head stuck in the sand," McAuliffe said.

Some Democratic operatives have been urging Kerry to keep his campaign focused on the administration's handling of the Iraq situation.

On Thursday, Kerry told members of the National Guard Association of the United States meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, that Bush knows "the mission in Iraq is in serious trouble."

"That is the truth, as hard as it is to bear," Kerry said. "I believe you deserve a president who isn't going to gild that truth or gild our national security with politics, who is not going to ignore his own intelligence, who isn't going to live in a different world of spin, who will give the American people the truth, not a fantasy world of spin." (Full story)

In a phone interview with a newspaper published Saturday, Bush played down a U.S. intelligence forecast painting a pessimistic picture for the future of Iraq, including the suggestion that civil war could erupt. (Full story)

The National Intelligence Estimate was sent to the White House in July with a classified warning predicting that the best case for Iraq was "tenuous stability" and the worst case was civil war, a source told CNN. (Intelligence report: Iraq prospects bleak)

The 50-page report, completed in July, was commissioned internally within the intelligence community and contained classified and declassified portions.

"I'm pleased with the progress," Bush said. "It's hard. Don't get me wrong. It's hard because there are some in Iraq who want to disrupt the election and disrupt the march to democracy, which should speak to their fear of freedom."

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