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Kerry Press Briefing

Aired April 14, 2004 - 14:35   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: But right now we want to take you live to presidential hopeful John Kerry taking questions with reporters. Let's listen in.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A sense that the United States of America is going to be resolute and tough. I and made certain that we accomplish our mission.

But we shouldn't only be tough. We have to be smart. And there's a smarter way to accomplish this mission than this president is pursuing.

Last night the president had an opportunity to show the world and all Americans how we can most protect American armed forces. Our soldiers are baring the brunt of this occupation. Our military is to some degree overextended. Our National Guard and reserves have been turned into almost active duty.

American soldiers are bearing the huge majority, the lion's share of the risk in Iraq. It doesn't have to be that way, it never had to be that way.

Yesterday the president hinted at Mr. Brandini's work, but never embraced what we should be doing, which is a full partnership with the U.N. A willingness to have the U.N. take over the authority shared for the reconstruction of the government and for the reconstruction of the country.

And it is very difficult to invite countries to be part of that reconstruction if you are unwilling to even allow them to be part of the reconstruction.

I believe that there is a better way to share the responsibilities for this burden. This is not just a United States goal. Succeeding in Iraq is important to the Arab countries in the region.

I notice that the president finally is going to send Mr. Armitage to talk to them. That should long ago have occurred, that sue be a full measure of our approach. It is also important to the European countries what the outcome of Iraq is.

And I believe that we should embrace a much more significant effort of outreach, of diplomacy with the preparedness to have a full U.N. partnership in order to, No. 1, relieve the burden on American soldiers, No. 2, relieve the cost of the American taxpayer, and, No. 3, maximize the ability to succeed in our mission. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

KERRY: Well, I think that -- I think the vast majority of the American people understand that it is important not just to cut and run. And I don't believe in a cut and run philosophy. That's what he believes in.

I think that would be very damaging to the war on terror, it would be very damaging to the Middle East, it would be damaging to the longer term interests of the United States.

But he is right, he is absolutely right that if all you do is go down the road that we're stuck on today, the perils are much larger and the perception of American occupation remains a significant obstacle. So I agree with that.

But I don't agree with his conclusion about a difference. My difference is a very significant one. And it has been stated for over a year now as to how one should have gone to war, how you take a nation to war, how you best set yourself up for success, how you minimize the cost to Americans, how you minimize the risk to our troops and how you maximize the ability for success.

And I think in each case this is more complicated and difficult than it had to be.



KERRY: Well, Kelly, it may take a new president then to be able to change the atmosphere, in order to be able to accomplish what we need to.

I hope not. I hope not for our troops. I hope not for our country. I hope this president can achieve now what could relieve the burden on the American people.

I mean, it is a simple question. Let me ask any of you. Do you think the United States is better off with a lot of people on our side and with other boots on the ground or are we better off with just American soldiers doing this as just an American occupation? It's a pretty obvious answer.

Same, do you think we're better off with other countries sharing the cost or are we better off with Americans carrying billions of dollars of cost? Pretty simple answer.

But we're not pursuing the policies that, in effect, answer those questions properly for our country. Sure.

QUESTION: The Republicans saying they're doing that. (OFF-MIKE)

KERRY: No, I'm not playing any politics with the issue at all. The president -- you talk about politics, why doesn't the president just come out and say, I want the U.N. to be a full partner and the resolution that we pass will turn authority over to them?

That's the argument right now, is whether or not we're prepared to turn the authority over, whether they're prepared to come in without the authority? That's the fight.

And the question is why the president won't do that? Why is Mr. Brandini doing only the government transition piece and not the full authority for the transition of the government?

Those are the questions here. And I think there are very real differences between us, very real differences. I believe it is possible to reduce the costs and the burden and the risks to American soldiers. And that's the obligation of a commander in chief.

PHILLIPS: Presidential hopeful John Kerry taking reporters' questions there in Harlem.


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