Published: September 25, 2004
HILADELPHIA, Sept. 24 - Escalating his critique of President Bush as commander in chief, Senator John Kerry declared here Friday that the invasion of Iraq was "a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, Al Qaeda," and asserted that he would refocus the nation's energies on "the real war on terror."
Less than a week before the first presidential debate, Mr. Kerry took aim at what has long been considered Mr. Bush's greatest political strength since 9/11 - the perception that he would do a better job keeping the country safe from future attacks. In two fiery speeches here, with widows from 9/11 and mothers of soldiers at his side, Mr. Kerry dismissed that notion and argued that Mr. Bush's real record on fighting terrorism was a catalogue of mistakes.
"Let me be as blunt and direct with the American people as I can be,'' the Democratic challenger said at Temple University. "The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy - Al Qaeda - which killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 and which still plots our destruction today. And there's just no question about it: the president's misjudgment, miscalculation and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win.