Kerry bids to outgun Bush on national security vote

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The Independent US

John Kerry stood in front of some big guns yesterday and pledged his commitment to national security beside the stage prop of the Second World War battleship in Norfolk, Virginia.

John Kerry stood in front of some big guns yesterday and pledged his commitment to national security beside the stage prop of the Second World War battleship in Norfolk, Virginia.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at the Democratic Convention, Mr Kerry's words - and choice of setting - showed the importance all players are giving to national security ahead of this year's election.

Mr Kerry proposed doubling the number of US special forces troops in four years and adding 3,500 active-duty and 1,400 reserve special forces. "I will never forget that our security and our strength begins with those brave men and women who wear the uniform as they stand watch somewhere in the world," he said.

A day after the White House said the President might act "within days" to put in place some of the recommendations of the 11 September commission, Mr Kerry called for the recommendations to be implemented immediately. The Commission should be extended so it could push for its changes, he added.

"We must act on the commission's recommendations now, and keep working, without pause, until we have done everything possible to prevent another terrorist attack," Mr Kerry said. "The stakes are just too high to treat this commission's report as something to just go away. The threat will not just go away."

The Vietnam veteran called for 40,000 more active-duty troops to reduce reliance on reservists and extended tours of duty.

One of Virginia's two Republican senators, George Allen, reacted by chiding the contender for voting against a bill to finance US military operations and postwar reconstruction in Iraq. "If John Kerry ever had a chance of receiving the support of Virginia voters, he lost it when he said he was 'proud' of voting against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan," Mr Allen said.

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