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U.S.: Democrats Tout Kerry War Record As Key Difference

One day ahead of his formal nomination for president, Senator John Kerry was celebrated as a war hero by his running mate and other leading Democratic Party officials. Speakers at the party convention in Boston yesterday highlighted Kerry's military service, saying it made him better suited to lead the country's war on terror than President George W. Bush.

Boston, 29 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Democratic Party is using Kerry's Vietnam War experience to illustrate why he should be the country's next commander in chief.

Yesterday, on the third day of the four-day national party convention, Kerry's war record assumed center stage.

Kerry himself arrived yesterday in Boston on a boat accompanied by his fellow Vietnam War veterans, including a man he rescued from a river in the Mekong Delta.

The party's vice-presidential candidate, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, drew cheers after emphasizing Kerry's military service: "When a man volunteers to serve his country, when a man volunteers and puts his life on the line for others -- that's a man who represents real American values."

Edwards paid tribute to the Americans who have served in Iraq. He called them the "best and the bravest" and said they "deserve a president who understands on the most personal level what they have gone through."
"When a man volunteers to serve his country, when a man volunteers and puts his life on the line for others -- that's a man who represents real American values."

Edwards and other convention speakers repeatedly cited Kerry's national-security credentials, echoing a main theme of the convention.

Edwards also devoted a large part of his speech to foreign affairs. He said the United States was committed to building democracy in Iraq. But he blamed the Bush administration with weakening U.S. efforts in Iraq by failing to cooperate with European allies ahead of the war: "With a new president who strengthens and leads our alliances, we can get NATO to help secure Iraq. We can ensure that Iraq's neighbors like Syria and Iran don't stand in the way of a democratic Iraq. We can help Iraq's economy by getting other countries to forgive their enormous debt and participate in the reconstruction. We can do this for the Iraqi people and we can do it for our own soldiers. And we will get this done right."

Earlier in the evening, Kerry received the endorsement of retired U.S. General John Shalikashvili, former head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top-ranking post in the military.

Citing the senator's military background, Shalikashvili told the convention that he had confidence that Kerry, as president, would be able to build and maintain alliances: "Success in the war on terror or in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and to Iraq will likely elude us unless we bring friends and allies to our side both for the fight and for the long, hard work of reconstruction."

Kerry and Edwards both voted to authorize war in Iraq during the autumn of 2002. But they have said Americans were misled about the threats posed at the time, and that the administration's handling of alliances and postwar reconstruction has badly marred the nation's image.