LOS ANGELES --
Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean, signaling his
intention to continue criticizing the Bush administration's war policies, said
Monday the capture of Saddam Hussein "has not made America safer" because the
White House had taken a "radical and dangerous direction" that left the nation
isolated and vulnerable to threats of global terror.
Hussein's arrest "is good news ... for the Iraqi people and for the world,
" Dean said in an address to the Pacific Council on International Policy in
Los Angeles. The captured Iraqi leader is "a brutal dictator ... who will now
be brought swiftly to justice for his crimes.''
However, Dean added: "Let me be perfectly clear: My position on the war
in Iraq has not changed. ... The administration launched the war in the wrong
way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning and insufficient help --
and at unbelievable cost.''
Dean's speech was one of several given Monday by Democratic candidates as
they sought to press their differences with President Bush on national
security and foreign policy despite Hussein's capture. Sen. John Edwards of
North Carolina and retired Gen. Wesley Clark argued that more attention must
be paid to the al Qaeda terrorist organization as well as the threat from the
spread of nuclear weapons to countries such as North Korea. All the candidates
stressed that they would try to create stronger international ties than has
the Bush administration.
Dean's address was delivered at a critical juncture for the former
Vermont governor whose rise in the polls has been tagged to his opposition to
the Iraq war, which provides a sharp distinction from many of his Democratic
challengers, including Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Sen. John Kerry of
Massachusetts and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, all of whom voted last year
to support the war.
Dean appeared eager to demonstrate his credentials on foreign policy
issues and put to rest the suggestions that Hussein's capture had derailed his
campaign -- and Democrats' chances of taking back the White House in 2004.
In his speech and in a question-and-answer session, Dean lambasted Bush's Iraq
policies and the general direction of America's foreign policy.
"When America should be at the height of its influence, we find ourselves
too often isolated and resented," he said. "Leaders of the current
administration seem to believe that nothing can be gained from working with
nations that have stood by our side as allies for generations.
"They are wrong, and they are leading American in a radical and dangerous
direction. We need to get back on the right path.''
Dean promised that as president he would send former President Bill
Clinton -- whom he cited as an experienced negotiator in the Middle East --
as an envoy to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, while sending a
message that supporting terror would not be tolerated by American leaders.
The capture of Hussein, he said, has not moved America closer "to
defeating enemies who pose an even greater danger: al Qaeda and its terrorist
On Monday, Dean wrapped up a two-day fund-raising and campaign trip to
California, including a stop Sunday night in San Francisco and an appearance
Monday afternoon at a Democratic National Committee luncheon in Los Angeles.
He also named a team of foreign policy and national security advisers,
including retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, former director of the Central
Intelligence Agency; retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, Air Force chief of staff
during the Gulf War; and Anthony Lake, Clinton's national security adviser.
Dean defined several circumstances that would justify a major U.S.
military incursion such as the one on Iraq.
"I believe that the use of force in America ought to be confined ... to
defense of our country," to stop an imminent military threat and "in some
instances where some other world bodies fail," such as in Bosnia, where
widespread "ethnic cleansing" required American intervention.
"We cannot be the world's policeman. ... We will always be more
successful in conjunction with other countries," he said.
As president, he said, he would work to restore "the legitimacy that
comes from rule of law, the credibility that comes from telling the truth ...
the strength that comes from robust alliances and vigorous diplomacy.''
Dean also cited what he called a major failing of the Bush administration
to address "ignorance, poverty and disease'" in developing nations, which he
called "a breeding ground" for terrorists recruiting the poor and
disadvantaged in the Middle East and Third World nations.
The tragedy of the "ill-considered war in Iraq ... is that we have
empowered radicals and weakened moderates," making it easier for terrorists to
recruit, he said.
He said as president he would expand assistance to developing nations on
issues such as fighting AIDS, arguing "if we want the world's help in
confronting the challenges that concern us, we need to help others defeat the
perils that most concern them.''
"I believe that we should have the strongest military in the world," he
said, but the nation also needs "the sense of high moral purpose" to make it a
leader among nations.
"It is absolutely the smart thing to do if we want children around the
world to grow up admiring entrepreneurs, educators and artists -- rather
than growing up with pictures of terrorists tacked to their walls," Dean said.
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle