Ralph Nader, the independent candidate for president, condemned President George W. Bush yesterday as a "messianic militarist" who should be impeached for pushing the nation into a war in Iraq "based on false pretenses."
Mr. Bush's actions "rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors," Mr. Nader said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan. He said Mr. Bush had exceeded his authority in the face of widespread opposition at home and abroad.
"The founding fathers did not want the declaration of war put in the hands of one man," he said, contending that United States foreign policy goals are being hindered because the president tends to "talk like an out-of-control West Texas sheriff."
Mr. Nader said the White House should set a specific date before the end of 2004 to withdraw American troops. At the same time, he said he would advocate internationally supervised elections in Iraq.
When pressed by the audience, Mr. Nader declined to provide more detail on what immediate steps could be taken to assure stability in the region if the United States withdraws by the end of the year. But he criticized a resolution introduced by the United States and Britain on Monday in the United Nations Security Council, which would support a sovereign interim Iraqi government to take office by June 30. The White House had little credibility in making the proposal, he said, because the administration plans to build military bases in Iraq.
"We are the sovereigns,'' he said, adding that the bases will assure a permanent or long-term occupation.
People in Iraq need "a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
Mr. Nader, who in recent days has made conciliatory gestures toward the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, made no direct reference to Mr. Kerry's position on Iraq, but made clear that he held a different view. Mr. Kerry is sharply critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war, but has said the United States must retain and even increase its forces in Iraq while reaching out for more help from allies.
Mr. Nader also accused President Bush of exaggerating the threat of terrorism in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"To say that President Bush has exaggerated the threat of Al Qaeda is to trip into a political hornets' nest," he said. But he said it was time to raise "the impertinent question" about whether the threat had been "exaggerated for a purpose."
Mr. Nader said he believed such a deception had taken place, and had been intended in part to draw popular support for more militaristic policies and to generate military contracts for companies with close ties to the Bush administration.
In other action on Monday, Mr. Nader's campaign submitted to the Texas secretary of state 80,000 signatures of registered voters, more than enough to qualify him for the state's presidential ballot in November should his lawsuit challenging the petition process succeed.
Mr. Nader failed to submit the necessary 64,000 signatures by May 10, as required by state law. Independent candidates in Texas must obtain signatures from registered voters who did not participate in either major party primary, and must do so within a 60-day period. Mr. Nader's lawsuit, in United States District Court, contends that the law is an unreasonable and unconstitutional obstacle to independent candidates. A hearing is scheduled for July.
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