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Some Delegates’ Views on U.S. Policy in Iraq

July 28, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: Today there were yet more casualties in Iraq which kind of raises question about what John Kerry might do that would be different.

KIM COHEN, Colorado: I think John Kerry would be a different voice in Iraq; he would actually listen to people as opposed to saying it’s my way or the highway; I think that he would kind of question our whole credibility in this. We got into Iraq for the wrong reasons. We have to stay course because we can’t leave Iraq as a failed state, but I think that he would be willing to kind of work within the system.

I think that he would, as a new voice in the debate, be able to ask and get other people, other countries to participate. Kerry is smart enough to know that there are subtle nuances that I don’t think Bush understands. Bush looks at things in black and white. I think Kerry would see that you have to kind of look at all sides of the situation.

BOB TUKE, Tennessee: John Kerry is a combat veteran. So am I. I got to know John Kerry because he and I are both Vietnam veterans. We didn’t serve together. I’m a marine and he is a navy man. He is a brown water navy man. He knows what it is like to be in combat. He is decorated. He has been wounded.

I’ll tell what you he would have done differently. He would have ensured the military had a proper plan for the end of the war, not just the beginning of the war. The reason that all these casualties are happening is because we did not have a good plan for end of the war, to make sure that we didn’t get into the kind of insurgency that we are in right now. Secondly, what will he do now – because he is going to inherit what we have.

What he is going to do is first internationalize this effort, which should have been done, again, in the beginning but it is not too late. What we need to do is bring other troops in, other allies, hopefully even Muslims, so that we have people from that culture helping to quell this, because we believe that most of the people in Iraq would prefer to have a democratic, free, quiet, peaceful country.

GWEN IFILL: Yet, being president means you have to cope with unpredictability. The fact is , the U.S. is already in there. What difference does it make who’s president — how you handle what’s next?

BOB TUKE: Your point is well made. You have to be flexible and you have to be intelligent and you have to be able to make decisions just as Kerry did in combat in Vietnam and with his 20 years of experience in the Foreign Relations Committee and personal knowledge of world leaders, he will be able to persuade countries to join with us. And he also will be able to engage the American people in this effort in a way that will not require that 40 percent of all the service people that are over there right now are reserves and national guard. That’s patently unfair.

GWEN IFILL: All the polls show that people think of George W. Bush as being more strong on issues of war and national security than John Kerry. How do you convince Americans that what you see is a correct choice?

LOU ELLINGSON, Minnesota: That’s… would I say there is nothing further from the truth than that. John is very strong for the military. He’s strong for national defense; he will do what is necessary, but he won’t send troops into combat for an optional type of war. He will only go into war if it’s needed. John has experienced the devastation of war and what that is like.

GWEN IFILL: You served on a swift boat in Vietnam as well. Why is that significant, John Kerry’s experience?

LOU ELLINGSON: Well, I think it’s important that you have that type of experience. In his case, it showed determination, it showed courage; it showed strength, it showed the ability to react quickly when there was a crisis.

GWEN IFILL: As a veteran and as a delegate to this the Democratic Convention, and on a day when so many more casualties piled up in Iraq, how important do you think it is that next president be able to handle what’s happening there right now?

JUAN ORTEGA, Texas: It is very important that a president at least have a better feel and have some kind of war record because that’s the way you can have a better feel for what those individuals are going through, the sons and daughters of the current moms. That way you can be more sympathetic to what they’re actually doing.

GWEN IFILL: What does John Kerry have to say to undecided voters to convince them that he can handle the war in Iraq?

JUAN ORTEGA: Well, I guess what he has to tell them, that it’s not what party you’re on, but it’s the man. It doesn’t take a Republican to be a war hog. If you have to be a that way, a Democrat can be that just as easily if you have to do that job or make that decision.

GWEN IFILL: Tonight on the podium, Jim, we’ll hear from military leaders who will probably echo those same sentiments and hear from the likely vice presidential nominee, definite vice presidential nominee, John Edwards.