Teresa Heinz Kerry (search) criticized President Bush on Wednesday, arguing that his push to invade Iraq "exacerbated, out of control, terrorism around the world" while alienating allies.
"The option was to do the job and finish Afghanistan, and then build a coalition to combat terrorism," the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) told relatives of servicemembers.
Heinz Kerry said the focus now should be on ending the fighting and bringing the troops home with honor.
"We don't want them to come back feeling like their effort was in vain," she said. "We don't want them to come back feeling like all they did was 'destroy a country.'"
"Our pursuit of the Iraq war and the way we've carried it out have exacerbated, out of control, terrorism around the world and, certainly, there has been the loss of allies and respect of the world."
Heinz Kerry also mentioned Lynndie England, the Army private from Fort Ashby, W.Va., who appears in several of the photographs of prison abuse from Abu Ghraib. Heinz Kerry said it is wrong to blame England for what may have occurred.
"She perpetrated some horrible things. She's also a victim," Heinz Kerry said.
In a banquet room at a Charleston restaurant, Heinz Kerry spent about an hour with nine residents who have husbands, sons and a niece serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. They showed her photos of their loved ones, some still in their frames. They also shared letters, e-mails and newspaper clippings.
Joe and Barbara Wyatt talked about their two sons serving in the Marines. One survived a mortar attack in Karbala last year, just days after Bush's "bring 'em on" comment. Joe Wyatt contrasted the stance of Heinz Kerry and her husband with what he called the "dime store cowboy attitude" displayed by Bush and his top officials.
"This war is a disaster," he said. "I'm so glad that John Kerry is taking the high road in his campaign."
Ofelia Horn expressed pride at the Bronze Star her husband, Army Lt. John Horn, was awarded Monday in Afghanistan. She also said she finds herself struggling to keep busy to avoid worrying about him.