WASHINGTON – Bush administration failures to shut down Al Qaeda (search) and rebuild Iraq (search) have fueled the insurgency and made the United States more vulnerable to a nuclear attack by terrorists, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (search) says.
In a speech prepared for delivery at George Washington University on Monday, Kennedy said that by shifting attention from Usama bin Laden to Iraq, President Bush (search) had increased the danger of a "nuclear 9/11." He said it was a good thing Bush was not in charge during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, a nuclear confrontation with Russia when Kennedy's brother was president.
"The war in Iraq has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely," Kennedy said. Using imagery from the Vietnam War, he said U.S. soldiers are bogged down in a quagmire with no end in sight.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Monday it was wrong to suggest that the war in Iraq was a distraction. He also said lawmakers should be careful about making statements "in the heat of political combat" that could demoralize U.S. troops.
Kennedy said that the administration's failure to distribute billions of dollars in reconstruction funds and create enough local Iraqi jobs may have been the biggest factors leading to the rise of the insurgency there.
The Massachusetts senator has been criticizing the Bush administration in daily speeches in the Senate, serving as one of the most aggressive boosters of Democrat John Kerry's (search) presidential campaign. Bush, meanwhile, has accused Kerry of changing positions on Iraq.
In defense of Bush's policies, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., appearing Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" along with Kennedy, said that the United States must stay the course in Iraq and that criticism like that coming from Kennedy will hurt the cause in the Middle East.
Kennedy's Monday speech listed 13 reasons he said Bush's policies have not made the United States safer from terrorism. He said the war in Iraq created a new breeding ground for terrorists, distracted from efforts to eliminate Al Qaeda, alienated America's allies and allowed North Korea (search) and Iran (search) to pursue nuclear weapons.