WATERLOO, Iowa – Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry (search) told fellow veterans Tuesday that the Bush administration failed to use the lessons learned in Vietnam to avoid war in Iraq.
"We are at war again ... at war in a way that breaks faith with the need to build consent and legitimacy. We're at war in a way that clearly does not honor the notion that you must be truthful with the American people," said Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.
Kerry said troops are overextended and put at more risk than necessary because of arrogance, "the same kind of arrogance that guided us during that time in Vietnam."
"We deserve leadership in this country that understands, number one, how we send young Americans off to fight and die," he said.
Kerry stopped at the Black Hawk County Soldiers Memorial Hall (search) to underscore his intention to make veterans a driving force in the days leading up to Iowa's caucuses Monday night. The Massachusetts senator trailed rivals Howard Dean (search) and Dick Gephardt in statewide polls.
Nearly 90,000 of Iowa's 290,000 veterans are registered Democrats or independents, Kerry officials said.
Kerry said while Bush exploits opportunities to visit troops overseas, the president has endorsed an increase in fees that make health care unaffordable for 1.2 million veterans.
Veterans intend to present resolutions during the caucuses calling for mandatory funding for veterans health care programs, retirement pay without a tax on disability compensation, enhanced treatment and research for service-related illnesses,and increased support for homeless veterans. Kerry said he supports the resolutions.