WASHINGTON – On the eve of the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman delivered a blistering critique of President Bush's handling of the war on terror and said an international administrator should take control of Iraq (search) within 60 days.
"I didn't support the war so that the U.S. could control Iraq," the Connecticut senator said in speech prepared for delivery to the Council on Foreign Relations (search) Wednesday, just blocks from the World Trade Center (search) site in Manhattan. "Iraqis must control Iraq."
Lieberman said it's past time for L. Paul Bremer (search), the U.S. administrator in Iraq, to hand off control of the country's government to an international administrator. The new administrator should immediately announce a schedule for Iraq to adopt a constitution and hold free elections, he said.
Lieberman has been the most unwavering supporter of the U.S.-led war in Iraq among the nine Democrats pursuing the party's presidential nomination. But he has criticized Bush's handling of diplomacy and reconstruction, and continued his line despite a warning from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday that criticism of Bush's handling of the Iraq war could give encouragement to terrorists.
"The Bush administration has hoarded authority, bungled diplomacy, pushed allies to the margins, and divided rather than multiplied the strength we need to win the war on terror," he said. "I won't tie my tongue, nor should any American tie his tongue, because our Secretary of Defense thinks dissent encourages the terrorists."
Lieberman also said Bush has done nothing effective to reduce the nuclear threat from North Korea, get tough on Iran's ties to terrorism and secure stray nuclear material in the former Soviet Union. He said he would double investment in the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program that has destroyed more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and thousands of missiles and launchers in the former Soviet Union.
A spokesman for Bush's re-election campaign refused to comment and referred calls to the Republican National Committee (search). RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson said Bush's goal in Iraq is to give control to the Iraqi people, "but those decisions are better made on the ground than by presidential candidates."