Washington, DC, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Veterans and supporters for the Kerry-Edwards Democratic presidential ticket Tuesday blasted President Bush's new military-deployment strategy, including a plan to redeploy 70,000 troops worldwide, as counterproductive and nothing more than political grandstanding.
"The administration's plan won't fix the problem of an overstretched military, it won't save us money, but it will undermine our efforts to win the war on terror in Afghanistan, stabilize Iraq and deal with the growing threat from North Korea," retired Gen. Wesley Clark said in a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
"It's a strategic mistake. It's politics, not strategy, and we should recognize it as such."
Clark was one of several speakers to come out against Bush's global-repositioning initiative, which the president outlined in broad strokes Tuesday during a campaign stop in Cincinnati.
Speaking at the 150th annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush said his plan would allow for a more agile fighting force to combat the new security threats facing the United States. The permanent U.S. troop strength in Europe and Asia -- presumably Germany, where about 80 percent of U.S. troops in Europe are stationed, and South Korea -- would be cut by 50,000 to 70,000 people, he said.
"The world has changed a great deal, and our posture must change with it, for the sake of our military families, for the sake of our taxpayers, and so we can be more effective at projecting our strength and spreading freedom and peace," Bush said.
Clark, himself a former contender for the Democratic presidential nomination and former NATO supreme allied commander, said the plan was "more of the same politicizing (of) national security by the Bush administration."
"It's an administration that really has no vision except to look backwards," he said. Clark argued that Bush's plan was a repetition of President Clinton's troop redeployment at the end of the Cold War, when nearly two-thirds of U.S. troops were pulled back from permanent posts in Europe.
Part of the point of redeploying the troops is to make them available to fight in Iraq, Clark said.
"It's a shell game. We don't have enough troops to do the job, we're over stretched, and so they want to compromise our alliances with South Korea and reduce our bargaining leverage at a critical time on the Korean peninsula to feed the war in Iraq."
Clark also argued the plan was a tactical mistake. "Those troops are ideally positioned right now," he said. "We should not pull the troops and their families back. That only weakens the alliances and puts us in a position where we can't deploy as easily."
Moving the troops would only hurt U.S. national security, he said. "At a time when al-Qaida is in 60 countries, we need strong alliances, and these moves don't strengthen alliances, they weaken them."
The event also gave the Kerry campaign a chance to dispute allegations being levied against it, including smears on the senator's military record such as charges he was dishonest by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Clark criticized what he said were efforts to distort Kerry's military record and dismissed them as proof the administration was "getting desperate."
"It's wrong. It's the worst form of politics," Clark said. "The American people want the truth, they want the facts, they want honest dialogue on the important issues of the day, and that's why we're here."
Former Kerry Swift boat crewmate Jim Rassmann, who has become the center of controversy over whether Kerry in fact saved his life, offered a quiet statement disputing claims contrary to his own account.
"I'd like to say how disappointed I am to be here today," he said. "The fellows that are out claiming that Kerry did not earn his Purple Hearts, did not earn his Silver Star, did not earn his Bronze Star, were people that I worked with under John Kerry.
"And I respect the job they did. They did a fine job. It is unfortunate that partisan politics got mixed up in this and now we're in opposition."
Those at the conference Tuesday refused to comment on whether Bush's decision to join the Texas Air National Guard was "dishonorable" as several other Democrats have charged.
But Adm. Stansfield Turner reprised Democrats' standard question pitting Kerry's military record against that of Bush: Which experience is more important for a commander in chief?
"Do you want somebody who's been there, seen it, knows what it's like, or do you want somebody who has misled us into two combat situations?"
The United States went into Iraq "inadvisably, because of the commander in chief's lack of perception and lack of honesty," Turner said.
"The commander in chief today does not understand the basic concepts of the war," he said. "You go to war to achieve a political purpose. You don't go to war to win a battle. And he won two battles ... but the leadership did not have the foresight to say, we've got to go on from the battle, to the peace.
"I was an admiral. I was a chief of intelligence. And I'll tell you, I would be terrified to have to serve under the Commander in Chief George W. Bush," he said.