updated 6/28/2004 9:07:40 AM ET 2004-06-28T13:07:40

Howard Dean sounded like he had been vindicated on Sunday when he noted that most Americans now agree that the United States should not have invaded Iraq. It was a position that fueled his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and earned Dean much criticism in the process.

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“After being castigated by both Democrats and Republicans for a while, now the majority of Americans agree with me this was a mistake,” the one-time Democratic front-runner said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

More than half, or 52 percent, of Americans said the war was not worth fighting, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll taken June 17-20. That number is up from 50 percent in May.

Dean said most people also agree with him that the war hasn’t made America safer.

The former Vermont governor had been sharply criticized for saying last December that the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein did not make America safer. On Sunday, he said Saddam being in U.S. custody is a “good thing.”

But he cautioned against turning him over to the Iraqis.

“Should something go wrong, and should he escape, then the war would have been entirely in vain,” Dean said.

Dean’s candidacy fizzled after his third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses in January. He only won his home state of Vermont, and that was after he’d left the race in mid-February. Since then, Dean has formed a grass-roots group, Democracy for America, and has campaigned for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee.

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