Kerry: U.S. toll in Iraq at 'tragic milestone'

/ Source: The Associated Press

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Tuesday, as U.S. military deaths in Iraq passed 1,000, that it was a “tragic milestone” and the nation should honor its troops’ sacrifice by continuing to “fight for what they fought for” and making right decisions in Iraq.

“Today marks a tragic milestone in the war in Iraq; more than 1,000 of America’s sons and daughters have now given their lives on behalf of their country, on behalf of freedom, the war on terror,” Kerry said as he arrived in Cincinnati on a campaign stop.

“I think that the first thing that every American wants to say today is how deeply we each feel the loss, how much this means to all of us as Americans, the sacrifice that we feel on a very personal level,” he said.

“And we are determined that as a nation we will always remember it, we will always stand up and fight for what they have fought for and their sacrifice will not be in vain,” Kerry said. “We are committed to making the right decisions in Iraq and the right decisions for them here at home, and that is the way that we will honor their sacrifice.”

President Bush did not mention the 1,000 deaths in campaign speeches in Missouri Tuesday afternoon but did link the mission in Iraq to the broader war on terror, which he said “will make our country safer.”

“Our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear. We’ll help new leaders train their armies. We want Iraqis and Afghan citizens doing the hard work of defending freedom. We’ll help them to their elections,” he said. “We’ll get them on the path to stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned,” Bush said.

Bush’s spokesman, Scott McClellan, tied the Iraq deaths to losses in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We remember and honor and mourn those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also remember those who lost their lives on Sept. 11,” McClellan said, noting that Bush has met with hundreds of relatives of fallen soldiers.