Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is campaigning in Iowa over the Memorial Day holiday, calling for better health care for veterans and for those currently serving in the military.
"I’ll be talking about that in detail this weekend in Iowa — what we do to meet our sacred responsibility to the men and women in uniform and what America needs to do to reestablish us as a moral force in the world," Edwards says.
Earlier this month Edwards called on Americans to use this three-day holiday to speak their mind about the war in Iraq. Some veterans groups have accused Edwards of politicizing a "sacred" holiday. Edwards isn’t backing down.
"My family, our campaign — they’re sending care packages to troops. We’re writing letters. We’re asking other people to do the same thing, to make it clear that we’re patriots, that we love our men and women in uniform and appreciate their service," Edwards says. "But one of the things we need to do as patriots is to speak out about ending this war and bringing our men and women home and that’s what I’ve called for. I think it is the heart and soul of our democracy and it’s clear that the American people want this war to end and their voices need to be heard."
Edwards, who delivered a foreign policy address earlier this week, says getting out of Iraq is linked with regaining America’s moral authority to lead the world. "That means that we maintain our strength — our economic strength, our military strength and our political strength, but in order for the rest of the world to follow us they’re going to have to see us as a force for good again," Edwards says. "We’re going to have to lead in humanitarian effort. We’re going to have to get out of Iraq. We’re going to have to lead on issues like the genocide in Darfur, the spread of HIV/AIDS."
Edwards has urged congress to include an Iraq withdrawal date in the bill providing money to the military. Edwards has also called for beefing up the pay for soldiers. "The Bush Administration has extraordinarily diminished our ability to be strong because our military is so beaten up and banged up — both our equipment and our people," Edwards says. "Secondly, they’ve completely destroyed America’s moral authority in the world. We’re seen as a bully and selfish and both of those things have to be fixed."
Edwards made his comments during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.
Edwards starts his campaign swing with a community meeting in Fort Madison this morning and he’s scheduled to stop in a dozen more communities over the next three days.