Gee, he managed to make it to Iraq without violating any international laws regarding air travel or flouncing about with a plastic turkey centerpiece.
Kerry, who repeatedly charged during the presidential campaign that President Bush had botched the war effort, was greeted warmly by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.
U.S. soldiers approached Kerry inside the restaurant of the Rashid Hotel, asking him to pose for photographs and sign T-shirts. The star-struck restaurant manager insisted on serving Kerry the restaurant’s specialty, a plate of grilled chicken and lamb.
Later in the day, Kerry met with about 20 soldiers based in his home state, including reservists from the 356th Engineer Detachment and 126th Aviation Company of the Massachusetts Army National Guard at Camp Victory, where soldiers are bivouacked in luxury villas once inhabited by Saddam Hussein and his loyalists.
“They all joked about how living conditions had changed since Sen. Kerry was in Vietnam,” said David Wade, the senator’s communications director.
The senator said he was more interested in asking questions of soldiers, U.S. officials, Iraqis and even the journalists themselves instead of rehashing the political battles of the past campaign season.
But in several instances, Kerry attacked what he called the “horrendous judgments” and “unbelievable blunders” of the Bush administration. The mistakes, he said, included former U.S. occupation leader Paul Bremer’s decisions to disband the Iraqi army and purge the government of former members of Hussein’s Baath Party. Both moves are widely believed to have fueled the largely Sunni insurgency.
“What is sad about what’s happening here now is that so much of it is a process of catching up from the enormous miscalculations and wrong judgments made in the beginning,” he said. “And the job has been made enormously harder.”