Bush Tells Veterans of Plan to Redeploy G.I.'s
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: August 17, 2004
CINCINNATI, Aug. 16 - President Bush said Monday that the Pentagon would
withdraw 60,000 to 70,000 troops during the next decade from Europe and
Asia in the biggest realignment of the United States military since the
end of the cold war.
In a speech to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the
political combat zone of Ohio, the president said the redeployment would
create a more flexible military that would be better positioned to fight
terrorism. Many of the details of the plan had been reported in early
June, after the proposal was circulated among European and Asian allies.
Some troops will be brought home, Mr. Bush said, while others will be
rotated through locations closer to the terrorist threat - principally
the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as Southeast Asia. The
administration already is striking deals for greater access rights and
temporary basing privileges in nations closer to locations believed to
be terrorist headquarters and havens.
"For decades America's armed forces abroad have essentially remained
where the wars of the last century ended, in Europe and in Asia," Mr.
Bush told an enthusiastic crowd of veterans and their families at the
Dr. Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Cinergy Center. "America's current force
posture was designed, for example, to protect us and our allies from
Soviet aggression. The threat no longer exists."
The redeployment will affect an additional 100,000 military support
staff and families, but it will not affect the troops now in Iraq and
Afghanistan, deployments that have stretched the Army.
Mr. Bush's announcement, in a swing state that the White House has
identified as essential to the president's chances for re-election, came
with heavy political overtones. It is part of an effort leading into the
Republican National Convention to promote Mr. Bush's record on national
security, which polls show is his greatest advantage against his
Democratic competitor, Senator John Kerry.
Mr. Kerry, a Vietnam combat veteran, is scheduled to address the same
convention on Wednesday. Mr. Bush, who spent the Vietnam War in a
noncombat role in the Texas Air National Guard, attacked Mr. Kerry
several times in his remarks as being weak on defense.
"It's important we send the right signals when we speak here in
America," Mr. Bush said. "The other day my opponent said if he's
elected, the number of troops in Iraq will be significantly reduced
within six months. I think it sends the wrong signal. It sends the wrong
signal to the enemy, who could easily wait six months and one day. It
sends the wrong message to our troops that completing the mission may
not be necessary. It sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people, who
wonder whether or not America means what it says."
Mr. Kerry has said he will try to withdraw some troops from Iraq during
his first six months in office, but has proposed adding 40,000 troops to
the Army and expanding the elite Special Operations Forces. On Monday,
his campaign attacked Mr. Bush's redeployment plan as dangerous and
politically motivated, and said it would weaken America's relationship
"Withdrawing forces from Europe will further undermine already strained
relations with long-time NATO allies, will be interpreted as the
distancing of the U.S. from NATO and will set back U.S. efforts to
encourage greater NATO participation in Iraq," Gen. Wesley Clark said in
a statement issued by the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Clark, the
NATO supreme allied commander during the Kosovo bombing campaign in
1999, withdrew as a Democratic candidate for president earlier this
The White House released few new details of the redeployment plan, but
senior Pentagon officials said Monday that most of the troop reduction
in Europe would come from the return to the United States of two heavy
divisions that are now based in Germany.
A senior State Department official said Monday that American troop
reductions in Asia would be "not very dramatic," but military and
Pentagon officials declined to give any further details. The Pentagon
has already announced the shift, now under way, of some 12,000 troops
from South Korea to Iraq. The number represents about a third of the
American force in South Korea.
That shift, which is occurring at the same time that the United States
is trying to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program,
was also attacked by Mr. Clark. "Removing U.S. forces from the Korean
peninsula at a critical juncture in diplomatic efforts to dismantle
North Korea's nuclear program will send a dangerous signal of weak U.S.
resolve to Kim Jong Il," Mr. Clark said in the statement, referring to
the North Korean leader.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters on Sunday that the
entire process of redeployments would take up to six years, and that he
had extensively discussed the plan over the weekend in St. Petersburg
with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov.
The restructuring of America's global military deployments, which has
been under discussion for several years, also envisions closing scores
of smaller installations in Europe as a cost-cutting measure.
The plan has a heavy domestic political component as well. Reshaping the
military's global footprint, and bringing forces home, will coincide
with a new round of efforts to close and consolidate bases in the United
States, a lengthy process expected to run into fierce opposition from
political figures from those districts where bases might be closed.
In his speech to the convention, Mr. Bush rolled out a list of what he
said were his administration's commitments to veterans, a politically
potent group that the president and Mr. Kerry are assiduously courting.
The president said that when his 2005 budget is approved, he will have
increased overall financing for veterans since 2001 by almost $20
billion, or 40 percent. Mr. Bush also said his administration had
enrolled 2.5 million more veterans in health care services since 2001,
had begun a $35 million program to provide housing and medical care to
homeless veterans, and was modernizing old veterans' health care centers
and building new ones.
"All our nation's veterans have made serving America the highest
priority of their lives, and serving our veterans is one of the highest
priorities of my administration," Mr. Bush said.
The Kerry campaign responded that Mr. Bush's speech was misleading
rhetoric and glossed over a failed record. Phil Singer, a Kerry campaign
spokesman, said the administration had pushed for the closure of
veterans' hospitals and had forced veterans to pay higher health care
costs. Kerry campaign officials also released comments they said were
made earlier this year by Edward S. Banas Sr., the commander of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars, who Mr. Bush thanked from the lectern for his
According to the Kerry campaign, Mr. Banas called Mr. Bush's 2005 budget
"a disgrace and a sham," and said that "what the administration is
proposing for veterans is a shell game."
Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington for this article.