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Preparation for Iraq was insufficient, Nelson says

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said if were he president, he would build with other nations a consensus about Iraq's future.

By Associated Press
Published May 25, 2004

DAYTONA BEACH - The United States didn't prepare sufficiently for an occupation of Iraq, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday at a town hall meeting.

"The problem is, there was not the preparation," Nelson, D-Fla., told about 75 people gathered at the Daytona Beach Community College. "The big mistake that was made in Iraq was that we allowed an American face to be put on the occupier of a Muslim country."

The town hall meeting, which also touched on the budget deficit, the space program and federal education policy, was one of several Nelson planned to hold around Florida this week while Congress is on recess.

President Bush sought to reassure Americans on Monday that he has a plan to pull Iraq out of the violence and chaos that have marked the year since he declared an end to major combat.

Nelson said if he were president, he would call for a meeting of all the major nations, including the Arab neighbors of Iraq, to build a consensus about the future of Iraq.

"That's what is called leadership," said Nelson, who serves on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees in the U.S. Senate. "What you do is explain to them that it's in their naked self-interest to stabilize Iraq. ... It is absolutely essential for their economic and political stability."

Ormond Beach resident Ron Cahen asked Nelson whether he would have changed his vote authorizing the use of military force in Iraq with "20-20 hindsight."

Nelson said what he was told about the threat of weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein wasn't true. He said he was told Hussein was prepared to have pilotless drones containing weapons of mass destruction dropped over the East Coast. Nelson said he was never told, though, that Air Force intelligence had concluded that the drones were only for reconnaissance and not an offensive purpose.

"The reasons that I voted - the imminent threat to the United States - all of those reasons were not there," Nelson said. "So I voted for a faulty reason."

[Last modified May 24, 2004, 23:42:10]

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