Democratic Sen. John Kerry on Friday accused the Bush administration of hiding a plan to mobilize more National Guard and Reserve troops after the election while glossing over a worsening conflict in Iraq.
"He won't tell us what congressional leaders are now saying, that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and Guard units immediately after the election," Kerry said. "Hide it from people through the election, then make the move."
Kerry's campaign also intensified its criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney and defense contractor Halliburton, the company Cheney used to lead, as an aspect of the administration's management of the war.
"Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, has profited from the mess in Iraq at the expense of American troops and taxpayers," Kerry said.
The Bush campaign called the allegation of a secret plan "completely irresponsible ... false and ridiculous." The Pentagon said troop replacements would include some from National Guard and Reserve units and those expected to be sent to Iraq had been notified.
Bush has been campaigning as the best candidate to deter terrorists and protect the nation, but his presidential rival portrayed him as out of touch with a serious and dangerous situation in Iraq.
"With all due respect to the president, has he turned on the evening news lately? Does he read the newspapers?" Kerry said. "Does he really know what's happening? Is he talking about the same war that the rest of us are talking about?"
Kerry said the president was avoiding hard truths about casualties, new insurgencies and troop shortages. The Bush campaign denied the assertion about secret plans. "John Kerry's conspiracy theory of a secret troop deployment is completely irresponsible," said spokesman Steve Schmidt.
The Army is on target to rotate into Iraq the same number of soldiers that will be leaving over the next six months, and all National Guard and Reserve units that are expected to be mobilized for the next rotation have been notified, the Pentagon said.