VINTON, Iowa (AP) _ John Edwards said Saturday that challenging what he said was a failed war policy in Iraq is a ``high form of patriotism.'' The Democratic presidential candidate defended his decision to use the Memorial Day weekend as a platform to step up his opposition to the war.
During a weekend swing through Iowa, the 2004 vice presidential nominee focused on his plan to offer better services and benefits for veterans, returning troops and their families.
``I've talked at length at every stop about the need to have not just words to support the troops, but have policies that do it,'' Edwards said in an Associated Press interview.
Campaigning heavily in rural Iowa, he said anti-war sentiment has reached down to the grass-roots level.
``I get very positive feedback,'' Edwards said. ``I think the feeling to bring the war to an end, done in a responsible manner, is pervasive in Iowa. I think there's a strong feeling that what's happening in Iraq is wrong.''
He added, ``I also believe it's a high form of patriotism to speak out about something that is a matter of principle.''
Some veterans' groups have criticized the ex-North Carolina senator for sounding an anti-war theme on a weekend dedicated to honoring the troops. But Edwards said he was honoring the military in more concrete ways by seeking substantive changes in policy.
Edwards was joined by his wife, Elizabeth, who said the campaign is asking people to air their opposition to the war over the weekend, but that ``the activities are not going to be happening on Memorial Day itself.''
``We're using the opportunity of people thinking about it the day before,'' she said. ``Memorial Day itself is not supposed to be a day of protest. It's a day of honor.''
She said the campaign has learned the lessons of the Vietnam War, when many critics protested against the soldiers rather than the conflict itself.
``I remember the mistakes we made in Vietnam _ where we confused the people who were there with the policies,'' she said. ``We aren't going to make the same mistakes twice.''