WASHINGTON (AP) -- On the eve of a massive welcome-home celebration for U.S. troops, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson criticized the Persian Gulf war yesterday as a costly failure and said it was fought with "public-school children and foreign technology."
"It's right to love the troops," Mr. Jackson said in a speech to the Rainbow Coalition, his grass-roots political organization. "But the moral way is to love the troops when they are no longer troops."
In the most emotional section of his speech, Mr. Jackson said America should "love them [the troops] enough to afford them the same health care plan the Congress that sent them has. . . .
"Love them enough to build them affordable housing. . . .
"Love them enough to send their children to college."
Earlier, Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee told the group, "I believe this country feels good about the fact we are welcoming home the men and women who fought in the Persian Gulf."
Mr. Gore, a Vietnam veteran, said the parades in Washington today and in New York on Monday are "saying to them -- and at long last to the Vietnam veterans -- welcome home."
Mr. Jackson said the Persian Gulf war "cost us billions, yet failed to bring peace and stability to the Middle East."
"Saddam [Hussein] is still in power with Bush's forebearance," he said.
"This war was fought basically with public-school children and foreign technology," he said. Private-school children, he said, "went to Wall Street." His technology reference was to the Japanese computer components used in sophisticated U.S. *T weapons systems.
Meanwhile yesterday, tourists by the thousands crowded the Mall on the day before the big victory parade to gawk at the military might arrayed there. Even President Bush stopped by briefly and declared, "This is good for America."
The Mall was like a giant fair -- but the best part was when the display was assembled.
A Harrier jet, which can take off and land vertically, and a formation of helicopters arrived under their own steam. Two amphibious assault vehicles swam up the Potomac, lumbered ashore and drove a few blocks to the Mall. Thousands of troops arrived by bus, train and planes from as far away as Germany.
People lined up to climb into a Sea Knight helicopter to get the feel of the controls or to stand on a tank.
During the noon hour, there were as many bureaucrats wearing suits and ties in the waiting lines as there were families in shorts and T-shirts.
All this was a prelude to today, when 8,000 men and women who served in the Persian Gulf war will parade down Constitution Avenue behind their commander, Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
National Victory Celebration
* 9-10 a.m.: Wreath-laying and memorial service, Arlington National Cemetery. Gates open at 7 a.m. and close at 8:30 a.m. A limited number of seats will be available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
* 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: National Victory Parade with battle streamer ceremony. Starts at Seventh and Constitution, passes Lincoln Memorial and concludes at Pentagon north parking lot. Most of the parade route will allow for curbside viewing by the public. No special ticket is required.
* 2-6 p.m.: All-American Picnic, the Ellipse. For U.S. military personnel participating in the parade and their families. This is the only event not open to the public.
* 7-9 p.m.: USO show, grounds of the Washington Monument.
* 9:15 p.m.: Fireworks, the National Mall.
Today and tomorrow:
* 8 a.m.-8 p.m.: Display of military equipment used in the Persian Gulf war, the Mall.
For more information, call (202) 347-9155.
VTC TV coverage:
C-SPAN will air the entire parade beginning at 11 a.m. CNN will begin coverage shortly before noon, with occasional interruptions for news updates and feature stories.