NEW YORK — Sen. John Kerry said today that mistakes by President Bush in invading Iraq could lead to unending war and that no responsible commander in chief would have waged the war knowing Saddam Hussein didn't possess weapons of mass destruction and wasn't an imminent threat to the United States.This again? I submit that no responsible candidate would keep recycling these tired myths. Bush didn’t claim Iraq was an imminent threat. He argued that we couldn’t afford to wait until the threat became imminent:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. (State of the Union, January, 2003)
Kerry’s suggestion that Bush knew there were no WMD is equally irresponsible. Bush believed Iraq had WMD for the same reason everyone else did: because every major intelligence agency in the world said so. CIA Director George Tenet told Bush it was a “slam dunk.” Even Kerry, who sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, believed Iraq had WMD:
"I'll be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force ... to disarm Saddam. ... I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., 10-9-02
"... a brutal, murderous dictator ... an oppressive regime ... continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... the threat of Saddam with weapons of mass destruction is real." Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., 1-23-03
And for the record, we have found some WMD, though the standard has shifted from whether they existed to whether there were “stockpiles.”
Continuing with the Times article:
"Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?" Kerry said at New York University.
Kerry, a fourth-term Massachusetts senator, voted to give Bush authority to wage the war and he said in August he still would have voted that way had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Looks like we should be asking the same question about Mr. Kerry: How can he possibly be serious? The Times answers that question:
The Democratic presidential candidate makes a distinction between granting a president war-making authority as a member of the Senate and, as commander in chief, actually taking that fateful step. Republicans have accused Kerry of waffling on the war.
The answer is that Kerry isn’t a serious candidate. He talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk. He speaks of voting… of granting… of empowering... of authorizing… of threatening. But he never speaking of acting. This is the United Nations mindset that failed to make progress for over a decade. A President has to be willing to act, and John Kerry doesn’t have that resolve.
Kerry said today, "Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe."
Another myth. The 9/11 Commission report makes clear that there were numerous connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda. You’d think with all those advisors, Kerry would find someone who actually read the report, or at least a newspaper.
"Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell," Kerry said. "But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."
I beg to differ. Removing a mass murder from power was a noble and just cause for going to war. We didn’t trade a dictator for chaos. We liberated 25 million Iraqis, and are helping them build a future. The war is the process, not the end result.
Kerry said today, "The president's insistence that he would do the same thing all over again in Iraq is a clear warning for the future. And it makes the choice in this election clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction that makes our troops and America safer."
Yes, the choice is clear—stark even. Kerry will take the easy route. He will pursue an illusion of short-term “safety,” which will take the pressure off those who are committed to exterminating us. Bush recognizes what is at stake, and he has the resolve to make the tough decisions so that we will be secure in the future. As Thomas Paine said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my children will know peace."
Kerry then describes his four-point plan for Iraq:
-- Get more help from other nations.
This is a fantasy. France and Germany have made clear that they have no intention of putting their troops at risk in order to save American lives.
-- Provide better training for Iraqi security forces.
This is already being done. NATO has agreed to the President’s request to train Iraqi security forces.
-- Provide benefits to the Iraqi people.
Is this the same John Kerry that complains that the war is costing too much, and says we should be opening fire stations at home instead of in Iraq?
--Ensure that democratic elections can be held next year as promised.
Again, this is exactly what we are doing. So far, every phase of the Iraq invasion has been completed on time or early—from the overthrow of Saddam, to the installation of the interim government, to the transfer of sovereignty. The President has a plan, and he is working it.
On the other hand, Kerry’s “plan” isn’t one at all. It’s just a bunch of empty promises, based on fantasy and that which is already being done.
Bush's mistakes, Kerry said, "were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment -- and judgment is what we look for in a president."
Yes, judgment. Something Mr. Kerry seems to be lacking—along with consistency and resolve.
Kerry contended that Bush has not been honest about the war's rationale or costs. He said the president's decision to go to war against Iraq has distracted from a greater threat to the United States -- more terrorist attacks.
"In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and underperformed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence. And the President has held no one accountable, including himself," Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery.
Let’s see: no plan, lack of candor, arrogance, and incompetence. Which candidate does that most remind you of? I think it was Dr. Laura who said that if a person criticizes you long enough, they eventually end up describing themselves.
With six weeks remaining until Election Day, the Massachusetts senator was pressing the debate on an issue that has given him trouble in his bid for the White House.The Republicans have accused him of staking out unclear, even contradictory, positions on Iraq. His speech was aimed at explaining his stance and drawing clear differences with Bush's leadership at a time when troubles in Iraq are mounting.
He’s done a better job of drawing clear differences with his previous positions.
Kerry tried to turn the criticism back against the president by pointing to varying administration arguments for going to war.
"By one count, the president offered 23 different rationales for this war," Kerry said. "If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.
"Exactly! It was never “all about WMD,” as Kerry and other Democrats have been claimed. The whole “Bush lied” mantra is bunk. Bush didn’t lie, and he gave many reasons beyond the threat of WMD.
By the way, I read about the study Kerry is referring to a while back (don’t have a link). In addition to identifying the many compelling reasons given for why it was right to remove Saddam, the student also showed that the “Bush said there was an imminent threat” argument is false—that it was fabricated in the media.
Kerry said Bush's two main rationales -- weapons of mass destruction and a connection between Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks -- have been proven false by weapons inspectors and the bipartisan commission investigating the attacks.
Asked and answered.
"This president was in denial," Kerry said. "He hitched his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military. The result is a long litany of misjudgments with terrible consequences.
"Which is it? Did Bush blindly follow those advising him? Or did he blindly disregard their advice? It sounds to me like he considered varying opinions, and then did his job: making the tough decisions about our nation’s future.
Kerry can now point to other Republicans who are also voicing concern about the president's leadership in Iraq. Among them is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, who said Sunday problems with reconstruction show there is "incompetence in the administration." Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he would like to see the president be more clear about the dangers in Iraq.
Unfortunately, this is true. I think these Republicans are wrong in their criticisms. As I mentioned here, I think we have lost perspective. War, by its very nature, is messy and unpredictable. We have adopted unrealistic expectations, and by doing so have undermined our efforts. Meanwhile, these criticisms are welcome fodder to the Kerry Camp at a time when it needs them most. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about them for the rest of the campaign.
Update: More at QandO.