As the first presidential debate–focused on foreign policy–approached, Democratic candidate John Kerry moved to make the Iraq War the central issue in his campaign. As he did so, he adopted yet a new position on Iraq. He now says it was a “diversion” from the war on terrorism, that Iraq had not been a “haven” for terrorists before the war, and that he would not have supported the war had he known then what we know now.
Not surprisingly, Kerry was contradicting himself.
At the Grand Canyon two months ago, Kerry specifically said he would still vote for the war knowing what we know now.
When he voted in the Senate to authorize the war two years ago, Kerry gave an impassioned speech detailing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Even then, however, he carefully carved out some preemptive excuses for potentially backtracking on his pro-war vote. While insisting there was already “cause enough” to use force against Saddam and that Saddam had “supported and harbored terrorist groups,” he also said he wanted President Bush to use war as the “last option” and “act in concert with allies.” These were clearly judgment calls that Kerry, in authorizing war, was leaving to the commander in chief (and leaving himself the room to later second-guess).
But that day, Kerry concluded: “Whether the President will have to use that authority depends ultimately on Saddam Hussein.”
Kerry’s remarkable gyrations on the Iraq War may now become the decisive issue in this campaign. But Sen. Joe Lieberman (who supported the war) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (who opposed the war), and who both ran against Kerry in the Democratic primaries, saw this flip-flopping coming.
Joe Lieberman’s Judgment: ‘Unbelievable’
“I thought that John Kerry’s statement in his announcement address–that he voted for the resolution just to threaten Saddam Hussein–was unbelievable. It was clearly an authorization for President Bush to use force against Saddam. I don’t get it. He’s been criticizing Howard Dean for lacking experience to lead America in the world today. It’s true. It’s not the best time to put a rookie in charge of our country’s future . . . but we also don’t need a waffler in charge of our country’s future.”
The Boston Globe,
Sept. 5, 2003
John Kerry Now
“Let me be blunt and direct with the American people as I can be. Let me tell you the truth, which is what America deserves. The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, al Qaeda, which killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 and which still plots our destruction today. . . . Iraq is now what it was not before the war: a haven for terrorists. George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority. I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority.”
Sept. 24, 2004
Diane Sawyer: So, [the Iraq War] was not worth it?
John Kerry: We should not, it depends on the outcome ultimately, and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully. But I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat, there were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no connection of al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein. The President misled the American people, plain and simple. Bottom line.
Sawyer: So, if it turns out okay it was worth it–
John Kerry: No.
Sept. 29, 2004
John Kerry in August
“On Friday, Bush challenged Kerry to answer whether he would support the war ‘knowing what we know now’ about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction that U.S. and British officials were certain were there. In response, Kerry said: ‘Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a President to have.'”
(Headline: “In Hindsight, Kerry
Says He’d Still Vote for War”)
Aug. 10, 2004
John Kerry on Authorizing War
“It would be naĂ?Ć? ÂŻve to the point of grave danger not to believe that, left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge, or stumble into a future, more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world. He has as much as promised it. He has already created a stunning track record of miscalculation. He miscalculated an eight-year war with Iran. He miscalculated the invasion of Kuwait. He miscalculated America’s responses to it. He miscalculated the result of setting oil rigs on fire. He miscalculated the impact of sending Scuds into Israel.
“He miscalculated his own military might. He miscalculated the Arab world’s response to his plight. He miscalculated in attempting an assassination of a former President of the United States. And he is miscalculating now America’s judgments about his miscalculations.
“All those miscalculations are compounded by the rest of history. A brutal, oppressive dictator, guilty of personally murdering and condoning murder and torture, grotesque violence against women, execution of political opponents, a war criminal who used chemical weapons against another nation and, of course, as we know, against his own people, the Kurds. He has diverted funds from the oil-for-food program, intended by the international community to go to his own people. He has supported and harbored terrorist groups, particularly radical Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal, and he has given money to families of suicide murderers in Israel. . . .
“I believe the record of Saddam Hussein’s ruthless, reckless breach of international values and standards of behavior which is at the core of the cease-fire agreement, with no reach, no stretch, is cause enough for the world community to hold him accountable by use of force, if necessary. . . .
“Iraq has invested more heavily in its biological weapons programs over the four years [since it expelled UN inspectors], with the result that all key aspects of this program–R&D, production and weaponization–are active. Most elements of the program are larger and more advanced than they were before the gulf war. Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery on a range of vehicles such as bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives which could bring them to the United States homeland. . . .
“In the wake of September 11, who among us can say, with any certainty, to anybody, that those weapons might not be used against our troops or against allies in the region? Who can say that this master of miscalculation will not develop a weapon of mass destruction even greater–a nuclear weapon–then reinvade Kuwait, push the Kurds out, attack Israel, any number of scenarios to try to further his ambitions to be the pan-Arab leader or simply to confront in the region, and once again miscalculate the response, to believe he is stronger because he has those weapons?
“And while the administration has failed to provide any direct link between Iraq and the events of September 11, can we afford to ignore the possibility that Saddam Hussein might accidentally, as well as purposely, allow those weapons to slide off to one group or other in a region where weapons are the currency of trade? How do we leave that to chance? . . .
“When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. I will vote yes because I believe it is the best way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable.”
Oct. 9, 2002
Howard Dean’s Prediction
George Stephanopoulos: But do you believe Sen. Kerry is still trying to have it both ways [on Iraq]?
Howard Dean: That’s not up to me to judge that. That’s up to the voters to judge that and I’m sure they will.
May 4, 2003