Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Bush Gets His Answer, Then Changes Question on Iraq

John Kerry voted to authorize war as a last resort if we were proven to be endangered and diplomatic efforts failed. There's a big difference between this and George Bush's claim that John Kerry voted to authorize the war.

George Bush asked for a yes or no answer as to whether Kerry would have still voted for the IWR (Iraq War Resolution) knowing that there is no WMD. Kerry replied yesterday by saying, "I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have but I would have used that authority effectively." Bush proceeded to spin this today with false claims that Kerry is saying he would have voted to go to war. He is counting on the fact that many people do not understand what the IWR actually said and why Kerry voted for it.

Kerry voted for the IWR in order to force George Bush to return to the United Nations, and to put leverage on Saddam to allow the inspectors back in. Kerry believed that the President (any President) should have the authority to use military force as a last resort if we are proven to be endangered. The principle doesn't change based upon the particular circumstances, and therefore Kerry would still support authorization of force as a last resort if we are endangered. The difference is that in the absence of WMD, Bush was not justified in going to war as he did, and misused that authorization. One more reason why Bush is unfit to remain as President.

At the time of the IWR vote, Kerry warned that we should not go into Iraq unilaterally. He warned about the long term consequences of occupying an Arab country, and of going to war without a plan to win the peace. Most importantly, he argued that we should only go to war as a last resort if we were proven to be endangered, and that Bush failed to provide the evidence that we were endangered or that military force was justified.

Bush accuses Kerry of flip flopping, but this is just something Bush says every time he runs against someone since he isn't capable of talking about the actual issues, and sure can't run on his record. Looking back at Kerry's statements on Iraq shows that he has been consistent, and had a number of warnings which Bush should have heeded. I'll post a longer selection from Kerry's floor speech at the time of the IWR vote in the comments section, but this shows that neither Bush or Kerry were calling a yes vote a vote to go to war at the time of the vote:

"As the President made clear earlier this week, 'Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." It means that "America speaks with one voice."

Walter Shapiro reviewed Kerry's position in his book, One Car Caravan, with this quote from Kerry from October 2002, showing that Kerry is doing exactly what he said he would do from the beginning when he now criticizes Bush's handling of the war:

"My vote was cast in a way that made it very clear, Mr. President, I'm voting for you to do what you said you're going to do, which is to go through the U.N. and do this through an international process. If you go unilaterally, without having exhausted these remedies, I'm not supporting you. And if you decide that this is just a matter of straight pre-emptive doctrine for regime-change purposes without regard to the imminence of the threat, I'm not going to support you."

Once war began, Kerry called for regime change at home in opposition to Bush going to war without exhausting diplomatic solutions. Following the war Kerry gave a number of interviews on his position. In December 2003 Kerry was interviewed by William Rivers Pitt:

PITT: Do you feel a kinship with the peace movement that exploded around this Iraq invasion, given your background? Or do you feel alienated from them because of that vote?

KERRY: I felt enormous understanding, empathy, sympathy and respect for the voice they were articulating. I completely understood it. I came from there. I understood the confusion over why someone with my long history, why there was confusion over my position, why people were questioning it.

KERRY: But I felt my decision was absolutely consistent with the counter-proliferation efforts I have been making as a Senator for my entire career. I felt proliferation was a critical issue. I thought a President ought to get inspectors back into Iraq. I thought a President ought to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. But I knew how to do it right, and my regret is that this President proved he not only didn’t know how to do it right, but was prepared to go back on his promises, be deceptive, and mislead the nation. I regret that he did that, and I regret that I put any trust in him at all. I shouldn’t have, obviously.

KERRY: Put it this way: Given the circumstances we were in at the time, the decision was appropriate, but in retrospect I will never trust the man again. That’s why I am running against him. He deserves to be replaced with someone who is trustworthy.

Salon also asked Kerry about the IWR vote in an interview on May 28, 2004:

SALON: According to recent polls, more than 50 percent of the American public now believes that the war in Iraq has not been worth the cost. Do you agree with that assessment?

KERRY: I've always believed that the president went to war in a way that was mistaken, that he led us too rapidly into war, without sharing the cost, without sharing the risk, without building a true international coalition. He broke his promises about going as a last resort. I think that was a mistake. There was a right way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and a wrong way. He chose the wrong way.

SALON: But you voted in October 2002 to give Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. Was that vote a mistake?

KERRY: No. My vote was the right vote. If I had been president, I would have wanted that authority to leverage the behavior that we needed. But I would have used it so differently than the way George Bush did.

SALON: Would there have been a war in Iraq if you had been president?

KERRY: I can't tell you that. If Saddam Hussein hadn't disarmed and all the world had decided that he was not living up to the standards, who knows? You can't answer that hypothetical. But I can tell you this. I would never have rushed the process in a way that undoes the meaning of going to war "as a last resort."

SALON: And that's what you thought you were authorizing -- war as a last resort?

KERRY: Absolutely. You know, we got a set of promises: We're going to build an international coalition, we're going to exhaust the remedies of the U.N., respect that process and go to war as a last resort. Well, we didn't.

KERRY: And not only [did we] not go to war as a last resort, they didn't even make the plans for winning the peace. They disregarded them. They disregarded [U.S. Army General Eric] Shinseki's advice, disregarded Colin Powell's advice, disregarded the State Department's plan. The arrogance of this administration has cost Americans billions of dollars and too many lives.

Kerry has been consistent in supporting authorization to go to war as a last resort if we are endangered, but did not vote to go to war. Understanding this difference will also show why Kerry was not flip flopping, but was consistent in his principles, when he voted against the first Gulf War. The first Gulf War resolution was a true vote to go to war, and Kerry did not support going to war without exhausting all other alternatives. The more recent IWR only authorized war if diplomatic efforts failed and we were endangered, allowing Kerry to cast a yes vote in the expectation that George Bush would abide by this resolution instead of rushing to war unnecessarily and without proper preparations.


Blogger Ron Chusid said...

From John Kerry's Senate Floor Speech at the time of the IWR vote:

Mr. President, I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force - if necessary - to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. And I will vote "yes" because on the question of how best to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, the Administration, including the President, recognizes that war must be our last option to address this threat, not the first, and that we should be acting in concert with allies around the globe to make the world's case against Saddam Hussein. As the President made clear earlier this week, "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." It means that "America speaks with one voice."

Let me be clear: I am voting to give this authority to the President for one reason and one reason only: to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction if we cannot accomplish that objective through new tough weapons inspections. In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days - to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out "tough, immediate" inspections requirements and to "act with our allies at our side" if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.

If he fails to do so, I will be the first to speak out. If we do go to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so in concert with others in the international community. The Administration has come to recognize this as has our closet ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair in Britain. The Administration may not be in the habit of building coalitions, but that is what they need to do - and it is what can be done. If we go it alone without reason, we risk inflaming an entire region and breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots - and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day, even with Saddam Hussein disarmed. Let there be no doubt or confusion as to where I stand: I will support a multilateral effort to disarm Iraq by force, if we have exhausted all other options. But I cannot - and will not - support a unilateral, US war against Iraq unless the threat is imminent and no multilateral effort is possible.

And in voting to grant the President the authority to use force, I am not giving him carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses - or may pose - a potential threat to the United States. . .

Mr. President, Congressional action on this resolution is not the end of our national debate on how best to disarm Iraq. Nor does it mean that we have exhausted all our peaceful options to achieve this goal. There is much more to be done.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Bardwell said...

Excellent post. The Bush campaign is hoping they can oversimplify -- and, in many cases, lie about -- enough issues to dodge the cold, hard truth.

Maybe that sort of tactic works on Republicans, but it won't work come November 2nd.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me be clear: I am voting to give this authority to the President for one reason and one reason only: to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction <<

Hello Ron. this is Robert Oler cvn65vf94@hotmail.com. Its just easier to post anonymously.

There is a very good chance that John Kerry neutralized the war issue today for Shrub. The problem with the above quote is that well Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction. Shrub is more than happy to say "I still would have gone in" and now by saying "I still would have voted for the resolution" (or something like that) JK has more or less endorsed preemption, said "even though I know what I know now I would have still made the same mistake" and now can not claim going into Iraq was a dreadful mistake which it was.

It violated everything that makes this nation The United States. Bush will beat JK with this like a drum.

We can no longer appeal to the growing number of people who think that the war was a mistake...because we dont say it is.

And its sophistry to say that the IWR was something other than a use of force document. Several attempts were made to pass a IWR that said "come back to teh Congress" after the UN but they failed. We had 150K troops in the desert and Condi was saying "you cant keep them there forever".

Finally its bad politics. Tom DeLay is already pounding Morrison on the issue. Bush's comments take about 20 seconds or less to say and JK's explanation takes minutes...and isnt very plain spoken.

BTW The Constitution makes the POTUS commander in chief and that authority more or less lets him throw the darts whenever he wants to. Thomas Jefferson fought the first war on terrorism without a single congressional vote...other then to fund the Navy. As long as Congress funds the troops (which it will do) the resolution meant nothing. JK is right Shrub would have gone without it. And that was clear in October.

I took this off the main blog because it really doesnt seem a place for anything but well "things are fine". I hope they are but the spin up on the main blog should say otherwise.

Robert G. Oler

9:35 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...


You are missing the point. Kerry is not saying we should have gone in. He is saying that the President should have had the authority to use military force if we are endangered. If we were not endangered, which appears to be the case, then military action was not authorized by Kerry's vote.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are missing the point. Kerry is not saying we should have gone in. He is saying that the President should have had the authority to use military force if we are endangered. If we were not endangered, which appears to be the case, then military action was not authorized by Kerry's vote.

By Ron Chusid, at 10:34 PM

Hello Ron. from Robert G. Oler cvn65vf94@hotmail.com

A couple of points.

First JK was not voting on "his" resolution. It is not a real act to say "I dont like what the bill says so I'll say what I think it says and then vote for it". Words have meaning and the meaning of the IWR is that the Congress backed Shrubs effort in Iraq.

The GOP is going to chew your point up. It is not up to 100 Senators to say "sorry Shrub didnt go the last mile with the UN or get enough international support". Shrub can and will claim "I went to the UN and I got international support".

What's JK going to say in a debate "but you didnt get enough international support"? Bingo we have just fallen into trap two. "John when is there enough international support for you?" or "How many countries have to sign on before you will act, you said we needed to disarm Saddam...I did."

There is no such "endanger" mechanism in the IWR. AND now that JK is saying today and yesterday (MON/Tues) that even knowing that Saddam had no weapons of juice or bug (the only WMD is a nuke) he would have still voted for the resolution!

The Commander in Chief does not need the authorization of Congress to commit the armed forces. That has been done since Washington on the POTUS authority as CiC alone.

FDR long before the Congress acted on Dec 8 was fighting the Japanese and more or less the Italians and the Germans (it took until Dec 10 to declare war on them).

I hope that the American people listen to your logic and accept it. If JK had made the comment (or Jamie Ruben for that matter) during the primary do you think he would have won Iowa?

My take on it (and I hope I am wrong) is that 1) we are going to be beat over the head with this forever and 2) the war is off the table.

The war in my opinion was wrong. Bob Graham thinks that to. We should have used this chance to back out of supporting it.

I hope I am wrong.

Robert G. Oler

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the respondent to Oler is correct to say that Bush will and HAS beat this for months, Oler is not missing the point; the question, albeit an unfair one, was: "knowing WHAT WE KNOW NOW would Kerry vote for the authority to invade Iraq?"

A yes response to that question, even a lengthy, "nuanced" one, does condone preemption.

I hope Kerry simply answered that incorrectly, rather than actually advocated unprecedented preemption.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

The problem is in the phrase "authority to invade Iraq."

That is an oversimplification to the point of inaccuracy and not what Kerry voted for. Kerry voted for the authority to invade provided certain conditions were met (and condition were included in the IWR). Kerry authorized military force, as part of a multinational coaliltion, provided that all diplomatic attempts at a settlement were exhausted and we were truely endangered by WMD. Kerry did not vote for an open ended authorization to invade without meeting these conditions.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that. I read the entire senate floor speech, including one part you elided: "Every nation has the right to act preemptively, if it faces an imminent threat. . ."

I still feel that Kerry needs a quick, sound-bite response
to shut up the Bush campaign, who will beat this in for weeks as a key example of Kerry as a "flip-flopper" (while the Bush administration is the REAL flip-flopper).

He also needs to clarify his seeming endorsement of preemption, which disturbs many Kerry supporters (not just me, believe me!). Dean voters, Kucinich voters, swing Nader voters are NOT happy with Kerry's comment, and I'm not talking about how Bush and the media have twisted his response. I'm talking about

Of course Kerry would have handled probably everything about the invasion of Iraq differently than Bush. That's clear to ME, but he needs to make that clearer to his potential supporters. What got the most rousing response at the DNC? Any implication about how Bush lied to us and to the Senate and Congress. When any mention of those lies were mentioned, the delegates roared to their feet. Opposition to the Iraq invasion and occupation is a galvanizing issue for many Kerry supporters—and potential supporters—and shouldn't be dismissed.

Kerry stepped into a stupid question and shouldn't have answered it in the first place. His campaign advisors seem to hope his response will simply go away. Maybe they are right. But I say again that I am not alone in my concerns, and my purpose for discussing this is my concern for Kerry to WIN and not lose potential voters.

7:59 AM  

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