Bush Gets His Answer, Then Changes Question on Iraq
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.