Kerry’s Speech of October 9, 2001

Ken AshfordElection 2004, IraqLeave a Comment

I thought I would share with my friends on the right (and those on the left, if they aren’t aware of this), what Kerry said when he voted "for the war". Remember this is what Kerry said on the floor of the Senate on why he was giving a "yay" vote. The full text of the speech is here.

The first thing to understand is that it was not REALLY a vote "for the war". Nor did Kerry consider it one at the time. It was a vote to give the President authorization for the war. And Kerry makes it clear that his vote is based on certain representations that Bush made about what Bush would do — representations that turned out to be lies.

We join Kerry in mid-speech:

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

Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is 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 joint concert with our allies.

Catch the IF clause? Kerry is expecting, based on what the President said, that we give "new, tough" inspections a chance.

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 and immediate inspection 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 among the first to speak out.

Sadly, Kerry was not the first to speak out. Or, if he was, he was drowned out by the masses in the street.

If we do wind up going to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent–and I emphasize "imminent"–threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.

This makes it clear that Kerry’s position (contrary to what Bush is now saying) was that there must be an IMMINENT THREAT to this country. (Later, Bush and his supporters would go to great lengths to argue that Bush’s position was that Saddam’s threat did NOT have to be imminent. So here, we have a clear case where Kerry’s views on what should prompt war — specifically, the nature of the threat — and Bush’s views on the nature of the threat, were sharply different).

Prime Minister Tony Blair has recognized a similar need to distinguish how we approach this. He has said that he believes we should move in concert with allies, and he has promised his own party that he will not do so otherwise. 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, 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.

Wow. Just like he is saying now — we are less secure because we’ve created a new generation of terrorists.

Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances.

Got it, John. By the way, readers, "as the President promised" is the key line. Bush got the votes he needed for authorization for the war by making false promises of exhausting other options. You will recall that when he started the war, the inspectors were BACK in Iraq, inspecting things, and progress was being made. But Bush and his supporters just assumed that the inspections would fail.

In voting to grant the President the authority, I am not giving him carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses or may pose some kind of potential threat to the United States.

Here, Kerry is distinguishing between vague general "some kind of potential" threats vs. actual imminent threats, as well as making clear that this is an Iraq-only thing. Doesn’t sound like he trusted Bush too much, huh? In retrospect, he had good reason not to!

Every nation has the right to act preemptively, if it faces an imminent and grave threat, for its self-defense under the standards of law. The threat we face today with Iraq does not meet that test yet. I emphasize "yet."

There’s that word "test" again. But notice it is not something subject to allies approval. He could have used those words in any one of the debates. Flip-flop, my ass.

Yes, it is grave because of the deadliness of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal and the very high probability that he might use these weapons one day if not disarmed. But it is not imminent, and no one in the CIA, no intelligence briefing we have had suggests it is imminent. None of our intelligence reports suggest that he is about to launch an attack.

Grave threat because he will probably use weapons if he develops then and if he is not disarmed. Why is that so hard for some people to understand? That’s plain English to me.