September 20, 2004


John Kerry did the American people a great service today. In a powerful anti-war speech at NYU he laid out a vision of a Kerry foreign policy that could not be more different than President Bush's nor further diiviorced from America's traditions, Speech at New York University (Remarks of John Kerry, 9/20/04):

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. 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.

The President has said that he “miscalculated” in Iraq and that it was a “catastrophic success.” In fact, the President has made a series of catastrophic decisions … from the beginning … in Iraq. At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

The first and most fundamental mistake was the President’s failure to tell the truth to the American people.

He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales – weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection – have been proved false… by the President’s own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat. [...]

Two years ago, Congress was right to give the President the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This President… any President… would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This President misused that authority.

The power entrusted to the President gave him a strong hand to play in the international community. The idea was simple. We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And we would convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: disarm or be disarmed.

A month before the war, President Bush told the nation: “If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side and we will prevail.” He said that military action wasn’t “unavoidable.”

Instead, the President rushed to war without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work. He went without a broad and deep coalition of allies. He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armor. And he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of the post-war. None of which I would have done.

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? 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.

It seems unlikely that any candidate for the presidency has ever made a more morally despicable statement than this one: "Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war."

Compare the Senator's parsimonious view of America's role and responsibility in the world to that of the President, Text: President Bush's Acceptance Speech to the Republican National Convention (September 2, 2004)

The text of President George Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention: [...]

This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism, and you know where I stand.


Three days after September the 11th, I stood where Americans died, in the ruins of the twin towers.

BUSH: Workers in hard hats were shouting to me, "Whatever it takes." A fellow grabbed me by the arm, and he said, "Do not let me down." Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America -- whatever it takes.



BUSH: So we have fought the terrorists across the Earth, not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake.

BUSH: Our strategy is clear. We have tripled funding for homeland security and trained half a million first responders because we are determined to protect our homeland.

We are transforming our military and reforming and strengthening our intelligence services. We are staying on the offensive, striking terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.


And we are working to advance liberty in the broader Middle East, because freedom will bring a future of hope and the peace we all want. And we will prevail. [...]

I am proud that our country remains the hope of the oppressed and the greatest force for good on this Earth.


Others understand the historic importance of our work. The terrorists know. They know that a vibrant, successful democracy at the heart of the Middle East will discredit their radical ideology of hate.


They know that men and women with hope and purpose and dignity do not strap bombs on their bodies and kill the innocent.


BUSH: The terrorists are fighting freedom with all their cunning and cruelty because freedom is their greatest fear. And they should be afraid, because freedom is on the march.


I believe in the transformational power of liberty. The wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom.

As the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq seize the moment, their example will send a message of hope throughout a vital region.

Palestinians will hear the message that democracy and reform are within their reach and so is peace with our good friend, Israel.


BUSH: Young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming. Young men will hear the message that national progress and dignity are found in liberty, not tyranny and terror.

Reformers and political prisoners and exiles will hear the message that their dream of freedom cannot be denied forever. And as freedom advances, heart by heart, and nation by nation, America will be more secure and the world more peaceful.


America has done this kind of work before, and there have always been doubters. In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to allied forces, a journalist wrote in the New York Times wrote this: "Germany is a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. European capitals are frightened. In every military headquarters, one meets alarmed officials doing their utmost to deal with the consequences of the occupation policy that they admit has failed," end quote.

BUSH: Maybe that same person is still around, writing editorials.


Fortunately, we had a resolute president named Truman who, with the American people, persevered, knowing that a new democracy at the center of Europe would lead to stability and peace. And because that generation of Americans held firm in the cause of liberty, we live in a better and safer world today.


The progress we and our friends and allies seek in the broader Middle East will not come easily or all at once.

BUSH: Yet Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of liberty to transform lives and nations. That power brought settlers on perilous journeys, inspired colonies to rebellion, ended the sin of slavery, and set our nation against the tyrannies of the 20th century.

We were honored to aid the rise of democracy in Germany and Japan, Nicaragua and Central Europe and the Baltics, and that noble story goes on.

I believe that America is called to lead the cause of freedom in a new century. I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their liberty. I believe that given the chance, they will embrace the most honorable form of government ever devised by man.

I believe all these things because freedom is not America's gift to the world; it is the almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world.


BUSH: This moment in the life of our country will be remembered. Generations will know if we kept our faith and kept our word. Generations will know if we seized this moment and used it to build a future of safety and peace. The freedom of many and the future security of our nation now depend on us.

And tonight, my fellow Americans, I ask you to stand with me.

Today Mr. Kerry argues that this is an ex post facto justification of the war in Iraq--as if that would make it an less compelling. He concedes that the President offered many reasons why Saddam had to be dealt with--by his count 23--but singles out two to criticize--apparently because they are the only reasons that would justify war in his own eyes. But here is how the President made the case for the war in his most comprehensive statement, President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly (New York, New York, 9/12/02):
Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. Last year the Secretary General's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwait, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for -- more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise. In violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder. In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and to buy arms for his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading, and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations; and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.

Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.

This is, in the main, a legal brief. Mr. Bush catalogues Saddam's failure to comply by every single provision of the temporary ceasefire he agreed to when his regime was threatened in the first Gulf War. Chief among these provisions was the requirement that he basically enact regime change himself. Ultimately, it was because Saddam violated these resolutions, which are effectively international law, that the President took us to war and kept Saddam's word for him. The purpose and the justification for the war was precisely to bring human rights, economic liberty and democratization to Iraq in place of "a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell."

So we have, at last, a crystal clear choice in this election. Mr. Kerry would return America to a kind of neo-isolationism in which the purely internal affairs of a foreign power could never be our concern. This would give the green light to not just dictatorial repression but to ethnic cleansing and genocide. There is a strong historical strain of American opinion which would endorse this policy and it should be fairly popular--especially on the Left, as it is universally among Europeans--but it is certainly at odds with at least the last seventy years of our foreign policy and departs radically from even the doctrine of humanitarian intervention pursued by Bill Clinton in the Balkans, which was developed and continues to be championed by our closest ally, Tony Blair.

President Bush, instead, is devoted to continuing the universalist Crusade that has already seen America defeat Nazism and Communism and which treats Islamicism as just another enemy of human freedom, to be chucked on the ash heap that ushers in the End of History. This policy, begun by FDR and continued by nearly all of his successor's--of both parties--holds that "liberty and freedom are God's gift to every man and woman who lives in this world" and that America is the indispensable nation in securing these gifts throughout the world. This mission is so grandiose that it has always had opponents at home and has nearly always involved us in conflict with some considerable portion of the rest of the world, seldom if ever with steadfast allies by our side (even Britain was wobbly through much of the Cold War). Yet it has defined who we are as Americans and it has changed the world, very much for the better. It would seem foolish to retreat from our world historical task when just one "ism" in one region remains to be dealt with and when we are so clearly and rapidly succeeding, but this election now seems certain to decide whether we see it through.

Blair says 'no weakness' in Iraq (BBC, 9/20/04)

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the UK will "stand firm" in the face of the insecurity and bloodshed plaguing Iraq.

Mr Blair acknowledged that the Iraqi situation was "terrible", but he said there was a clear choice to make between right and wrong there. [...]

"Our response has not got to be to weaken. Our response has got to be to stand firm," Mr Blair said in comments to journalists at Downing Street.

"Whatever the differences over the Iraq conflict, there is a clear right and wrong on these issues, and that is to be with the democrats and against the terrorists," Mr Blair added.

John Kerry today took the third option--he'd have been for the dictator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 20, 2004 5:22 PM

One thing John Kerry has not done is read Tommy Franks bio. Or most likely, Woodwards Plan of Attack. One thing that Franks speaks of is the foolishness of not enough troops. In that, he discusses the all-powerful factor the prima-donna politicians, armchair warriors, and not a few generals love to forget. LOGISTICS the ultimate god of battle.

If we are going to have all those extra troops, US or NATO, just where are they gonna offload? Turkey? Nope. Dahran? Nope. Other Saudi ports? Nope. Ummm, Syria or Iran? Tscha! Its all Kuwait. Thats it. And every further soldier is one more bunched up on the ground there. Gee, anyone ever say anything to ground-pounders about dispersing your forces, especially in the face of potential WMD?

Now, how about weather? Launch the attack in chem suits in May or June when Kofi and the French, who wont be there, finally get around to saying OK? How about, as Woodward writes, all the intel assets risking their very lives in-country all through Jan, Feb, and March? Just hang on guys, well get in there eventually. most likely. probably.

Kerry, along with a great many others, does not know what the hell hes talking about, and a quick trip to Barnes and Noble would do a hell of a lot of good.

Posted by: Andrew X at September 20, 2004 5:53 PM

Too late. Howard Dean could have made this an issue, but JFK2 is so defined by now as standing for nothing that he can't make this election a referendum on this issue. When he gets crushed (and the new NY poll out today makes 50-0 look possible) the Deaniacs can (rightfully) claim that their man should have been given the nod, as the "real" anti-war candidate. Of course, they're wrong about whether it would matter, but it would have been a stark choice of A vs B rather than A vs not-A.

Also, isn't Bush really a Wilsonian rather than a Jacksonian? If you want a choice between the two currently dominant strains of thought, Bush (Wilsonian) vs Zell Miller (now that's Jacksonian!) would be most interesting...

Posted by: brian at September 20, 2004 6:16 PM

OK This week Lurch is the Anti-War candidate. Good. Rove will have fun making commercials about this one. I assume that this means they have given up completely and are concerned solely with appeasing their high-profile activist donors.

Unions, Race activists, oldsters and Trial Lawyers must see this new focus on Iraq as an abandonment of their constituencies who would respond most sharply to lunch box issues. This will put a wet blanket on Democrat turnout.

I just saw a clip of the President's speech in response. He was having fun quoting Kerry to rebut Kerry.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 20, 2004 6:18 PM

Excellent stuff, OJ. I commend you.

It's too late for Senator Lockjaw to un-flip-flop himself. Any position he takes now (especially any position on the war) will be subject to ridicule.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at September 20, 2004 6:31 PM


Wilson stands more for self-determination. Jackson for an expansion of America.

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2004 6:33 PM

brian, H.D. - If Kerry comes out passionately anti-war, I for one will believe him. His whole career, he's been antiwar (at least, anti war by the US). It was his pretense of half-supporting war that was phony.

What he can't shake is the conviction that he's willing to mislead or lie to get ahead. That's what his equivocation has cost him.

Posted by: pj at September 20, 2004 6:47 PM

Rathergate is killing Kerry. To the extent that this speech was to be a breakout moment for Kerry, none of the networks are covering it, opting instead for Rather navel-gazing.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 20, 2004 7:32 PM

Today's statement certainly is more consistent with Kerry's 20-year Senate voting record and his activities before than than his other remarks on Iraq have been. But the problem with Kerry being true to whatever minimal core beliefs he has on Iraq is that it makes it even harder for the senator to divorce himself from his votes against weapons systems in the 1980s and 1990s that are for use both in the general war on terror and in the self defense of the U.S. mainland.

Kerry's remarks today mey get him some big whoops tonight from the David Letterman studio audience, but sometime either before or during the debates he'll have to square his position as the anti-war candidate with his past votes as the anti-defense-in-general senator. Expect more flip flopping down the line.

Posted by: John at September 20, 2004 9:54 PM

This is too late for Kerry. Had he adopted this policy and conviction in the primaries he would avoid the flip-flopper label and have enough time to attempt to convince people to his point of view. Now it just speaks of desperation.

And Mr. X, the additional troops needed were occupation forces such as MP's, not infantry. They could have been sea based and arrived in Kuwait after the invasion. We had a three month window to impose order without much bloodshed once major hostilities ended, but we blew it.

All we needed to do is keep the street free of looters and criminals and give the Iraqis make-busy work, but we failed.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 21, 2004 11:51 AM

Something about NYU, seems to drive people mad. Gore has given two increasingly deranged diatribes
for MoveOn there, Kerry is following suite, Ferguson, the academic advocate for Churchillian
ventures, has taken to posting in that Cliveden
set rag, Vanity Fair, comparing Bush to Henry IV

Posted by: narciso at September 21, 2004 9:38 PM