September 21, 2004


Transcript: Kerry Answers Questions at Press Conference (FDCH E-Media, September 21, 2004)

Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry answered reporters' questions at a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla. [...]

At the United Nations today, the president failed to level with the world's leaders. Moments after Kofi Annan, the secretary general, talked about the difficulties in Iraq, the president of the United States stood before a stony-faced body and barely talked about the realities at all of Iraq.

KERRY: After lecturing them, instead of leading them to understand how we are all together with a stake in the outcome of Iraq, I believe the president missed an opportunity of enormous importance for our nation and for the world. He does not have the credibility to lead the world. And he did not and will not offer the leadership in order to do what we need to do to protect our troops, to be successful, and win the war on terror in an effective way.

I believe, as I set out yesterday, we need a fundamentally different approach in order to be successful in Iraq. We need to get other nations to join us. Even if they won't accept risky operations, there are other operations which would facilitate our ability to be able to manage this situation. We need not to stay the course, but the change the course so we can be successful. And the urgency grows with every single day.

I'll be happy to answer any questions.

QUESTION: Senator, the president continues to quote you as saying that the world would better off with Saddam Hussein (OFF-MIKE)

KERRY: The world be better off, excuse me?

QUESTION: He said that you said the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein was not sitting in a prison cell.

KERRY: What I have always said is that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. [...]


KERRY: No, I have one position on Iraq, one position. What they should be confused about is what President Bush has done where he actually says to Americans that if there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no connection to Al Qaida, all of which had been proven to be true, the 9/11 Commission has shown the president wasn't truthful. His own weapons inspectors have shown the president wasn't truthful.

And the president says even though that's true, he would still have taken America to war. Now, I believe there was a better way. And I've said that consistently from day one. [...]


KERRY: Look. The vote for the authority was the correct vote. I've said that throughout this campaign. Never questioned it. It was the correct vote because we needed to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for weapons. That's what America believed.

But this president made a series of decisions after that that broke his promises both to the American people and to the Congress. He didn't take the time to do the hard work of diplomacy and show the wisdom and the judgment that a president needs to show as to how you bring other nations to our side. He didn't exhaust the remedies of inspections so that you either found out that there were no weapons of mass destruction, or you found that you really had to proceed with the world at your side. Either way, we would have been better off. [...]


KERRY: If you take the steps that I said yesterday, which evidently the president has already started not to, because today he didn't talk reality to the United Nations, you can have those elections. Sure. But the president -- unless you make Iraq more secure and live up to what the United Nations needs in order to be able to deliver, it's going to be very difficult.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) if the world is better off with Saddam gone, how did that square with the comment last night with David Letterman, that knowing what you now know, you wouldn't have gone to war?

KERRY: Because, for several reasons. First of all, it's obvious, if he is gone, the world is better off without him.

KERRY: Everybody understands that. He's a brutal dictator. And as I said yesterday in my speech, he deserves his own special place in hell.

But that doesn't mean that you go to war in an irresponsible way that puts America at greater risk. That doesn't mean you should take your eye off the ball, which was Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida, and rush to war just to get rid of him.

Are we better off without him? Sure. But what they've done is, as I said in my speech yesterday, they have replaced a dictator with chaos, and chaos in a way that puts America and Iraqis at much greater risk.

I believe there was a more responsible way to do it. If you don't have weapons of mass destruction, believe me, Saddam Hussein is a very different person. That's what kept him in power. And I believe Saddam Hussein would not be in power.

Believe it or not, when you cut through all that Senator Kerry does have a coherent, though immoral, position: no matter how brutal or even genocidal Saddam Hussein was and no matter how flagrantly he flaunted international law, the Senator would not have removed him from power by military means unless he was 100% certain that Iraq had WMD.

Since even his use of WMD apparently does not allow us 100% certainty, there's no reason to believe Saddam would not still be in power under a President Kerry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2004 8:13 PM

How did Kerry vote on the war in Bosnia? As far as I know the only rationale for going into that one (aside from the wag the dog conspiracy theories) was that Milosevic was killing and torturing innocents by the millions? If he was for the war to remove a murdering SOB that wasn't threatening America when a Democrat was in power, but against removing a murdering SOB who was threatening America, that takes the last fig leaf of consistency out of the argument.

Posted by: MarkD at September 21, 2004 9:12 PM

Bloody heck. I could wake from a sound sleep at 5:30am, walk straight into a room full of reporters and give a better answer supporting Kerry's position than Kerry did.

And I detest Kerry's position.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 21, 2004 9:20 PM

Kerry did vote to go into Bosnia in '95, so yes, the party of the president seems to be the deciding factor.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 21, 2004 10:51 PM

Saddam would still be in power under President Gore as well, with the added bonus of having the UN sanctions ended.

Sen. Kerry's position, as stated by you, may be immoral, but it's certainly Constitutional.
While I agree to some extent with what Bush has done, I also think that there are some moral problems with ordering Americans into harm's way, for the primary benefit of another nation or peoples.
I'd be much happier if America had an Expeditionary branch of the military, where it was clear in advance that those who joined would be fighting for a higher set of goals than "the American way of life".

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 21, 2004 11:27 PM

Michael - "ordering Americans into harm's way for the primary benefit of other nations or peoples" - so your belief is that removing the Taliban and Saddam had no benefit whatsoever for the US? And by removing a threat to our allies we indirectly helped ourselves? By this reasoning I guess the US should have stayed out of WWI, WWII, and the cold war.
"would be fighting for a higher set of goals than the American way of Life" - which are? Is there some worldwide utopian democrat ideal that is better than the US democratic model?

Posted by: AWW at September 21, 2004 11:51 PM

Speaking from a prejudiced position, of course, but: there is no higher set of goals than the American Way of Life.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 22, 2004 12:05 AM

I have to agree with Kerry about one thing. Its too bad that Bush did not lead the UN General Assembly. Out the door and into waiting paddy wagons.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 22, 2004 1:14 AM


Sure, removing the Taliban and Saddam provided some benefits for the US.

Now everyone knows, the US will fight, and that in symmetrical battle, no nation can stand against America.
Removing the Taliban denied al Qaeda a safe place to train and plan.
Removing Saddam ensured that Middle Eastern oil supplies wouldn't be concentrated under one person/gov't/nation.

Saddam was a low threat to Americans in the US.
Iraq wasn't going to directly tangle with America.

1,000+ Americans died, tens of thousands wounded and maimed for life, for what ?
A gamble that someday, somehow, what's happening in the Middle East will redound to the US' good.
Now, I agree, somewhat, with taking that gamble, but Americans by and large don't join the military to be sent to wars of discretion, and we owe it to them to be upfront about what they're going to be used for.
Maybe some of them don't want to be the shock troops for Global Justice.

How far do you want to go with the "help a buddy, help ourselves" bit ?
Helping an ally only helps the US if said ally can materially affect the US.
Helping Mexico with their currency crisis might have prevented extreme unrest at America's southern border, and a bigger illegal immigrant problem in the US.

Deposing Saddam, and removing a potential threat to Arabia, has a much more tenuous benefit to the US.

The US should have stayed out of WW I.
The US should, perhaps, have stayed out of WW II, but at the time, it seemed very much as though the Axis powers were going to be ruling the world, and so we girded our loins.

AWW, joe shropshire:

By "way of life", I meant materially: Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and cheap gas.

However, I'm happy to see that you're willing to sign up for the Global Democratic Capitalistic Crusade: Let no dictator sleep easy !!

I'm with ya, but my nuanced position is, the troops have to know what they're signing up for in advance. No sending the National Guard to occupy Africa, the continent which is going to take up most of the GDCC's time.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 22, 2004 4:33 AM


Gore and Clinton both would have taken Saddam out after 9-11.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2004 7:27 AM

"I'm with ya, but my nuanced position is, the troops have to know what they're signing up for in advance"

They're signing up for whatever the President has in mind for them.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at September 22, 2004 7:38 AM


And the nation, not just the president.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2004 8:23 AM


And the nation, not just the troops.


We fought in Iraq for, and only for, a direct benefit to the US. That there are also benefits to the Iraqis is nice, it might even have been necessary, but it was not, by itself, sufficient. (Sorry OJ.)

The interesting question about the Bush doctrine isn't whether the benefit of going to war has to be direct, but how likely and how immediate the benefit needs to be. The President decided to fight the Iraq war primarily to remake the middle east. His theory is that we are too dependent on the region to allow it to continue to be as unstable as it is, and that the only way to bring stability is by liberalizing the governments and the culture of the region. In other words, we can do well only by doing good.

Is the likelihood of success too small for the loss of life required? The 9/10 answer is yes. The debate should be about the 9/11 answer, but it won't be. The Democrats have no desire to engage in that debate and the media cannot give the President any credit for subtlety.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 22, 2004 9:45 AM

Michael: where do you live? (Approximately.) East Coast, West Coast, flyover country, city, suburb, town -- that sort of thing. I've got a reason for asking.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 22, 2004 9:52 AM


Why Germany, why Korea, why Vietnam, why Afghanistan, why Grenada, why Nicaragua, why Panama., why Iraq I, why Kosovo, why Bosnia, why Somalia, why Haiti, why Liberia, why Sudan? we seem to get involved in one heck of a lot of conflicts that don't mean a tinker's dam to our national security and have no other coherent basis but morality.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2004 9:58 AM

Not only did Saddam flagrantly flaunt international law, I believe that he flouted it too!

Posted by: giad at September 22, 2004 11:07 AM

OJ: I was making a point about Iraq II, not announcing a general prescriptive rule about American wars (which, as you know, I think are always at least arguably voluntary), but, hey, why not.

All of our wars are justified contemporaneously as being both the burden we carry for the greater good of mankind and forced upon us by hard-nosed nationalist realpolitik. They're always attacked as being for the monetary benefit of the plutocrats.

For our purposes, let's talk about two eras: from December 7, 1941 through November 9, 1989 and then from November 10, 1989 through September 10, 2001.

The first era was basically all about totalitarianism. All wars in that era, indeed all actions by government, were judged through the prism of our overarching conflict with totalitarianism. Now, except for John Kerry and his ilk, we can agree that ridding the world of Communism and Nazism was good for everyone, including the people living under the Communist and Nazi regimes. That gave us the moral authority to act, by which I mean that the American people were, by and large, convinced that what we were doing was moral. But whether to pursue our goal of anti-totalitarianism through open warfare was still a prudential decision looked at by comparing the likely cost with the likely benefit. That analysis resulted in a hot war directly with Germany and Japan, but only through proxies with the USSR.

The second era was a mishmash, but over all it was an attempt by the Bush I and Clinton administrations to use our overwhelming military force as part of a push to form a new world order. The benefits to us were relatively indirect and tenuous (other than the push for freer trade, but we'll never admit to going to war for globalisation), but the expected cost was very low. The main problem with that era was right up your alley: what to do about traditional sovereignty. In the Gulf War, we used the protection of traditional sovereignty to put together a coalition, but then got hoist on our own petard when the coalition made us stop at the Iraqi border. In Somalia, we acted in the absence of traditional sovereignty (which is what made action possible), but rather than trying to establish a sovereign, we just punted on the question. Then, in Yugoslavia, we decided that sovereignty was irrelevant, which cost us Russia, China and the United Nations. The fate of traditional sovereignty was the great unresolved question of that era up till September 11. And then it ended.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 22, 2004 11:43 AM

But mere morality, as the series of examples shows, is indeed sufficient.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2004 11:53 AM

>Since even his use of WMD apparently does not
>allow us 100% certainty, there's no reason to
>believe Saddam would not still be in power
>under a President Kerry.

"These two kings said one to another,
'King unto King o'er the world is brother'..."
-- filk of G.K.Chesterton's "Ballad of the Five Kings"

Posted by: Ken at September 22, 2004 12:22 PM

As much as I usually enjoy your oblique one-line responses, this one is just too oblique for me. "Sufficient" how and to who? In the build-up to war we always find a cost/benefit story to tell to justify the war, just as we always find a humanitarian story to tell. We want both morality and material gain, which might just be as good a summary of the American character as any.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 22, 2004 12:32 PM

what was the monetary gain in Grenada or Haiti (repeatedly) or Somalia or Liberia or Sudan?

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2004 12:56 PM

"Monetary"? What "monetary"?

Posted by: David Cohen at September 22, 2004 2:27 PM

David Cohen:

In the post addressed to me, your second sentence contradicts the first.
There were no direct benefits to the US from attacking Iraq, there were only direct costs and consequences.

If Bush proves to be correct, then it will have been well worth it, but if he is not ?
What direct benefits can you name now ?
Which will you be able to name in five years, if Iraq is still embroiled in civil war, and US troops are once again stationed in Arabia to protect the oil ?

joe shropshire:

The literal answer is that I live in a rural area 30 miles east of Colorado Springs, CO, on a dirt road, 15 miles from the nearest convenience store.

However, I'm not sure that the answer will be helpful to you, since I'm only pausing here, and will be moving on by the end of the year.

If I could live anywhere that I wanted, it would be in Denver, Las Vegas, or Southern California.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 23, 2004 4:37 AM

Michael: I don't know that I have any better answer for you than the next two paragraphs of my comment. The benefit the president sees is direct, but it is contingent. It is a bet that we can, but might not, win.

Let's say that I have two closed boxes, one of which is empty and the other has $1 million in bearer bonds. I tell you that you can have your choice if you pay me $250,000. The choice you have to make is whether the possible direct benefit (expected value, $500,000) is worth the cost, given the contingency.

Going into Iraq, the President concluded that the possible direct, though contingent, benefit (a reduction in terrorism, along with increased economic opportunity brought about through a democratic Iraq, a more stable middle east, economic opportunity for Arabs, the growth of a politically powerful Arab bourgeoisie) was worth the expected cost. Even if he turned out to be wrong ex post, that doesn't mean that he was wrong ex ante, and it is too early to know, yet, whether he was even wrong ex post.

I am sure, though, that pre-9/11, the public and political answer would have been no, the cost to the United States is too great. (Note that we were more or less indifferent to the cost imposed on the Iraqis and the rest of the world.) I think the answer post-9/11 is yes, the risk was worth taking. That is the debate that we should be having, but the Democrats have no interest in it.

Now, not to duck your other question. If we draw a line today and ask whether the war was worth it so far, my answer is no, very narrowly. Spending $125 billion and (let's say, though it's wrong) 1,000 lives would not be worth it if all we got was Saddam in jail, an unstable though impotent Iraq, a reduction in Iraqi foreign mischief, the attention of the Libyans and the Syrians and the chance to fight the terrorists in Iraq rather than New York. It's very, very close, even giving no weight at all to freedom for the Iraqi people. I certainly understand how others could conclude that it was worth it.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 11:45 AM

Specifically, Iraqis. Which is who the war was fought for.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 11:51 AM

Yes, I have no problem at all with the Iraqis concluding that the war was worth it, even given their much greater casualties.

It's just wrong, though, to conclude that freeing the Iraqis was sufficient reason to go to war, or that the President at any time thought that we were going to war for the greater good of the Iraqi people.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 1:33 PM


We've established that you don't think so, but George Bush does:

" The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq. "

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 1:48 PM

George Bush and I both think that the war benefited the Iraqi people. George Bush and I both think that, given the circumstances, this war would not have been a just war had Saddam not been a tyrant and a threat to his neighbors. But neither of us think that, absent a direct benefit to us from victory, freeing the Iraqi people and doing the UN's job was sufficient reason to go to war:

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.

My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

May God bless our country and all who defend her.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 2:59 PM

Can a great moral cause be unjust? I know libertarians think the Civil War unjust because Lincoln took Southerners property, but they're nuts.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 4:18 PM

All great moral causes are just, but not all are compulsory. We owe it to the soldiers who will die or carry their wounds for life, as well as to the citizens who will be taxed, not to engage in war unless there is a direct benefit to the United States.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 4:34 PM

We haven't gotten very far, have we.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 4:58 PM

Sure we have Saddam's gone, Qaddafi's going, Assad's scared, Sudan's in trouble, the Egyptians and Sa'uds are reforming--the insanity of our fighting for no other reason than human rights is chastening the oppressors even when no one can argue they're a threat. Iraq worked.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 5:34 PM

I have no problem with any of that.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 6:07 PM

Of course not, we all accept the fruit even of a tree we thought wouldn't bear any or shouldn't be planted..

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 7:09 PM

What are you talking about? I support the war and I always have. I'm thrilled that it was in the best interests of the Iraqis and always knew it would be. I would not support going to war just for the good of the Iraqis but I didn't have to worry about that, because neither would the President.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 8:51 PM

Course he did, which is why the other nations that are no threat either are so pliable these days.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 10:19 PM

So, your theory that the president would go to war without any possible direct benefit to the United States is proved by the benefits we received from going to war in Iraq? Now, that's nuance.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 11:10 PM

What good does it do us if we make Syria withdraw from Lebanon or the Sudanese stop whacking black Muslims? We're doing what's right, not what's expedient. Of course, doing good for others will ultimately benefit us to some degree.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 11:26 PM

What good does it do us if the middle east rejects terrorism? It'll give us a warm fuzzy feeling and reduce the number of airplanes dropping out of the sky.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 23, 2004 11:40 PM

Which has what to do with Darfur and Lebanon and Kurdistan and so on and so forth?

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 11:46 PM

Which has what to do with Darfur and Lebanon and Kurdistan and so on and so forth?

Deal. When we go to war with Sudan to free Darfur and go to war with Syria over Lebanon, you'll have proved your point: W has adopted the Judd doctrine and will go to war without there being any benefit to the US. Too late for the Kurds, of course. We just let them hang there for a decade until it was in our interest to move.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 24, 2004 7:27 AM

We'd already given them a state and protected it with the no-fly zone. We stopped the Civil War in Sudan and now are dealing with the West, having dispatched African Union troops, and ordered Baby Assad out of Lebanon.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2004 8:33 AM

Hey, if the president can convince Congress to send a couple of billion dollars off to Africa to stem humanitarian disaster, more power to him. When he does, he will talk about our great heart and how we are acting selflessly for the betterment of all of G-d's children. He'll also talk about how a more free world is better for the US. We always make both arguments.

None of this has anything to do with the decision to go to war, which we did not do in order to establish Kurdistan and won't do to protect Darfur and Lebanon (oh, and Syria is making nice, but they're not getting out of Lebanon any time soon).

Posted by: David Cohen at September 24, 2004 8:59 AM

We are at war with them, that's what the sanctions are.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2004 9:09 AM

No, I mean the "Join the Army, travel to exotic lands, meet new and interesting people, and shoot them" kind of war.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 24, 2004 9:22 AM

Which is where sanctions, an act of war, generally end up.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2004 9:28 AM

Yeah, that South African war was a b****, but doesn't the Sudan have to wait until after the invasion of Cuba (which is, by the way, a perfect candidate for the exercise of the Judd doctrine, and yet we're not going to invade any time soon).

There were the Iraqi sanctions, but absent 9/11 we never would have invaded.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 24, 2004 9:32 AM

South Africa fell to the sanctions before any shooting started. JFK forfeited our best chance to deal with Cuba, we have invaded it though and blockaded it and tried assassinating its leader, and fought Cubans in Nicaragua, Grenada and Angola, etc.--leaving it a powerless, debilitated, defeated nation. FDR used them to provoke war with Japan. They preceded war with Saddam. And so on and so forth. Their track record is pretty good.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2004 9:43 AM

Now we're bumping up against another great topic: whether a president can always get us into a war if he wants to. I say yes. But that's for another day.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 24, 2004 12:09 PM

When has one who wanted to ever failed to? We love war.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2004 12:14 PM