Kerry Erred In Responding To Bush Iraq Resolution Challenge
Allow me to say something that will be very unpopular in the Kerry campaign. Last week, President Bush challenged John Kerry to say flat out if he knew then what he knows now about Iraq and its pre-war WMD capabilities, would Kerry have still voted for the war resolution (Public Law 107-243) in October 2002?
Regrettably, John Kerry said yesterday that he would have still voted for the resolution to give the president authorization to go to war to hold Saddam accountable, but Kerry said that unlike Bush he would have used that authority more wisely than Bush did, by building coalitions and developing post war plans.
John F. Kerry for the first time yesterday said he still would have voted to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq, even if he had known in October 2002 that US intelligence was flawed, that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, and that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Senator, you blew it.
As to be expected, Bush pounced on that response today:
"Almost 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance," saying he "now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq," Bush told several thousand cheering supporters in the Florida Panhandle, a heavily military area.
"After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that even though we have not found the stockpiles of weapons we all believe were there ... he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power," Bush said.
"I want to thank Senator Kerry for clearing that up," the president added.
Unfortunately, Kerry missed a chance to remind voters what exactly Congress voted on in Public Law 107-243, and how Congress was misled and pressured by the White House to vote on this just before the 2002 midterm elections. First, Kerry should have turned Bush’s challenge against him by reframing the challenge to the broader issues upon which PL 107-243 was based. Keep in mind that the resolution asserted several things based on White House information that we now know were false. These include:
a) The specious charges made by the White House about an alleged Saddam-Al Qaeda link and that known Al Qaeda associates were being harbored by Saddam;
b) The related inference that Saddam was actively supporting terrorists responsible for 9/11 and Saddam’s alleged support for terrorism generally and Al Qaeda specifically;
c) The charge that Saddam continued to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens; and
d) The charges that Saddam “continued to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability” and was “actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability.”
Yet Kerry gave a response on Bush’s narrower terms and then gave the wrong response.
It is hard for me to understand how Kerry can say he would have still voted for the resolution Public Law 107-243 after knowing:
· There were no large stockpiles of WMDs in violation of UN resolutions;
· Inspectors still wanted several more weeks to verify this;
· There was no Saddam-Al Qaeda working relationship;
· There were no members of Al Qaeda known to be in Iraq at the time of the October 2002 resolution, contrary to the administration’s assertions in support of the resolution;
· Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003 UN presentation was bogus;
· Congress was presented a sanitized “White Paper” summary of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate which excluded the caveats from the CIA and State Department which undercut the allegations about Saddam’s nuclear intentions;
· The source for the Niger uranium and other claims were dubious intelligence assets or associates of Ahmad Chalabi.
Second, Kerry missed a chance to remind voters that not only was Congress pushed along to vote on the resolution in October 2002 just before the midterm elections, but the White House also used the issues of Iraq and the Homeland Security Department against key Democratic senators who had supported the White House in the past, like Max Cleland. Kerry could have reminded voters of the deceptions and outrages pushed by the White House in their efforts to steamroller Congress to a vote on what we now know was bogus and distorted information. Yet Kerry passed up a chance to do so and remind voters of this.
Instead, as Bush said correctly, Kerry said he would make the same decision again but tried to nuance it by saying he would do it differently than Bush did. In doing so, Kerry passed up a chance to turn the question against Bush by broadening it and questioning Bush’s integrity and judgment. Instead, he comes off looking like he still is not much different from Bush, which is a major mistake given what we know now.
Bush crows that he is proud to have taken the action he did, even with what he knows now. Kerry should have slammed him by saying no rational or sane leader of good judgment would say they would do this again knowing now that there was no imminent threat to this country, active WMD program, or ongoing terrorist connections and support to Al Qaeda. Kerry should have said that there are over one thousand reasons why Bush’s answer to the question, even knowing what we know now, gives every reason why he should not be allowed to do this again.