Kerry Tells The American Legion The Truth About Iraq And The War On Terror That Bush Didn't
John Kerry tagged Bush today at the American Legion convention for Bush’s defeatist talk earlier this week about the war on terror (or, as our conservative friends always say “he was just quoted out of context”). By the way, why is it when a Democrat says something that a conservative can’t see the nuance in, they are tagged as flip-floppers, but when a Republican says something plainly that their press aides need to clean up later it is “being quoted out of context?” And while we’re on the subject of alleged Kerry flip-floppings, it wasn’t a flip flop to vote for the war resolution and then to vote against Bush’s take-it-or-leave-it $87 billion resolution which contained grants instead of loans and maintained Bush’s deficit spending and contained no sacrifice by the wealthy. Just because you GOP weasels say it is a flip-flop doesn’t make it so.
As for Kerry’s speech, for what seems like the first time it clearly laid out differences with, and criticisms of Bush’s war on terror and bungling of Iraq. It didn’t get the warm response that it deserved, but he did speak truth to the veterans, and didn’t blow smoke at them like Bush did the day before.
My friends in the Legion and my fellow Americans, we owe them the truth. We owe the American people the truth. And I'm here today to tell you the truth as I see it.
I can't come here and fulfill my obligation as a candidate for president of these great United States of America and not give you an honest and serious appraisal of the challenge we face in Iraq and the war on terror. No one in the United States doubted the outcome in Iraq or how swiftly the war would be won -- no one. We knew we had the best-trained troops in the world, and true to form, they performed magnificently, and we are all proud and grateful.
But the certainty of winning the war placed the most solemn obligation on the civilian leadership of this country to make certain that we had a plan to win the peace.
The Army chief of staff, General Shinseki, told us we would need several hundred thousand American troops to win the peace and do the job properly. His candor was rewarded with early retirement and his advice ignored, sending a chilling message throughout the ranks of the professional military.
By dismissing the State Department's plan for postwar Iraq, and proceeding unilaterally, the civilian leadership simply did not put the mechanism in place to be able to secure the country. They were unprepared for the looting, insecurity and insurgency that burst out with the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. They failed to secure Iraq's borders, and so allowed thousands of foreign terrorists, Islamist militants and intelligence agents to penetrate and destabilize postwar Iraq. Amazingly, they had no real plan for postwar political transition.
All of this happened despite clear and precise bipartisan warnings from Congress and regional experts.
Then, as the challenge grew around our troops, the civilian leadership failed to respond adequately; failed to share responsibility with NATO, the greatest alliance we've ever built; failed to share it with the U.N., which also offered assistance; failed to share reconstruction or decision-making as a way of inviting others to shoulder the burden; and failed to provide the security on the ground necessary for postwar reconstruction. They rushed and short-changed the training and equipment of the Iraqi police. They failed to recruit enough experts in language and culture of the region and used those that they had ineffectively.
The civilian leadership made a decision to disband the Iraqi military completely so there was no internal structure to maintain order. They chose consciously to put an American instead of an international face on the occupation; failed to prepare for a large number of prisoners. And most significantly, failed even to guard nuclear waste and ammunition storage sites, despite the fact that weapons of mass destruction was their fundamental reason for the war. And some of the weapons that we didn't guard are the very weapons being targeted at our troops today.
As a result, today terrorists have secured havens in Iraq that were not there before. And we have been forced to reach accommodation with those who have repeatedly attacked our troops.
Violence has spread in Iraq. Iran has expanded its influence. And extremism has gained momentum.
Now, I know that some of these things are hard to listen to. I know that it's always tough to talk truth to power. But I think the president himself on Monday admitted that he miscalculated in Iraq. In truth, his miscalculation was ignoring the advice that was given to him, including the best advice of America's own military.
So when the president says we have the same position on Iraq, I have to respectfully disagree. Our differences could not be plainer. And I have set them out consistently. When it comes to Iraq, it's not that I would have done one thing differently; I would have done almost everything differently.
I would have relied on American troops in Tora Bora, the best troops in the world, when we had Osama bin Laden in our sights, trapped in the mountains. I would not have sent Afghans up into those mountains who a week earlier had been fighting on the other side; I would have sent the best-trained forces in the world to get the number-one criminal and terrorist in the world. I never -- I never would have diverted resources so quickly from Afghanistan before finishing the job.
I would have given the inspectors the time they needed to do the job, not because that might have done the whole job of getting the weapons, but because by doing so, we could have brought other countries to our side, which is the way you provide our troops with the best protection and the way you provide America with the greatest chance of success.
I would have made sure that we listened to our senior military advisers. I would have made sure that every soldier put in harm's way had state-of-the-art body armor, state-of-the-art humvees, and the equipment we needed.
I would have built a strong, broad coalition of our allies around the world, because every one of you sitting here knows, no matter what -- you know, take away party affiliation; this isn't Democrat, this isn't Republican, this isn't independent; this is just common sense -- because everyone here knows that the best way to protect the troops is to make sure not only they have the equipment, but that they're going from the maximum position of strength.
If there's one thing I learned from my service -- which was a difficult time, as we all know -- I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the peace. That, I think, is critical. (Applause, cheers.)
Now the bottom line -- the bottom line, fellow legionnaires, is this, that I don't believe we -- you -- have to be shouldering nearly the entire financial cost of this war: more than $200 billion and shortchanging investments in health care, in veterans, in education and our safety at home. But the question now is not just what we should have done, but what we can and must now do.
I don't think we need what President Bush has defined as a "catastrophic success;" I think we need a real success. We need to bring our allies to our side. We need to share the burdens, the cost to the American taxpayer. We need to share the burden and reduce the risk to American soldiers. Together, we need to more rapidly train Iraqi police and military to take over the job of protecting the country. That is what I will do as commander in chief because, I'll tell you what, that's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home as fast as possible.
In an interview -- in an interview two days ago, the president said we can't win the war on terror. I know he said something different to you yesterday, but I absolutely disagree with what he said in that interview in a moment of candor. With the right policies, this is a war we can win, this is a war we must win, and this is a war we will win because we're the can-do people and there's nothing we can't do if we put our mind and our muscle into it. In the end the terrorists will lose and we will win because the future does not belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.
Let me tell you how we're going to do that. To win the war on terror, we're going to add 40,000 active-duty troops to our military not in Iraq -- emphasize not in Iraq. But nine out of 10 of our Army divisions are now either in Iraq, going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq, getting ready to go to Iraq, nine out of 10. Even as Iran and North Korea get more dangerous, our troops are overstretched, overextended, under pressure. I intend to double our special forces to conduct antiterrorist operations. I'm going to provide our troops with the newest weapons and the newest technology to save their lives and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of the National Guard and reservists that is taking place today.
Ladies and gentlemen, to win the war on terror, you have to know who the terrorists are, you have to know where they are and what they're hiding and plotting, and you have to know what they're planning. And you have to be able to go get them before they get us.
Every word of it is the truth.
Read the speech. Even though the Legion will not support Kerry openly, he at least challenged them to deal with the truth, and pointed out to them how he and Bush differ on Iraq and the war on terror.
It’s about time.