Kerry and Bush on Iraq War
Bush asked Kerry if he would still have voted for the Iraq War if he had known in fall of 2002 everything he knows now about the non-existence of weapons of mass destruction.
Kerry said “yes,” but that he would have handled things differently from Bush, giving the weapons inspectors more time to do their jobs and involving the international community, so that the US did not have to go it alone.
Carl Hulse of the New York Times writes that Bush then immediately gloated on the campaign trail in Pensacola,
“After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that, even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons we all believe were there, knowing all believe were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power . . . I want to thank Senator Kerry for clearing that up.”
Of course, Kerry had not in fact endorsed Bush’s approach to the war. Kerry and his advisers want to make the issue how Bush went to war, and how he mishandled the aftermath. Bush and his are counting on the American public being so simple-minded that they just stop thinking after the phrase “we were right to remove Saddam” and that they think “nuance” is a dirty word.
The Bush camp also believes that Kerry’s Democratic base will lose its fervor if Kerry admits to still being in favor of the war, since so many Democrats either opposed it (only 15% of the country did) or have changed their minds and now think it was a bad idea.
‘ Kerry’s national security adviser, Rand Beers, said Tuesday that “the issue has never been whether we were right to hold Saddam accountable, the issue is that we went to war without our allies, without properly equipping our troops and without a plan to win the peace.” Beers was the No. 2 anti-terror official in Bush’s National Security Council until he resigned in March 2003, just after the Iraq invasion. He posed questions for Mr. Bush, among them: “Knowing what you know now, do you still believe that you made no mistakes in how you took this country to war?” ‘
There’s the “how” word. Bush being more politically sly than Kerry, I’ll bet he does not answer.
Bush’s real question was of the form, “Have you stopped beating your spouse, yes or no?” If you say yes, you admit to the abuse, and if you say no you admit it is ongoing. The question is posed in such a way that it is impossible to negate the premise. Bush got Kerry to say “yes, but . . .” and in a world of media soundbites, it is easy to lop off the “but . . .” Here’s how I [Cole] would have handled it:
“Mr. President, the question of whether we should have gone to war is water under the bridge. We are in Iraq now, and are on the way to spending $500 billion on it at a time when many of our own people don’t have insurance or cannot afford the drugs they need, or cannot build a needed new school. You have posed a counterfactual question, an imaginary question. There is no way to answer a question about an imaginary situation. Why don’t you keep your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds, and look what is happening to our troops in Iraq? What I can tell you is that the way you fought the war in Iraq has made Americans less safe, not more safe. You have diverted resources from fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border regions to bombarding Muslim holy sites in Iraq. You have allowed the poppy trade to come back, to the tune of over $2 billion a year, in Afghanistan, creating a powerful threat of narco-terrorism. Do we really want the remanants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to get hold of that kind of drug money? You have thrown Iraq into political and military chaos, creating an unstable situation that could well breed terrorism against the United States. Your supporters are fond of calling you the “commander in chief” even with reference to your civilian role. But you are the commander in chief of the US armed forces, and you have not served them well by sending in a force too small to provide security to post-war Iraq.”
Hulse writes, as well:
‘ Kerry also said Monday that he hoped to begin reducing the number of U.S. forces in Iraq within six months of taking office if he is elected. “It is an appropriate goal to have,” he said, but added that achieving it would depend on broader international assistance, better stability within Iraq and other related factors.
Mr. Bush said Tuesday he opposed Kerry’s proposal.
“What we don’t want is to cut short the mission. We don’t want politics to decide the mission,” Mr. Bush said at a question-and-answer session with supporters in Niceville, Fla. ‘
This calls for a challenge from the Kerry camp. How long does Mr. Bush plan on keeping 138,000 US troops in Iraq? What is this project going to cost the American taxpayer? What does Mr. Bush plan to do if the situation remains so unstable that elections are not feasible in January? What are Mr. Bush’s real plans for Iraq, such that his “mission” there cannot be completed within one year? What exactly is the mission? Because if it is forcing Western democracy on Iraq and then holding up Iraq as a model to other Middle Easterners, that is not working out very well. Iraq under the Bush administration is the worst advertisement for democracy in the history of the world.