The other day Matt Drudge caused a bit of a stir by linking to an item in John McCaslin's Washington Times which said that in a 1997 debate with Representative Peter King, John Kerry called for preemptive military action against Saddam Hussein.
(Incidentally, today McCaslin runs a semi-retraction - or clarification, if you prefer - to the effect that the quote attributed to Kerry by Mr. King was incorrect, but his paraphrasing of Kerry's comments during the 1997 Crossfire debate was accurate. )
Some are suggesting that, if true, Kerry's call for preemptive military action against Iraq would represent the "ultimate flip-flop."And they'd be right, of course.
The reason this entire episode doesn't surprise me, however, is because it absolutely IS true. I've already written about it twice, so maybe the third time will be the charm to get this story the attention it deserves.
On November 9, 1997 Kerry gave a speech of his own free will on the floor of the United States Senate that was entered into the Congressional Record with the title, "We Must Be Firm With Saddam Hussein."
In the speech Kerry not only laid out the case for aggressive military action against Saddam Hussein, he cited Saddam's pursuit of WMD as the main rationale for action:
Kerry went on to argue that the threat posed by Saddam was so grave and so real that the United States should act unilaterally, if necessary:
Let's put these remarks in some context. Kerry gave this blistering speech in response to the fact that on October 29, 1997, Saddam Hussein kicked U.S. weapons inspectors out of Iraq. Kerry argued it was "unthinkable" that Saddam be allowed to scuttle the inspection process and defy the will of the international community.
Yet despite more resolutions by the UN Security Council AND the passage of a law by Congress making regime change in Iraq the official policy of the US government AND a four-day bombing campaign against Saddam Hussein in late 1998, weapons inspectors did not set foot on Iraqi soil again until the Bush administration forced them back in in November 2002.
In the intervening four years America suffered terrorist attacks on her embassies in Africa, on her warship in Yemen, and on her homeland on September 11.
So is it plausible for John Kerry to have believed in 1997 that Saddam was a grave threat requiring the use of significant, preemptive, and unilateral military force but to now - more than five years later and in a post-9/11 world - stand before us and argue the opposite? It is not.
John Kerry's own words both then and now damn him as a man who changes his beliefs and positions based on political expediency and nothing more.