When listening to one of his filibusters, it’s hard to tell just what Senator John Kerry really thinks about many things, including Iraq. President Bush recently highlighted the inconsistencies that are inherent in Senator Kerry's legislative record and campaign rhetoric as they relate to Iraq. Summarizing precisely what will become clear to most Americans in November, he said about Senator Kerry that he is "in favor of liberating Iraq, and opposed to it."
The President's retort came after months of relentless assaults from the prospective Democratic presidential nominee. For example, Kerry rarely misses an opportunity to eschew personal responsibility for his October 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq; a vote that ultimately enabled President Bush to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The liberal Democrat from Massachusetts maintains that he voted in favor of "the process the president promised." According to the Senator, there was a "right way" to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and there was a "wrong way" to do it, and he charges President Bush chose to do it the wrong way.
But anyone with access to the internet can observe that the senator's 2002 vote authorized President Bush "to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to: (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." Contrary to the Kerry's accusations, Public Law 107-243 had nothing to do with a "process" but everything to do with granting the president the authority to execute foreign policy "as he determines."
Furthermore, Secretary of State Colin Powell clarified the Bush Administration's Iraq policy (i.e. "the process" the administration would pursue vis-à-vis the Iraq problem) before the United States Senate during a hearing on September 26, 2002, concerning "U.S. Policy Toward Iraq." In fact, Senator Kerry's exchange with Secretary Powell should dispel the notion that the Senator was "misled" – at any time – by President Bush, or that any so-called promises were broken.
For instance, Secretary Powell informed Senator Kerry: "It's certainly the case that I am making, and the president is making, to our colleagues in the Security Council: Don't go down this road unless you are prepared to take action if there is continued violation of the kind that we have seen in the past with respect to a new resolution." Secretary Powell even went so far as to warn Kerry, "if for one reason or another the United Nations does not wish to take that action... then the president reserves the right to take the action with like-minded nations, just as was done in Kosovo." The Kerry's response: "Fair enough."
Then, in an attempt to assuage the senator's continued concerns regarding the Bush Administration's rationale for seeking a congressional authorization to use force in Iraq, Secretary Powell reiterated that President Bush would use the authority granted to him by Congress "to act as part of a multilateral effort, but also, in the event that the president sees that the UN will not be able to act and decides that it is in our interest to act with like-minded nations. And we believe there would be like-nations at the time..." Kerry’s response: "I understand."
Senator Kerry also likes to claim that President Bush "misled" the American people about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction. But again, Secretary Powell's testimony on September 26, 2002, reveals the duplicity of this accusation. Secretary Powell told Senator Kerry: "I think the president has made it clear in all his conversations with members of Congress, in his presentations to the American people and his presentation to the United Nations that Iraq has to be disarmed. That is the major problem." The senator's response: "I agree. I agree completely."
Senator Kerry added: "I don't want any misinterpretation about my position. I really want none whatsoever. The issue, to me, is not whether Saddam Hussein should be held accountable. Of course he should. The issue is not whether or not these weapons are a threat. Yes, they are. The issue is: how do we go about this?"
At the time of this debate, Senator Kerry acknowledged that Saddam Hussein's WMDs and were "real" threats in "the capacity of those weapons to slide off to a surrogate terrorist group." Yet he fumed that the authorization to use force in Iraq – in order to protect the American people from these threats – was an "extraordinary broad overreach" in terms of the mandate that it provided the Commander-in-Chief. This is the most significant difference between candidate Kerry and President Bush; a distinction that the President emphasized recently: "It's a choice between an America that leads the world with strength and confidence or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger...Our opponents say they approve of bold action in the world, but only if no other government disagrees." The bottom line is that Kerry is willing to endanger the United States in deference to the "authority" of the United Nations and its preferred statecraft. In contrast, President Bush is determined to do what is necessary to confront America's enemies, with or without the UN’s blessing.
In March 2003, President Bush commenced Operation Iraqi Freedom after years of Bill Clinton’s feckless diplomacy. When it became clear that the United Nations would not act to enforce its own resolutions, including Resolution 1441, which granted Saddam Hussein "a final opportunity to comply" with his disarmament obligations, the President acted "with like-minded nations." This is exactly what Secretary Powell had forewarned five months earlier. This eventuality should not have surprised Senator Kerry, and if it did, which is the only conclusion he wishes to promote when he says that he was "misled" by the President, then he is not only unfit to be the Commander-in-Chief, but he’s unfit to be a senator, as well.