Senator John Kerry decided to celebrate the results of Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primaries – which propelled him to frontrunner status among Democrats – by attacking President Bush’s policy vis-à-vis Iraq. The Bush administration, he claimed, “obviously misused information and misled the American people” about Iraq. Senator Kerry’s charge is by now a familiar one, but Kerry conveniently overlooks the fact that this policy was approved by Congress, including by Sen. Kerry himself.
Somehow, the liberal senator from Massachusetts has convinced the majority of his fellow Democrats that he should not be held accountable for voting (along with 76 other senators) to authorize the use of force in Iraq, because President Bush “misled” the senator about the nature of the threat. However, a closer examination of Senator Kerry’s statements and voting record reveals that the senator from Massachusetts is the only person who is misleading the American people.
Kerry began his highly nuanced position on Iraq on the media circuit. Senator Kerry acknowledged in a National Public Radio (NPR) interview last March that “Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction are a threat, and that's why I voted to hold him accountable and to make certain that we disarm him.”
Kerry's campaign has continuously accused the Bush administration of abusing the authority granted to him by Congress to deploy the United States Armed Forces to Iraq. During a January 25, 2004, interview on Fox News, Senator Kerry tried to defend his October 2002 vote. He said: “I voted to give the authority to the president to use force under a set of promises by the president as to how he would do it: build a legitimate international coalition, exhaust the remedies of the United Nations, and go to war as a last resort. He broke every single one of those promises. And that's why I'm the best candidate to run against him and beat him, because I knew we had to hold Saddam Hussein accountable but I knew how to do it the right way. President Bush did it the wrong way.” (Emphasis added.)
Putting aside the facts that President Bush did “build a legitimate international coalition,” he did “exhaust the remedies of the United Nations,” and he did “go to war as a last resort,” the language of the authorization that Senator Kerry approved did not specify any of these conditions. The language was very explicit. Public Law 107-243 states unambiguously: “The President is authorized 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.” (Emphasis added). The law cannot be any clearer. Senator Kerry authorized President Bush to use force in Iraq as he, the President, determines.
Senator Kerry wants Americans to believe that his support for the aforementioned authorization was based on the belief that President Bush would use this authority to confront Iraq in a manner amenable to Senator Kerry (i.e., in the “right way”). There is one glaring problem with this assertion: Months before the October 2002 vote, Senator Kerry was bemoaning George Bush’s “unilateralism”; and only days before casting his vote Kerry told the Des Moines Register: “I don't like the administration's unilateral approach” vis-à-vis Iraq.
Therefore, an obvious question arises: What motivated Senator Kerry to vote in favor of a resolution that would permit President Bush to use the United States military “as he determines” when it was obvious that the preferred statecraft of George W. Bush was quite distinct from that of Senator John Kerry? It can only be assumed that the Senator was betting on the fact that he could vote for the war in Iraq (which is popular nationally) in order to appear strong on defense, and then convince his base (which rejects the war’s rationale) to elect him their leader in spite of his vote for the war resolution. It looks like the gamble might pay off in the short term. The American people, however, will vote in November for a leader that can defend this country during a time of war. It is doubtful that Americans will find a candidate appealing who has, by his own admission, been “misled” repeatedly.
At least, that's his claim. In a May 2003 interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball” with Chris Matthews, Senator Kerry defended his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq thus: “We were presented an enormous amount of evidence by the CIA, the intelligence community, and we voted accordingly and, I think, appropriately.” Ironically, this rationale was vindicated last week by former Iraq weapons inspector Dr. David Kay. During a January 25 interview that aired on NPR, Dr. Kay argued, “Based on the intelligence that existed, I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat.”
Dr. Kay’s statement reveals to the American public that the decision by Kerry and his Senate colleagues to support the use of force in Iraq in October 2002, and President Bush’s decision to commence Operation Iraqi Freedom the following March, were based on the same intelligence estimates. Yet, the senator maintains that the Bush administration has been “misleading all of America . . . in a profound way.”
Furthermore, the resolution that Senator Kerry supported in October 2002 acknowledged certain facts about Saddam Hussein’s WMD capabilities that the senator now seems willing to portray – for his lone benefit – as “misleading.” Public Law 107-243 notes the following:
. . . Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.
Now he has flip-flopped again. And should WMDs be discovered, he will change his tune again and again.
In December 2003 Senator Kerry tried to distinguish himself from the former frontrunner Governor Howard Dean. He billed himself as the “steady and consistent” alternative to the “confusion and contradiction” that exemplified the Dean candidacy. But such a characterization serves only to mislead all of America “in a profound way.”