[Mb-civic] Kerry Speaks Out - Worth Reading

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Mon Sep 20 15:42:50 PDT 2004

    John Kerry | "The World is a More Dangerous Place"
    t r u t h o u t | Speech
    Delivered at New York University

     Monday 20 September 2004

     New York, NY - I am honored to be here at New York University - one of
the great urban universities, not just in New York, but in the world. You
have set a high standard for global dialogue and I hope to live up to that
tradition today.

     This election is about choices. The most important choices a President
makes are about protecting AmericaŠ at home and around the world. A
president¹s first obligation is to make America safer, stronger and truer to
our ideals.

     Only a few blocks from here, three years ago, the events of September
11 reminded every American of that obligation. That day brought to our
shores the defining struggle of our times: the struggle between freedom and
radical fundamentalism. And it made clear that our most important task is to
fightŠ and to winŠ the war on terrorism.

     With us today is a remarkable group of women who lost loved ones on
September 11th Š and whose support I am honored to have. Not only did they
suffer an unbearable loss ­ they helped us learn the lessons of that
terrible time by insisting on the creation of the 9/11 Commission. I ask
them to stand. And I thank them on behalf of our country - and I pledge to
them and to you that I will implement the 9-11 recommendations.

     In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward.
The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will
do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But
billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to
America¹s ideals. We must reach them.

     To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart. The greatest
threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get
their hands on a nuclear weapon.

     To prevent that from happening, we must call on the totality of
America¹s strength. Strong alliances, to help us stop the world¹s most
lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands. A powerful
military, transformed to meet the new threats of terrorism and the spread of
weapons of mass destruction. And all of America¹s power ­ our diplomacy, our
intelligence system, our economic power, the appeal of our values ­ each of
which is critical to making America more secure and preventing a new
generation of terrorists from emerging.

     National security is a central issue in this campaign. We owe it to the
American people to have a real debate about the choices President Bush has
madeŠ and the choices I would makeŠ to fight and win the war on terror.

     That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq. The
President claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq
was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest
enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a
crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the
prospect of a war with no end in sight.

     This month, we passed a cruel milestone: more than 1,000 Americans lost
in Iraq. Their sacrifice reminds us that Iraq remains, overwhelmingly, an
American burden. Nearly 90 percent of the troops ­ and nearly 90 percent of
the casualties ­ are American. Despite the President¹s claims, this is not a
grand coalition.

     Our troops have served with extraordinary bravery, skill and resolve.
Their service humbles all of us. When I speak to themŠ when I look into the
eyes of their families, I know this: we owe them the truth about what we
have asked them to doŠ and what is still to be done.

     In June, the President declared, ³The Iraqi people have their country
back.² Just last week, he told us: ³This country is headed toward democracyŠ
Freedom is on the march.²

     But the administration¹s own official intelligence estimate, given to
the President last July, tells a very different story.

     According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally
contradicts what the President is saying to the American people.

     So do the facts on the ground.

     Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis.

     42 Americans died in Iraq in June - the month before the handover. But
54 died in JulyŠ66 in AugustŠ and already 54 halfway through September.

     And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August ­ more than in any
other month since the invasion.

     We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone. In
March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they attacked
2,700 times ­ a 400% increase.

     FallujaŠRamadiŠ Samarra Š even parts of Baghdad ­ are now ³no go
zones²Š breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch
attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shi¹a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr,
who¹s accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in
the suburbs of Baghdad.

     Violence against IraqisŠ from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation Š
is on the rise.

     Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.

     Residents of Baghdad are suffering electricity blackouts lasting up to
14 hours a day.

     Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees.
Children wade through garbage on their way to school.

     Unemployment is over 50 percent. Insurgents are able to find plenty of
people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing U.S. convoys.

     Yes, there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts
of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Schools, shops and hospitals have
been opened. In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails.

     But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful
improvements to their lives. So they¹re sitting on the fenceŠ instead of
siding with us against the insurgents.

     That is the truth. The truth that the Commander in Chief owes to our
troops and the American people.

     It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in
constant danger. But it¹s essential if we want to correct our course and do
what¹s right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and
over again.

     I know this dilemma first-hand. After serving in war, I returned home
to offer my own personal voice of dissent. I did so because I believed
strongly that we owed it those risking their lives to speak truth to power.
We still do.

     Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place
in hell. But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The
satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: we have traded
a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.

     The President has said that he ³miscalculated² in Iraq and that it was
a ³catastrophic success.² In fact, the President has made a series of
catastrophic decisions Š from the beginning Š in Iraq. At every fork in the
road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

     The first and most fundamental mistake was the President¹s failure to
tell the truth to the American people.

     He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And
he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our
soldiers and our citizens.

     By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this
war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he

     His two main rationales ­ weapons of mass destruction and the Al
Qaeda/September 11 connection ­ have been proved falseŠ by the President¹s
own weapons inspectorsŠ and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week,
Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney
still insists that the earth is flat.

     The President also failed to level with the American people about what
it would take to prevail in Iraq.

     He didn¹t tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for
years, not months. He didn¹t tell us that he wouldn¹t take the time to
assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies. He didn¹t tell us that the
cost would exceed $200 billion. He didn¹t tell us that even after paying
such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

     And America will pay an even heavier price for the President¹s lack of

     At home, the American people are less likely to trust this
administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing
threats to our security.

     Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we
seek to rally them against a common menace - as they are today. Our
credibility in the world has plummeted.

     In the dark days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy sent
former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Europe to build support. Acheson
explained the situation to French President de Gaulle. Then he offered to
show him highly classified satellite photos, as proof. De Gaulle waved the
photos away, saying: ³The word of the President of the United States is good
enough for me.²

     How many world leaders have that same trust in America¹s president,

     This President¹s failure to tell the truth to us before the war has
been exceeded by fundamental errors of judgment during and after the war.

     The President now admits to ³miscalculations² in Iraq.

     That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history.
His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal
failures of judgment ­ and judgment is what we look for in a president.

     This is all the more stunning because we¹re not talking about 20/20
hindsight. Before the war, before he chose to go to war, bi-partisan
Congressional hearingsŠ major outside studiesŠ and even some in the
administration itselfŠ predicted virtually every problem we now face in

     This President was in denial. He hitched his wagon to the ideologues
who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of
his own party and the uniformed military. The result is a long litany of
misjudgments with terrible consequences.

     The administration told us we¹d be greeted as liberators. They were

     They told us not to worry about looting or the sorry state of Iraq¹s
infrastructure. They were wrong.

     They told us we had enough troops to provide security and stability,
defeat the insurgents, guard the borders and secure the arms depots. They
were wrong.

     They told us we could rely on exiles like Ahmed Chalabi to build
political legitimacy. They were wrong.

     They told us we would quickly restore an Iraqi civil service to run the
country and a police force and army to secure it. They were wrong.

     In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and
under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an
absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence. And the President
has held no one accountable, including himself.

     In fact, the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones
who told the truth.

     General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to
secure Iraq. He was retired. Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq
would cost as much as $200 billion. He was fired. After the successful entry
into Baghdad, George Bush was offered help from the UN - and he rejected it.
He even prohibited any nation from participating in reconstruction efforts
that wasn¹t part of the original coalition ­ pushing reluctant countries
even farther away. As we continue to fight this war almost alone, it is hard
to estimate how costly that arrogant decision was. Can anyone seriously say
this President has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war
on terrorism?

     By any measure, the answer is no. Nuclear dangers have mounted across
the globe. The international terrorist club has expanded. Radicalism in the
Middle East is on the rise. We have divided our friends and united our
enemies. And our standing in the world is at an all time low.

     Think about it for a minute. Consider where we wereŠ and where we are.
After the events of September 11, we had an opportunity to bring our country
and the world together in the struggle against the terrorists. On September
12th, headlines in newspapers abroad declared ³we are all Americans now.²
But through his policy in Iraq, the President squandered that moment and
rather than isolating the terrorists, left America isolated from the world.

     We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no
imminent threat to our security. It had not, as the Vice President claimed,
³reconstituted nuclear weapons.²

     The President¹s policy in Iraq took our attention and resources away
from other, more serious threats to America.

     Threats like North Korea, which actually has weapons of mass
destruction, including a nuclear arsenal, and is building more under this
President¹s watchŠ

     Š The emerging nuclear danger from IranŠ

     Š The tons and kilotons of unsecured chemical and nuclear weapons in

     Š And the increasing instability in Afghanistan.

     Today, warlords again control much of that country, the Taliban is
regrouping, opium production is at an all time high and the Al Qaeda
leadership still plots and plans, not only there but in 60 other nations.
Instead of using U.S. forces, we relied on the warlords to capture Osama bin
Laden when he was cornered in the mountains. He slipped away. We then
diverted our focus and forces from the hunt for those responsible for
September 11th in order invade Iraq.

     We know Iraq played no part in September 11 and had no operational ties
to Al Qaeda.

     The President¹s policy in Iraq precipitated the very problem he said he
was trying to prevent. Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a
magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are
operating against our troops. Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new
generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States.

     We know that while Iraq was a source of friction, it was not previously
a source of serious disagreement with our allies in Europe and countries in
the Muslim world.

     The President¹s policy in Iraq divided our oldest alliance and sent our
standing in the Muslim world into free fall. Three years after 9/11, even in
many moderate Muslim countries like Jordan, Morocco and Turkey, Osama bin
Laden is more popular than the United States of America.

     Let me put it plainly: The President¹s policy in Iraq has not
strengthened our national security. It has weakened it.

     Two years ago, Congress was right to give the President the authority
to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This PresidentŠ any
PresidentŠ would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This
President misused that authority.

     The power entrusted to the President gave him a strong hand to play in
the international community. The idea was simple. We would get the weapons
inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass
destruction. And we would convince the world to speak with one voice to
Saddam: disarm or be disarmed.

     A month before the war, President Bush told the nation: ³If we have to
act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully.
We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act
with allies at our side and we will prevail.² He said that military action
wasn¹t ³unavoidable.²

     Instead, the President rushed to war without letting the weapons
inspectors finish their work. He went without a broad and deep coalition of
allies. He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armor. And
he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of
the post-war. None of which I would have done.

     Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over
again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying
that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass
destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded
Iraq? My answer is no ­ because a Commander-in-Chief¹s first responsibility
is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.

     Now the president, in looking for a new reason, tries to hang his hat
on the ³capability² to acquire weapons. But that was not the reason given to
the nation; it was not the reason Congress voted on; it¹s not a reason, it¹s
an excuse. Thirty-five to forty countries have greater capability to build a
nuclear bomb than Iraq did in 2003. Is President Bush saying we should
invade them?

     I would have concentrated our power and resources on defeating global
terrorism and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. I would have tightened
the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein ­ who was
weak and getting weaker - so that he would pose no threat to the region or

     The President¹s insistence that he would do the same thing all over
again in Iraq is a clear warning for the future. And it makes the choice in
this election clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction
that makes our troops and America safer. It is time, at long last, to ask
the questions and insist on the answers from the Commander-in-Chief about
his serious misjudgments and what they tell us about his administration and
the President himself. If George W. Bush is re-elected, he will cling to the
same failed policies in Iraq - and he will repeat, somewhere else, the same
reckless mistakes that have made America less secure than we can or should

     In Iraq, we have a mess on our hands. But we cannot throw up our hands.
We cannot afford to see Iraq become a permanent source of terror that will
endanger America¹s security for years to come.

     All across this country people ask me what we should do now. Every step
of the way, from the time I first spoke about this in the Senate, I have set
out specific recommendations about how we should and should not proceed. But
over and over, when this administration has been presented with a reasonable
alternative, they have rejected it and gone their own way. This is stubborn

     Five months ago, in Fulton, Missouri, I said that the President was
close to his last chance to get it right. Every day, this President makes it
more difficult to deal with Iraq ­ harder than it was five months ago,
harder than it was a year ago. It is time to recognize what is ­ and what is
not ­ happening in Iraq today. And we must act with urgency.

     Just this weekend, a leading Republican, Chuck Hagel, said we¹re ³in
deep trouble in Iraq Š it doesn¹t add up Š to a pretty picture [and] Š we¹re
going to have to look at a recalibration of our policy.² Republican leaders
like Dick Lugar and John McCain have offered similar assessments.

     We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq.

     First, the President has to get the promised international support so
our men and women in uniform don¹t have to go it alone. It is late; the
President must respond by moving this week to gain and regain international

     Last spring, after too many months of resistance and delay, the
President finally went back to the U.N. which passed Resolution 1546. It was
the right thing to do ­ but it was late.

     That resolution calls on U.N. members to help in Iraq by providing
troopsŠ trainers for Iraq¹s security forcesŠ a special brigade to protect
the U.N. missionŠ more financial assistanceŠ and real debt relief.

     Three months later, not a single country has answered that call. And
the president acts as if it doesn¹t matter.

     And of the $13 billion previously pledged to Iraq by other countries,
only $1.2 billion has been delivered.

     The President should convene a summit meeting of the world¹s major
powers and Iraq¹s neighbors, this week, in New York, where many leaders will
attend the U.N. General Assembly. He should insist that they make good on
that U.N. resolution. He should offer potential troop contributors specific,
but critical roles, in training Iraqi security personnel and securing Iraq¹s
borders. He should give other countries a stake in Iraq¹s future by
encouraging them to help develop Iraq¹s oil resources and by letting them
bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process.

     This will be difficult. I and others have repeatedly recommended this
from the very beginning. Delay has made only made it harder. After insulting
allies and shredding alliances, this President may not have the trust and
confidence to bring others to our side in Iraq. But we cannot hope to
succeed unless we rebuild and lead strong alliances so that other nations
share the burden with us. That is the only way to succeed.

     Second, the President must get serious about training Iraqi security

     Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis
were in uniform. Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was exaggerated by
more than 50 percent. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces.

     But guess what? Neither number bears any relationship to the truth. For
example, just 5,000 Iraqi soldiers have been fully trained, by the
administration¹s own minimal standards. And of the 35,000 police now in
uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program. Is it any
wonder that Iraqi security forces can¹t stop the insurgency or provide basic
law and order?

     The President should urgently expand the security forces training
program inside and outside Iraq. He should strengthen the vetting of
recruits, double classroom training time, and require follow-on field
training. He should recruit thousands of qualified trainers from our allies,
especially those who have no troops in Iraq. He should press our NATO allies
to open training centers in their countries. And he should stop misleading
the American people with phony, inflated numbers.

     Third, the President must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally
brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

     Last week, the administration admitted that its plan was a failure when
it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in
Iraq. It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority Š
17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical Š 17 months
to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our

     One year ago, the administration asked for and received $18 billion to
help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the
insurgency. Today, less than a $1 billion of those funds have actually been
spent. I said at the time that we had to rethink our policies and set
standards of accountability. Now we¹re paying the price.

     Now, the President should look at the whole reconstruction packageŠdraw
up a list of high visibility, quick impact projectsŠ and cut through the red
tape. He should use more Iraqi contractors and workers, instead of big
corporations like Halliburton. He should stop paying companies under
investigation for fraud or corruption. And he should fire the civilians in
the Pentagon responsible for mismanaging the reconstruction effort.

     Fourth, the President must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to
guarantee the promised elections can be held next year.

     Credible elections are key to producing an Iraqi government that enjoys
the support of the Iraqi people and an assembly to write a Constitution that
yields a viable power sharing arrangement.

     Because Iraqis have no experience holding free and fair elections, the
President agreed six months ago that the U.N. must play a central role. Yet
today, just four months before Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls, the
U.N. Secretary General and administration officials themselves say the
elections are in grave doubt. Because the security situation is so badŠ and
because not a single country has offered troops to protect the U.N.
elections missionŠ the U.N. has less than 25 percent of the staff it needs
in Iraq to get the job done.

     The President should recruit troops from our friends and allies for a
U.N. protection force. This won¹t be easy. But even countries that refused
to put boots on the ground in Iraq should still help protect the U.N. We
should also intensify the training of Iraqis to manage and guard the polling
places that need to be opened. Otherwise, U.S forces would end up bearing
those burdens alone.

     If the President would move in this direction Š if he would bring in
more help from other countries to provide resources and forces Š train the
Iraqis to provide their own security Šdevelop a reconstruction plan that
brings real benefits to the Iraqi people Š and take the steps necessary to
hold credible elections next year Š we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces
starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home
within the next four years.

     This is what has to be done. This is what I would do as President
today. But we cannot afford to wait until January. President Bush owes it to
the American people to tell the truth and put Iraq on the right track. Even
more, he owes it to our troops and their families, whose sacrifice is a
testament to the best of America.

     The principles that should guide American policy in Iraq now and in the
future are clear: We must make Iraq the world¹s responsibility, because the
world has a stake in the outcome and others should share the burden. We must
effectively train Iraqis, because they should be responsible for their own
security. We must move forward with reconstruction, because that¹s essential
to stop the spread of terror. And we must help Iraqis achieve a viable
government, because it¹s up to them to run their own country. That¹s the
right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

     On May 1 of last year, President Bush stood in front of a now infamous
banner that read ³Mission Accomplished.² He declared to the American people:
³In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.² In
fact, the worst part of the war was just beginning, with the greatest number
of American casualties still to come. The president misled, miscalculated,
and mismanaged every aspect of this undertaking and he has made the
achievement of our objective ­ a stable Iraq, secure within its borders,
with a representative government, harder to achieve.

     In Iraq, this administration¹s record is filled with bad predictions,
inaccurate cost estimates, deceptive statements and errors of judgment of
historic proportions.

     At every critical juncture in Iraq, and in the war on terrorism, the
President has made the wrong choice. I have a plan to make America stronger.

     The President often says that in a post 9-11 world, we can¹t hesitate
to act. I agree. But we should not act just for the sake of acting. I
believe we have to act wisely and responsibly.

     George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do.

     George Bush has not told the truth to the American people about why we
went to war and how the war is going. I have and I will continue to do so.

     I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in
the war against terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective
war on terror ­ and make us safer.

     Today, because of George Bush¹s policy in Iraq, the world is a more
dangerous place for America and Americans.

     If you share my conviction that we can not go on as we are Šthat we can
make America stronger and safer than it isŠ then November 2 is your chance
to speak... and to be heard. It is not a question of staying the course, but
of changing the course.

     I¹m convinced that with the right leadership, we can create a fresh
start and move more effectively to accomplish our goals. Our troops have
served with extraordinary courage and commitment. For their sake, and
America¹s sake, we must get this right. We must do everything in our power
to complete the mission and make America stronger at home and respected
again in the world.

     Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.



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