[Mb-civic] Kerry's Plan on Iraq

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Wed Sep 22 16:53:38 PDT 2004

Kerry's Plan on Iraq

By Sen. John Kerry,
 Posted on September 21, 2004, Printed on September 22, 2004

The following is excerpted from a speech John Kerry delivered in New York on
Sept. 20.

...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 JulyŠ 66 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 intimidationŠ 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. 

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 succeeded.

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

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, today?

 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 wrong.

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

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

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 to 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 incompetence.  

 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

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 priorityŠ
17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is criticalŠ 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 directionŠ if he would bring in more
help from other countries to provide resources and forces Š train the Iraqis
to provide their own securityŠ develop a reconstruction plan that brings
real benefits to the Iraqi peopleŠ and take the steps necessary to hold
credible elections next yearŠ 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.

 © 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
 View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/19947/

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