[Mb-civic] Kennedy Speech
michael at michaelbutler.com
Tue Sep 28 18:38:13 PDT 2004
Sent by Tony Kent:
The Effect of the War in Iraq on America's Security
By Senator Edward M. Kennedy
t r u t h o u t | Speech
Monday 27 September 2004
Remarks delivered by Senator Edward M. Kennedy at George Washington
Thank you Steve, for that generous introduction. Your many years of
impressive leadership at GW have benefited the students, the faculty, and
the whole city. I commend you as well for your support for the DC public
schools, and your commitment to help them in their time of need, and
increase opportunities for their students. Thank you for all you do so well.
I'm honored to be at GW today, and to have this opportunity to speak to
all of you at this defining moment for our nation. Five weeks from tomorrow,
the American people will decide the next President of the United States. The
consequences of the election will be enormous for our country here at home
and our role in the world. Every American has a responsibility to vote, and
I know you'll approach that responsibility with the seriousness it deserves.
Most of you will probably be voting for the first time, as will many
other college students throughout America. One of the few positive results
of the Vietnam War is the irresistible momentum it gave Congress thirty-four
years ago to pass legislation lowering the voting age to 18. Long-standing
opposition crumbled in the face of one simple truth-"Old enough to fight,
old enough to vote." Hopefully, because of the war in Iraq, young voters in
communities across America will finally be moved to help our democracy work,
by going to the polls in the large numbers long expected.
My topic today, as you can guess, is the war in Iraq. In another
presidential election campaign 24 years ago, a Republican governor named
Ronald Reagan posed the defining question to the American people in that
election, when he asked, "Are you better off today than you were four years
ago?" That simple question has even greater relevance now than when Ronald
Reagan asked it.
The defining issue today is our national security. Especially in this
post-9/11 world, people have the right to ask Ronald Reagan's question in a
very specific and all-important way-are we safer today because of the
policies of President George W. Bush?
Any honest assessment can lead to only one answer, and that answer is an
emphatic no. President Bush is dead wrong and John Kerry is absolutely
right. We are not safer today. And the reason we are not safer is because of
President Bush's misguided war in Iraq.
The President's handling of the war has been a toxic mix of ignorance,
arrogance, and stubborn ideology. No amount of Presidential rhetoric or
preposterous campaign spin can conceal the truth about the steady downward
spiral in our national security since President Bush made the decision to go
to war in Iraq. If this election is decided on the question of whether
America is safer because of President George Bush, John Kerry will win in a
Enough time has now passed to make us sure of that verdict, beyond any
Shakespeare stated the enduring age-old principle eloquently and wisely
when he wrote: "Time's glory is to calm contending kings, to unmask
falsehood, and bring truth to light."
No issue is more important today. The battle against terrorism is a
battle we must win. Even those who opposed the war in Iraq understand that
we cannot cut and run, that this is an American issue. But to remain silent
in the face of mounting failures by this President and this White House is
to weaken our security even further, and we cannot let that happen.
I thank God that President Bush was not our President at the time of the
Cuban Missile Crisis.
Even after 9/11, it is wrong for this President or any president to shoot
first and ask questions later, to rush to war and ignore or even muzzle
serious doubts by experienced military officers and experienced officials in
the State Department and the CIA about the rationale and justification for
the war, and the strategy for waging it.
We all know that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. We've known it for
more than 20 years. We're proud, very proud, of our troops for their
extraordinary and swift success in removing Saddam from power. But as we
also now know beyond doubt, he did not pose the kind of immediate threat to
our national security that could possibly justify a unilateral, preventive
war without the broad support of the international community. There was no
reason whatsoever to go to war when we did, in the way we did, and for the
false reasons we were given.
The Administration's insistence that Saddam could provide nuclear
material, or even nuclear weapons to Al Qaeda has been exposed as an empty
threat. It should have never been used by George W. Bush to justify an
ideological war that America never should have fought.
Saddam had no nuclear weapons. In fact, not only were there no nuclear
weapons, there were no chemical or biological weapons either, no weapons of
mass destruction of any kind.
Nor was there any persuasive link between Al Qaeda and Saddam and the
9/11 attacks. A 9/11 Commission Staff Statement put it plainly: "Two senior
bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between Al
Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda
cooperated on attacks against the United States." The 9/11 Commission Report
stated clearly that there was no "operational" connection between Saddam and
Secretary of State Colin Powell now agrees that there was no correlation
between 9/11 and Saddam's regime. So does Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld. Nonetheless, President Bush continues to cling to the fiction that
there was a relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda. As the President said
in his familiar Bush-speak, "The reason that I keep insisting that there was
a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda is because there was a
relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda."
That's the same logic President Bush keeps using today in his repeated
stubborn insistence that the situation is improving in Iraq, and that we and
the world are safer because Saddam is gone.
The President and his administration continue to paint a rosy picture of
progress in Iraq. Just last Wednesday, he referred to the growing insurgency
as "a handful of people." Some handful!
Vice President Cheney says we're "moving in the right direction," despite
the worsening violence. Our troops are increasingly the targets of deadly
attacks. American citizens are being kidnapped and brutally beheaded. But
Secretary Rumsfeld says he's "encouraged" by developments in Iraq.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina doesn't buy that, and
he has said so clearly: "We do not need to paint a rosy scenario for the
Neither does Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Vietnam
veteran and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He stated
unequivocally last week, "I don't think we're....winning. The fact is, we're
in trouble. We're in deep trouble in Iraq."
The National Intelligence Estimate in July, although not yet made public,
made this point as well-and made it with such breathtaking clarity that for
the good of our country, unnamed officials discussed it with the press. The
New York Times said the estimate "spells out a dark assessment of prospects
for Iraq." According to the same New York Times report and other reports,
the National Intelligence Estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq
through the end of next year. The worst case scenario is that Iraq plunges
into outright civil war. The best case scenario it says-the best case-is an
Iraq with violence still at current levels, with tenuous political and
economic stability. Yet President Bush categorically rejected that
description, saying the CIA was "just guessing." Last week, he retreated
somewhat. He said he should have used "estimate," instead of "guess."
In other words, the best-case scenario, between now and the end of
2005-2005--is that our soldiers will be bogged down in a continuing quagmire
with no end in sight. President Bush refuses to give the time of day to
advice like that by the best intelligence analysts in his Administration,
but the American people need to hear it.
The outlook is bleak, and it's easy to understand why. It's because the
number of insurgents has gone up. The number of their attacks on our troops
has gone up. The sophistication of the attacks has gone up. The number of
our soldiers killed or wounded has gone up. The number of hostages seized
and even savagely executed has gone up.
Our troops are under increasing fire. More than a thousand of America's
finest young men and women have been killed. More than seven-thousand have
In August alone, we had 863 American casualties. Our forces were attacked
an average of 70 times a day-higher than for any other month since President
Bush dressed up in a flight suit, flew out to the aircraft carrier, and
recklessly declared "Mission Accomplished" a year and a half ago.
The President, the Vice President, the National Security Council,
Secretary Rumsfeld, and other civilian leaders in the Pentagon failed to see
the insurgency that took root last year and that began to metastasize like a
deadly cancer. How could they not have noticed that?
Perhaps because they were still celebrating their mission accomplished.
For two years, terrorist cells have been spreading like cancer cells. Any
doctor who let that happen would be guilty of malpractice. Is it only
coincidence that one of the principal domestic priorities of the Bush
Administration is to protect doctors from malpractice lawsuits?
In many places in Iraq today, it is too dangerous to go out, even with
guards. The State Department does not attempt to conceal the truth, at least
in its travel warnings. Its September 17th advisory states that Iraq remains
As much as 15 to 20% of the country has inadequate security. Whole cities
are considered "no-go" zones for our troops-presumably to avoid even greater
casualties until after the election.
We continue to use so-called "precision" bombing in Iraq, even though our
bombs can't tell whether it's terrorists or innocent families inside the
buildings they hit.
What is helping to unite so many Iraqi people in hatred of America is
their emerging sense that America is unwilling - not just unable - to
rebuild their shattered country and provide for their basic needs. Far from
sharing President Bush's unrealistically rosy view, they see up-close that
their hopes for peace and stability are receding every day. Inevitably, more
and more Iraqis feel that attacks on American forces are acceptable, even if
they would not resort to violence themselves.
For every mistake we make, for every innocent Iraqi child we accidentally
kill in another bombing raid, the ranks of the insurgents climb, and so does
their fanatical determination to stop at nothing to drive us out. An Army
Reservist described the deteriorating situation this way: "For every
guerilla we kill with a 'smart bomb,' we kill many more innocent civilians
and create rage and anger in the Iraqi community. This rage and anger
translates into more recruits for the terrorists and less support for us."
The Iraqi people's anger is also fueled by the persistent blackouts, the
power shortages, the lack of electricity, the destroyed infrastructure, the
relentless violence, the massive lack of jobs and basic necessities and
By any reasonable standard, our policy in Iraq is failing. We are steadily
losing ground in the war. The American people are seeing through the White
House smokescreen more clearly every day - seeing the catastrophic failures
resulting from the Bush Administration's gross incompetence in managing so
many aspects of our occupation of Iraq. We can't go on like this.
Before the war, President Bush and his advisers manipulated, mishandled,
and misled the American people about the intelligence, because they were so
focused - so blindly focused - on removing Saddam Hussein from power.
They bungled the pre-war diplomacy on Iraq, insulted our friends, and
left us more isolated in the world than ever before in our history, unable
to obtain real allied support.
They failed to plan for the possibility that the liberation of Iraq would
not be the cakewalk they predicted. They arrogantly rejected the counsel,
the cautions, and the expertise of the professionals in the State Department
most familiar with planning for post-war and post-conflict conditions.
Our soldiers were not adequately trained for the missions thrust upon
them. Month after month, our courageous troops could not get even enough
armored vests of their own or enough armor for their humvees to protect
themselves on patrol. What kind of leadership is it, when month after month,
our troops on patrol are so urgently in need of protective armor that they
call home in desperation and ask their loved ones to buy armor at the local
store and fed-ex it to them in Iraq?
The Administration shrugged when the massive looting began after the fall
of Saddam. Secretary Rumsfeld said, "Stuff happens." They foolishly
disbanded the Iraqi army, but let them keep their weapon and left
ammunitions depots unguarded, creating a bonanza for the insurgents. The
Bush Administration has yet to effectively train a new Iraqi army, or even
provide the existing units with adequate equipment.
President Bush's repeated insistence that the United States will stay in
Iraq "as long as necessary and not one day longer" now has a hollow and
tragic ring to our men and women in uniform and their increasingly worried
families. They deserve to hear more from our President than happy talk like
President Bush speaks about his commitment to genuine sovereignty for
Iraq, so that the Iraqi people can govern themselves. But many signs on the
ground strongly suggest that we are preparing a long-term military presence.
We are also building and staffing the largest American embassy in the world,
a huge additional permanent American presence.
Yet another serious failure is the way the Bush Administration has so
badly botched every aspect of the reconstruction of Iraq. These failures
have also inflamed tensions and created serious dangers as well. Seeds of
the insurgency were sown in the earliest days of reconstruction, when we
failed to guarantee the openness and the fairness of the reconstruction
process. Our failure to have Iraqis perform as much of the reconstruction
work as possible may have created huge profits for American contractors, but
it also created huge numbers of disgruntled Iraqis, who are easy prey for
insurgents to recruit and even pay to kill our soldiers.
The contracts themselves have led to incredible absurdities. Cement is
being imported at a far higher cost that what Iraqis could manufacture for
themselves. What kind of reconstruction policy is that?
As more evidence of gross mismanagement, the Bush Administration can't
account for 8 billion dollars in Iraqi oil funds, apparently because so many
of those dollars went to phantom Iraqi soldiers and phantom policemen.
Thousands of them magically appeared on payrolls of the new Iraqi
government, but they never existed. Eight billion dollars is just lost? Who
is being held accountable?
The Administration has also mismanaged the 18 billion dollars approved by
Congress a year ago for the reconstruction. Despite the vast need, only a
tiny fraction of that amount has actually been spent. Republican Senator
Richard Lugar, the highly respected chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, says the slow rate of spending "means that we are failing to
fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence Iraq." Of
the bungled reconstruction work, he says, "This is the incompetence in the
Why has the reconstruction effort been so disastrous? Only partly because
the security situation is so dangerous. A more fundamental reason is
emerging. The Bush Administration tried to carry out the reconstruction with
its ideology, instead of an honest strategy. Instead of trying seriously to
create jobs for Iraqis, they tried to carry out a plan to privatize
virtually every part of the Iraqi economy. It's Republican ideology run
amuck. It's bad enough that they're trying to do that to the American
economy. It's preposterous to try and do it in Iraq.
The Administration didn't anticipate the obvious result of precipitously
opening up Iraq's economy to foreign competition after decades of
stagnation. They thought they could use Iraq as an experiment in
laissez-faire economics. But the result has been far fewer jobs for Iraqis
and far greater support for insurgents. Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney's
friends at Halliburton were among the first in line for the gravy train.
Across Iraq, these blunders unleashed forces so powerful and so violent
that the Administration didn't even know what hit them. Their disastrous
economic strategy was clearly a major factor in the rise of the armed
resistance, and it never should have happened.
Twelve years ago, the first President Bush lost his campaign for
re-election, because he couldn't understand how deeply the American people
felt about the troubled economy. The fundamental concern of that time was
summed up in four blunt words, "It's the economy, stupid." The fundamental
concern of today takes one less word to sum up -"It's Iraq, stupid."
In the dirtiest tactic so far in the Presidential election campaign, Vice
President Cheney claims that Al Qaeda wants John Kerry to win this election.
It's despicable to say something like that. It is not unpatriotic to tell
the truth to the American people about the war in Iraq. In this grave moment
for our country, to use the words of Thomas Jefferson, "Dissent is the
highest form of patriotism."
Most likely, Mr. Cheney's ugly charge is a desperate and cynical attempt
by the Bush campaign to immunize President Bush, in case another terrorist
attack takes place in our country on his watch, in the remaining days before
Another brazen tactic is being used as well. How dare President Bush
accuse John Kerry of flip flops on the war in Iraq. My response is
"Physician, heal thyself." President Bush is the all-time
world-record-holder for flip flops.
Nothing John Kerry has said remotely compares with the President's gigantic
flip flops on the reasons he went to war in Iraq.
The President keeps saying America and the world are safer today and
better off today because Saddam Hussein is gone. In any meaningful sense,
he's wrong. A brutal dictator is gone because of the war in Iraq, and that's
good. But no matter how many rhetorical double-twisting back flips President
Bush performs, his disingenuous claim that the war has made America safer is
wrong-- and may well be catastrophically wrong.
Let's count the ways that George Bush's war has not made America safer.
Number One: Iraq has been a constant perilous distraction from the real
war on terrorism. There was no persuasive link between Saddam Hussein and Al
Qaeda. We should have finished the job in Afghanistan, finished the job on
Al Qaeda, and finished the job on Osama bin Laden.
Number Two: The mismanagement of the war in Iraq has created a fertile
and very dangerous new breeding ground for terrorists in Iraq and a powerful
magnet for Al Qaeda that did not exist before the war. We can't go a day now
without hearing of attacks in Iraq by insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists,
and our troops are in far greater danger because of it.
Number Three: Saddam Hussein may be behind bars, and that's a significant
plus for America and the world, as President Bush says. But the war in Iraq
has clearly distracted us from putting Osama bin Laden behind bars-- and
that's a huge minus. The President likes to talk about school reform, so
let's try a little third grade math. If you add a significant plus and a
huge minus, you don't wind up with a plus.
Number Four: Because of the war, the danger of terrorist attacks against
America itself has become far greater. Our preoccupation with Iraq has given
Al Qaeda more than two full years to regroup and plan murderous new assaults
on us. We know that Al Qaeda will try to attack America again and again here
at home, if it possibly can. Yet instead of staying focused on the real war
on terror, President Bush rushed headlong into an unnecessary war in Iraq
Number Five, and most ominously: The Bush Administration's focus on Iraq
has left us needlessly more vulnerable to an Al Qaeda attack with a nuclear
weapon. The greatest threat of all to our homeland is a nuclear attack. A
mushroom cloud over any American city is the ultimate nightmare, and the
risk is all too real. Osama bin Laden calls the acquisition of a nuclear
device a "religious duty." Documents captured from a key Al Qaeda aide three
years ago revealed plans even then to smuggle high-grade radioactive
materials into the United States in shipping containers.
If Al Qaeda can obtain or assemble a nuclear weapon, they will certainly
use it - on New York, or Washington, or any other major American city. The
greatest danger we face in the days and weeks and months ahead is a nuclear
9/11, and we hope and pray that it is not already too late to prevent. The
war in Iraq has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely, and it
never should have happened.
Number Six: The war in Iraqhas provided a powerful new worldwide
recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. We know Al Qaeda is getting stronger, because
its attacks in other parts of the world are increasing. In the eight years
before 9/11, Al Qaeda conducted three attacks. But in the three years since
9/11, it has carried out a dozen more attacks, killing hundreds in Spain,
Pakistan, Indonesia, and elsewhere in the world.
Number Seven: Because of the war, Afghanistan itself is still unstable.
Taliban and Al Qaeda elements roam the country. A dangerous border with
Pakistan, where terrorists can easily cross continues to be wide open.
President Hamid Karzai is frequently forced to negotiate with warlords who
control private armies in the tens of thousands. Opium production is at a
record level, and is being used to finance terrorism. Our troops there are
in greater danger. Free and fair elections there are in greater danger. The
war in Iraq has stretched our troops thin to the point where we can't
provide enough additional forces to stop the rising drug trade and enable
President Karzai to gain full control of the country and root out Al Qaeda.
How can we afford not to do that?
Number Eight: We've alienated long-time friends and leaders in other
nations, whom we heavily depend on for intelligence, for border enforcement,
for shutting off funds to Al Qaeda, and for many other types of support in
the ongoing war against international terrorism. Mistrust of America has
soared throughout the world. We're especially hated in the Muslin world. The
past two years have seen the steepest and deepest fall from grace our
country has ever suffered in the eyes of the world community in all our
history. We remember the enormous goodwill that flowed to America in the
aftermath of September 11th, and we should never have squandered it.
Does President Bush ever learn? His chip-on-the-shoulder address to the
United Nations last week was yet another missed opportunity to turn the page
and start regaining the genuine support of the world community for a
sensible policy on Iraq.
In fact, the President's arrogance toward the world community has left
our soldiers increasingly isolated and alone. We have nearly ninety percent
of the troops on the ground in Iraq. More than ninety-five percent of the
killed and wounded are Americans. Instead of other nations joining us,
initially supportive nations are pulling out. The so-called coalition of the
willing has become the coalition of the dwindling.
Number Nine: Our overall military forces are stretched to the breaking
point because of the war in Iraq. As the Defense Science Board recently told
Secretary Rumsfeld, "Current and projected force structure will not sustain
our current and projected global stabilization commitments." Our troops in
Iraq are under an order that prevents them from leaving active-duty when
their term of service is over.
Lt. Gen. John Riggs said it clearly: "I have been in the Army 39 years, and
I've never seen the Army as stretched in that 39 years as I have today."
That fact makes it harder for us to respond to threats elsewhere in the
world. As John McCain warned last week, if we have a problem in some other
flash-point in the world, "it's clear, at least to most observers, that we
don't have sufficient personnel."
The war has also undermined the Guard and Reserve. The average tour for
reservists recalled to active duty is now 320 days. In the first Gulf War,
it was 156 days. In Bosnia and Kosovo, 200 days. A survey by the Defense
Department last May found that reservists, their spouses, their families,
and their employers are less supportive now of remaining in the military
than they were a year ago. Since Guard members are also first-responders for
any terrorist attack in the United States, our homeland security as well is
being weakened because of their loss. Surely, no one in America wants the
legacy of George W. Bush to be that America reinstated the draft.
In the words of the person for whom this city and this distinguished
university are named, "There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be
well-prepared to meet the enemy." George Washington would be appalled at how
unprepared the war in Iraq has made us to produce peace-and we should be
appalled as well.
Number Ten: The war in Iraq has undermined the basic rule of
international law that protects captured American soldiers. The Geneva
Conventions are supposed to protect our forces, but the brutal interrogation
techniques used at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have lowered the bar for
treatment of POWs and endangered our soldiers throughout the world.
Number Eleven: While President Bush has been pre-occupied with Iraq, not
just one, but two, serious nuclear threats have been rising-from North
Korea, and Iran. Four years ago, North Korea's plutonium program was
inactive. Its nuclear rods were under seal. Two years ago, as the Iraq
debate became intense, North Korea expelled the international inspectors and
began turning its fuel rods into nuclear weapons. At the beginning of the
Bush Administration, North Korea was already thought to have two such
weapons. Now they may have eight or more-- and the danger is far greater.
Iran too is now on a faster track that could produce nuclear weapons. The
international inspectors found traces of highly enriched uranium at two
nuclear sites, and Iran admitted last March that it had centrifuges to
enrich uranium. The international community might be more willing to act, if
President Bush had not abused the U.N. resolution passed on Iraq two years
ago, when he took the words "serious consequences" as a license for
launching his unilateral war in Iraq. Now, after that breach of faith with
the world community, other nations now refuse to trust us enough to enact a
similar U.N. resolution on Iran--because they fear President Bush will use
it to justify another reckless preventive war.
Number Twelve: While we focused on the non-existent nuclear threat from
Saddam, we have not done enough to safeguard the vast amounts of unsecured
nuclear material in the world. According to a joint report by the Nuclear
Threat Initiative and Harvard's Managing-the-Atom-Project, "scores of
nuclear terrorist opportunities lie in wait in countries all around the
world" - especially at sites in the former Soviet Union that contain enough
nuclear material for a nuclear weapon and are poorly defended against
terrorists and criminals. As former Senator Sam Nunn said, "The most
effective, least expensive way to prevent nuclear terrorism is to secure
nuclear weapons and materials at the source." How loudly does the alarm bell
have to ring before President Bush wakes up?
Number Thirteen: The neglect of the Bush Administration on all aspects of
homeland security because of the war is frightening. We're pouring nearly
five billion dollars a month into Iraq - yet we're grossly short-changing
the urgent need both to strengthen our ability to prevent terrorist attacks
here at home, and to strengthen our preparedness to respond to them if they
occur. As former Republican Senator Warren Rudman, Chairman of the
Independent Task Force on Emergency Responders, said recently, "Homeland
security is terribly under-funded, and we cannot allow that to continue."
Chemical plants across the country have been called "ticking time bombs,"
highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Police, firefighters, and other
first responders have seven billion dollars less in basic equipment they
urgently need. Our hospitals are unprepared for a bioterrorist attack. Our
land borders, our seaports, our shipping containers, our railroads, our
transit systems, our waterways, our nuclear power plants-none of these have
sufficient funds for protection against terrorist attacks, even though the
Bush Administration has put the nation on high alert for such attacks five
times in the past three years.
You can't pack all these reasons why America is not safer into a
30-second television response ad or a news story or an editorial. But as
anyone who cares about the issue can quickly learn, our President has
utterly no credibility when he keeps telling us that America and the world
are safer because he went to war in Iraq and rid us of Saddam.
President Bush's record on Iraq is clearly costing American lives and
endangering America in the world. Our President won't change, or even admit
how wrong he's been and still is. Despite the long line of mistakes and
blunders and outright deception, there has been no accountability. As
election day draws closer, the buck is circling more and more closely over
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Only a new President can right the extraordinary
wrongs of the Bush Administration on our foreign policy and our national
On November 2nd, the American people will decide whether or not they
still have confidence in this President's leadership. When we ask ourselves
the fundamental question whether President Bush has made us safer, there can
be only one answer: no, he has not. That's why America needs new leadership.
We could have been, and we should have been, much safer than we are
today. We cannot afford to stay this very dangerous course. This election
cannot come too soon. As I've said before, the only thing America has to
fear is four more years of George Bush.
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