The US in Iraq: If Bush is Blind, Kerry is at Best Near-Sighted

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was one of a minority of Democratic members of Congress who voted to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq. With the war becoming increasingly unpopular with the electorate, however, Senator Kerry has recently been sounding more critical. Still, his recent efforts to explain his evolving position raise some troubling questions.

For example when Tim Russert asked Senator Kerry on Meet the Press on April 17 if he believed the war in Iraq was a mistake, Senator Kerry could only say that “the way the president went to war is a mistake.” In other words, as president, Kerry would invade and occupy countries the right way.

He has properly accused the Bush Administration of having “misled America.” Yet Kerry, in an apparent effort to scare the American people into supporting a U.S. takeover of that oil-rich country, also falsely claimed that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, a nuclear weapons program, and advanced delivery systems that they had either gotten rid of years earlier or never had in the first place.

In his April 13 op-ed in the Washington Post, as American troops laid siege to the city of Falluja in attacks that have killed up to 600 civilians, he described the situation in Iraq as that of “extremists attacking our forces.” He called for the U.S. military to make “full use of the assets we have,” including (if commanders request it) the deployment of more troops. In his Meet the Press interview, he did not rule out there still being 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq a year from now.

He called on NATO “to create a new out-of-area operation for Iraq under the lead of a U.S. commander.” He apparently believes that the U.S. military (which has been accused by reputable human rights organizations of widespread violations of the international humanitarian law in Iraq which has served to alienate most of the Iraqi population) should remain in charge, but other countries should be willing to sacrifice their soldiers and financial resources in this U.S.-created quagmire.

When asked as to whether NATO countries would be willing to contribute troops in a country undergoing an increasingly violent insurrection, he replied “if it requires more troops in order to create the stability that eliminates the chaos that can provide the groundwork for other countries, that’s what you have to do.” In short, in order to lessen the burden for U.S. forces, we need to send in more U.S. forces.

Where Senator Kerry has sounded more reasonable is in his call for giving the United Nations a more prominent role. He correctly recognizes that “You cannot have America run the occupation, make all the reconstruction decisions, make the decision of the kind of government that will emerge, and pretend to bring other nations to the table.”

When the Massachusetts senator voted to authorize the invasion in October 2002, he stated from the floor of the Senate that he expected President Bush to “work with the United Nations Security Council . . . if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force,” promising that if President Bush failed to do so, “I will be the first to speak out.”

However, when President Bush abandoned his efforts at getting UN Security Council approval for an invasion that March, Kerry was silent. When President Bush actually launched the invasion soon afterwards, Senator Kerry praised him, co-sponsoring a Senate resolution in which he declared that the invasion was “lawful and fully authorized by the Congress” and that he “commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President . . . in the conflict with Iraq.”

Once again, Senator Kerry is promising that he will demand a leading role for the United Nations. Given that he broke his promise before, however, it may be naive to believe that he would follow through this time.