Saturday, May 29, 2004
America deserves better # 16
A few of you seem to have been won over to opposition to this administration, perhaps helped by my letters. (I like to think so). However, most seem to question the alternative, and I must confess I have my questions also. I can overcome my questions easily because I believe firmly that ABBC (Anyone But Bush and Cheney) is justified. That is probably not good enough for most of you. Some people who oppose Bush see Bush and Kerry as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, both committed to the idea that "we cannot fail in Iraq", and fail to see the important differences in what that means to them, and to how they would go from here. Many more have been swayed by the Bush label of "flip-flopper", evidenced mostly by the famous Yes vote on the Iraq War Resolution. The flip-flopper thing has been my biggest concern also, until now, and is what I want to deal with here.
I just came across the following piece. Note that it dates to 10 Dec. '03. I have again shortened it a lot, but kept the main message intact. It fully satisfies me on the Yes vote flip flop issue. My e-mail program doesn't seem to let me underline or italicize things, so let me clip a few comments from this article in order to highlight them:
Kerry - "I believed we needed to get the weapons inspectors back in. I believed Bush needed this resolution in order to get the U.N. to put the inspectors back in there. The only way to get the inspectors back in was to present Bush with the ability to threaten force legitimately. That's what I voted for."
My comment - There is no doubt in my mind that the reason Saddam let the inspectors back in was because we had overwhelming force sitting on his border, so this was the right decision.
Kerry - "The way Powell, Eagleberger, Scowcroft, and the others were talking at the time, I felt confident that Bush would work with the international community. I took the President at his word. We were told that any course would lead through the United Nations, and that war would be an absolute last resort. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake."
My comment - Isn't that a Hell of a note? I chose to trust the President, and that was a terrible mistake!!
The author - When Iraq opened itself to the inspectors, accepting the terms of 1441 completely, the administration was caught flat-footed, and immediately began denigrating the inspectors. The promises made to Kerry and the Senate that the administration would work with the U.N., would give the inspectors time to complete their work, that war would be an action of last resort, were broken.
My comment - We know that this observation is factually true. It is not a question of taking someone's word.
The author - Kerry nodded, bowed his head, and said, "You're right. I was wrong to trust him. I'm sorry I did." In the end, that is perhaps the greatest obstacle for Kerry to overcome, that Kerry trusted Bush.
My comment - No comment needed.
This account of a "trial" by the press illustrates two things. The main one is that this administration is totally deceitful in pursuit of their hegemonistic policy, completely characteristic of the true ideologue. The second is that the alternative is better than we may have thought.
Please read the entire edited piece below. It has the ring of honesty to it, and raises my confidence in the choice we have before us. America deserves better, and we have a clearly better alternative. Defeat this administration. Hopefully yours, Murray
The Trial of John Kerry Truthout Perspective
by William Rivers Pitt
December 10, 2003
Yet today, John Kerry teeters on the edge of total irrelevancy in the race for the White House. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean holds a double-digit lead over Kerry in New Hampshire, and is leading or surging elsewhere.
How did this happen? Kerry has all the components of a flat-out frontrunner. When did the wheels come off?
Ask virtually anyone who accounts themselves a member of the Democratic base, and they'll answer in a heartbeat. The wheels came off on October 11, 2002, the day John Kerry voted 'Yes' on George W. Bush's Iraq War Resolution. The occupation of Iraq, the mounting American casualties, the skyrocketing cost of the conflict, and the still-missing weapons of mass destruction have become a significant liability to Bush. Amazingly enough, however, the Iraq situation has been far more damaging to Kerry than to Bush.
Any politician who voted for the resolution was of no account to these people, worse than useless, an enabler of Bush's extremist agenda and not at all to be trusted. The fact that Kerry had served in Vietnam, and then become an anti-war activist, was an added twist of the knife for those working against the invasion of Iraq, a betrayal of his own history and his people.
There are but a few weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Time has grown short. In an effort to galvanize the message Kerry wants to deliver in the time remaining, he convened a powerful roster of journalists and columnists in the New York City apartment of Al Franken last Thursday. The gathering could not properly be called a meeting or a luncheon. It was a trial. The journalists served as prosecuting attorneys, jury and judge.
We sat in a circle around Kerry and grilled him for two long hours. In an age of retail politicians who avoid substance the way vampires avoid sunlight, in an age when the sitting President flounders like a gaffed fish whenever he must speak to reporters without a script, Kerry's decision to open himself to the slings and arrows of this group was bold and impressive. He was fresh from two remarkable speeches - one lambasting the PATRIOT Act, another outlining his foreign policy ideals while eviscerating the Bush record - and had his game face on. He needed it, because Eric Alterman lit into him immediately on the all-important issue of his vote for the Iraq War Resolution. The prosecution had begun.
"Senator," said Alterman, "I think you may be the most qualified candidate in the race, and perhaps also the one who best represents my own values. But there was one overriding issue facing this nation during the past four years, and Howard Dean was there when it counted, and you weren't. A lot of people feel that moment entitles him to their vote, even if you have a better record and would be a stronger candidate in November. How are you going to win back those people who you lost with your vote for this awful war?"
There it was. Your record is the best, Mr. Kerry. But you voted for the war. Explain yourself.
For over a year now, Kerry has struggled to respond to that question. His answers have seemed vague, overly nuanced and evasive. On Thursday, seated before the sharpest knives in the journalistic drawer and facing the unconcealed outrage of Alterman, the Senator from Massachusetts explained why he did what he did. The comments below reflect Kerry's answers over the course of a long conversation and debate on the matter.
"This was the hardest vote I have ever had to cast in my entire career," Kerry said. "I voted for the resolution to get the inspectors in there, period. Remember, for seven and a half years we were destroying weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In fact, we found more stuff there than we thought we would. After that came those four years when there was no intelligence available about what was happening over there. I believed we needed to get the weapons inspectors back in. I believed Bush needed this resolution in order to get the U.N. to put the inspectors back in there. The only way to get the inspectors back in was to present Bush with the ability to threaten force legitimately. That's what I voted for."
"The way Powell, Eagleberger, Scowcroft, and the others were talking at the time," continued Kerry, "I felt confident that Bush would work with the international community. I took the President at his word. We were told that any course would lead through the United Nations, and that war would be an absolute last resort. Many people I am close with, both Democrats and Republicans, who are also close to Bush told me unequivocally that no decisions had been made about the course of action. Bush hadn't yet been hijacked by Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney and that whole crew. Did I think Bush was going to charge unilaterally into war? No. Did I think he would make such an incredible mess of the situation? No. Am I angry about it? You're God damned right I am. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake."
History defends this explanation. The Bush administration brought Resolution 1441 to the United Nations in early November of 2002 regarding Iraq, less than a month after the Senate vote. The words "weapons inspectors" were prominent in the resolution, and were almost certainly the reason the resolution was approved unanimously by the Security Council. Hindsight reveals that Bush's people likely believed the Hussein regime would reject the resolution because of those inspectors. When Iraq opened itself to the inspectors, accepting the terms of 1441 completely, the administration was caught flat-footed, and immediately began denigrating the inspectors while simultaneously piling combat troops up on the Iraq border. The promises made to Kerry and the Senate that the administration would work with the U.N., would give the inspectors time to complete their work, that war would be an action of last resort, were broken.
Kerry completed his answer by leaning in close to Alterman, eyes blazing, and said, "Eric, if you truly believe that if I had been President, we would be at war in Iraq right now, then you shouldn't vote for me."
Pointing out Bush's mistakes is relatively simple, but what of solutions to the Iraq mess? Kerry was questioned at length on this, and gave the same answers delivered during his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on December 3: "Our best option for success is to go back to the United Nations and leave no doubt that we are prepared to put the United Nations in charge of the reconstruction and governance-building processes. I believe the prospects for success on the ground will be far greater if Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority are replaced by a UN Special Representative for Iraq."
Alterman, for one, was sold. In his MSNBC blog report on the meeting, he wrote, "It was all on the record and yet, it was remarkably open, honest and unscripted. Let's be blunt. Kerry was terrific. Once again, he demonstrated a thoughtfulness, knowledge base and value system that gives him everything, in my not-so-humble-opinion, he could need to be not just a good, but a great president."
The most revealing moment of the entire event came as it was breaking up. Kerry was slowly working towards the door when he was collared by Art Spiegelman. Though Kerry towered over him, Spiegelman appeared to grow with the intensity of his passion. "Senator," he said, "the best thing you could do is to is to just come out and say that you were wrong to trust Bush. Say that you though he would keep his promises, but that you gave him more credit than he deserved. Say that you're sorry, and then turn the debate towards what is best for the country in 2004."
Kerry nodded, bowed his head, and said, "You're right. I was wrong to trust him. I'm sorry I did." And then he was gone.
In the end, that is perhaps the greatest obstacle for Kerry to overcome, that Kerry trusted Bush, and trusted him enough to ignore Senator Robert Byrd's dire warnings of constitutional abrogation of Congressional responsibilities which was inherent in the resolution.
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.