A: I spoke out against it during the Senate’s Iraq debate, stating that we should not be “giving Bush carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses - or may pose - a potential threat to the US.” Bush’s position is a blanket doctrine that can easily be misinterpreted and misapplied. As President, I will use force when it is necessary to defend core American values and interests against imminent threats.
FACT CHECK: Kerry said U.S. forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape in 2001 during the battle at Tora Bora in Afghanistan because the administration “outsourced” fighting to Afghan “warlords.” Actually, it’s never been clear whether bin Laden actually was at Tora Bora. It is true that military leaders strongly suspected bin Laden was there, and it is also true that the Pentagon relied heavily on Afghan forces to take on much of the fighting at Tora Bora in an effort to reduce US casualties. But Kerry overstates the case by stating flatly that “we had him surrounded.”
Kerry branded Beatty’s attack ”insulting and frankly disgusting.“ He said his vote was based on intelligence reports presented to him by forme CIA director George Tenet and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The candidates agreed the United States should withdraw from Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan, while working to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.
McCAIN: Iran loves to be in Iraq, and they are in Iraq. And al-Qaeda is in Iraq. If we don’t continue to beat them back, they will be a major influence, and have training bases. I hope we can also point out the consequences of failure, which is what the Democrats are proposing now.
KERRY: We’ve had four and a half years of failure. We are not proposing failure. We’re proposing a way to, in fact, make Iraq successful to the degree that it can be by playing to the real undercurrents of their cultural and historical divisions. Nothing in the surge addresses the question of Shia & Sunni divide [or other political issues]
KERRY: I’ve proposed adding two active-duty divisions to the armed forces -- one combat, one support. I’m going to double the number of Special Forces so that we can fight a more effective war with less pressure on the National Guard and Reserve. And what I would like to do is see the National Guard and Reserve be deployed differently. There’s much we can do with them with respect to homeland security.
BUSH: The best way to take the pressure off our troops is to train Iraqis to give them a chance to defend their country. We’ll have 125,000 troops trained by the end of this year. I remember going to say thanks to the reservists and Guard that were headed overseas. Some of them had been there before. The people I talked to their spirits were high. They didn’t view their service as a back-door draft. They viewed their service as an opportunity to serve their country.
FACT CHECK: Kerry claimed, as he had in the first debate, that the Army’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, was forced to retire. It is true that Shinseki said on Feb. 25, 2003 that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would be required for an occupation of Iraq. And it is true that the general retired several months later on June 11, 2003. But the administration didn’t force Gen. Shinseki to retire: he had plans to retire since 2002. There was some truth to Kerry’s comment, however. According to the Oct. 9 Washington Post , the story of Shinseki’s replacement was leaked “in revenge” for Shinseki’s position on troop requirements, which he was already expressing in private. By naming a replacement 14 months early, the Post said Pentagon leakers effectively undercut Shinseki’s authority
A: I have laid out a different plan because Bush’s plan is not working. King Abdullah of Jordan said just yesterday you can’t hold elections in Iraq with the chaos that’s going on today. Senator Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the handling of the reconstruction aid in Iraq by this administration has been incompetent. Those are the Republican chairman’s words. Senator Hagel said that the handling of Iraq is beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing; it’s in the zone of dangerous. Those are the words of two Republicans, respected, both on the Foreign Relations Committee. He pushed them away, time and again. Pushed them away at the UN, pushed them away individually. I’m going to get the training done for our troops. I’m going to get the training of Iraqis done faster. And I’m going to get our allies back to the table.
BUSH: Two days ago I met with the finance minister from Iraq. He came to see me and talked about how optimistic he was and the country was about heading toward elections. My opponent says he has a plan. It sounds familiar because it’s called the Bush plan. We’re going to train troops, and we are. We’ll have 125,000 trained by the end of December. We’re spending about $7 billion.
KERRY: I am determined for those soldiers and for those families, for those kids who put their lives on the line. That’s the most noble thing that anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome honors that nobility. We have a choice here. I’ve laid out a plan by which we can be successful in Iraq: with a summit, by doing better training, faster, by cutting - by doing what we need to do with respect to the UN and the elections. There’s only 25 percent of the people in there. They can’t have an election right now. Bush’s not getting the job done.
KERRY: It was a threat. That’s not the issue. The issue is what you do about it. Bush said he was going to build a true coalition, exhaust the remedies of the UN and go to war as a last resort. Those words really have to mean something. And, unfortunately, he didn’t go to war as a last resort. Now we have this incredible mess in Iraq-$200 billion. It’s not what the American people thought they were getting when they voted.
KERRY: No, I said what we need, because our troops are over-extended, and we’ve turned the Guard and the Reserve into almost active duty. On a temporary basis, we need two additional divisions in the overall standing Army, because when we rotate the divisions back this spring, we will only have two divisions active that are able to be deployed.
KERRY: It would depend on why he did it.
Q: In protest.
KERRY: Given what we now know about Richard Nixon and what he did think about it, he was deeply disturbed by the veterans’ movement that was a movement of conscience. I led thousands of veterans to Washington, we camped on the Mall underneath the Congress. Nixon tried to take us to the Supreme Court. He tried to kick us off. And we stood our ground and said to him “Mr. President, you sent us 8,000 miles away to fight, die and sleep in the jungles of Vietnam. We’ve earned the right to sleep on this Mall and talk to our senators and congressmen.”
I can pledge this to the American people: I will never conduct a war or start a war because we want to; the United States of America should only go to war because we have to. And if you live by that guidance, you’ll never have veterans throwing away their medals or standing up in protest.
KUCINCH: I think Senator Kerry described well the direction we should be going in. I only wish that he had joined with me in an effort to organize Congress to vote against the war.
We should not send more American troops. That would be the worst thing. We do not want to have more Americanization. We do not want a greater sense of American occupation. We need to minimize that. And the way to do that is do everything possible, including sharing the power, to bring other countries in to take the burden.
Kerry made the comments to students at Pasadena City College in California. He said: “You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.“
A Kerry aide said that the prepared statement, which had been designed to criticize Bush, ”was mangled in delivery.“ Kerry was supposed to say, ”I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.“
KERRY: The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam. It was to remove the weapons of mass destruction. And, Mr. President, just yesterday the Duelfer report told you and the whole world they worked. He didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, Mr. President. That was the objective. And if we’d used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq, and right now Osama bin Laden might be in jail or dead. That’s the war against terror.
KERRY: You rely on good military people to execute the military component of the strategy, but winning the peace is larger than just the military component. General Shinseki had the wisdom to say you’re going to need several hundred thousand troops to win the peace. Military’s job is to win the war. Bush’s job is to win the peace. Bush did not do what was necessary. Didn’t bring in enough nations, didn’t deliver the help, didn’t close off the borders, didn’t even guard the ammo dumps. And now our kids are being killed with ammos right out of that dump.
KERRY: Not necessarily be in power. But here’s what I’ll say about the $87 billion. I made a mistake in the way I talk about it; he made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is a worse decision? Now, I voted the way I voted because I saw that he had the policy wrong and I wanted accountability. I didn’t want to give a slush fund to Halliburton. I also thought the wealthiest people in America ought to pay for it, ladies and gentlemen. He wants your kids to pay for it. I wanted us to pay for it, since we’re at war. I don’t think that’s a bad decision.
FACT CHECK: Kerry continued to refer to “the cost” of the Iraq war as $200 billion, when it fact the cost to date is just over $120 billion, according to budget officials. Kerry is counting money that has been appropriated to be spent in the fiscal year that started Friday, Oct. 1. Much of the money Kerry counts has not even been requested formally by the Bush administration, and is only an estimate of what will be sought sometime in the coming year, to be spent later. We’ve pointed this out before, in detail. [John Edwards cited the same figure in his October 5 debate].
KERRY: The other day in Wisconsin, a couple of young returnees were in the line, one active duty, one from the Guard. And they both looked at me and said: We need you. You’ve got to help us over there. Bush’s father did not go into Iraq, into Baghdad, beyond Basra. And the reason he didn’t is, he said - he wrote in his book - because there was no viable exit strategy. And he said our troops would be occupiers in a bitterly hostile land. The only building that was guarded when the troops when into Baghdad was the oil ministry. We didn’t guard the nuclear facilities. We didn’t guard the foreign office.
BUSH: The UN was invited in. And we support the UN efforts there. They pulled out after Sergio de Mello got killed. But they’re now back in helping with elections. What’s he say to Tony Blair and Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can’t expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.
KERRY: The UN and Kofi Annan offered help after Baghdad fell. We never took him up on that and did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always American-run. Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the US. That’s not a grand coalition. We can do better.
BUSH: He forgot Poland. And now there’s 30 nations involved
KERRY: I wasn’t misleading when I said Saddam Hussein was a threat. Nor was I misleading on the day that Bush decided to go to war when I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances and that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy. I’ve had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. There was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And Bush chose the wrong way.
BUSH: You cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win. And we have a duty to our country and to future generations of America to achieve a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, and to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.
KERRY: It is absolutely consistent, because what I voted for was to hold Saddam accountable but to do it right. This president has done it wrong every step of the way. He has a fraudulent coalition. He promised he would go through the UN and honor the inspections process. He did not. He promised he would go to war as a last resort, words that mean something to me as a veteran. He did not.
KERRY: It will raise our standing in the world to behave as we ought to, which is to work with other nations. This is the third opportunity of the president to try to get it right.
Secondly, when that statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled, that was the moment for a president of courage and leadership to say to the world: Now we’ve done what we had to do, but we want the world to come to the effort and join us.
This is the third opportunity, and it is critical that this president gives life to the notion that the US never goes to war because we want to.
But the battle over Kerry’s wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly - because unlike then, Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Kerry’s side, however, have gathered new evidence to support their case.
Swift boat message boards and anti-Kerry Web sites still boil with accusations that Kerry fabricated the military reports that led to his military decorations.
Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard. His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group’s charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Kerry’s valor in combat.
Kerry has signed forms authorizing the Navy to release his record-something he resisted during the campaign-and hired a researcher to comb the naval archives in Washington for records that could pinpoint his whereabouts during dates of the incidents in dispute. Another former crew member has spent days at a time interviewing veterans to reconstruct every incident in question.
Some of Kerry’s friends and former Swift boat crew members made advertisements during the race to try to shoot down the group’s charges. But the campaign declined to air them widely because some strategists said that directly challenging the charges would legitimize them.
Of course, plenty of disappointed & angry Democrats would like to know why Kerry did not defend himself so strenuously before the election. Kerry and his defenders say that they did not have the extensive archival material, and that it was too complicated to gather in the rapid pace of a campaign. He was caught off guard, he says; he had been prepared to defend his antiwar activism, but he did not believe that anyone would challenge the facts behind his military awards.
AD ANNOUNCER: Here’s what those men think of John Kerry.
GEORGE ELLIOTT: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.
LOUIS LETSON: I know John Kerry is lying about his 1st Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.
VAN O’DELL: John Kerry lied to get his bronze star...I know, I was there, I saw what happened.
ANALYSIS: A group funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas began running an attack ad which former Swift Boat veterans claim Kerry lied to get one of his two decorations for bravery and two of his three purple hearts. But the veterans who accuse Kerry are contradicted by Kerry’s former crewmen. One of the accusers says he was on another boat a few yards away during the incident which won Kerry the Bronze Star, but the former Army lieutenant whom Kerry plucked from the water that day backs Kerry’s account.
Never in the course of human events have so many been libeled by so few.
This man has attempted the murder of the reputations of two and a half million of us, including the 55,000 dead in Vietnam, and he will never be brought to justice. We can only seek justice and equity from the American people. Every man kills the thing he loves. By each let this be told: The brave man does it with the sword; the coward with the word.
We thought we were a moral country, yes, but we are now engaged in the most rampant bombing in the history of mankind. We have dropped more bombs on Laos than we dropped in the entire course of World War II. And I think the question of morality really has to enter in here.
KERRY: When I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse? I believe that when you know something’s going wrong, you make it right. That’s what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don’t like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that’s what I did with that vote. And I’m going to lead those troops to victory.
Bush and his aides said that was evidence of Kerry flip-flopping from an anti-war stance. “Now, almost two years after he voted for the war in Iraq, and almost 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance. He now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq.“
Kerry’s campaign national security adviser responded, ”The issue has never been whether we were right to hold Saddam accountable, the issue is that we went to war without our allies, without properly equipping our troops and without a plan to win the peace.“
“Iraq has developed a chemical weapons capability,” Rove quoted Kerry saying in October 1990. In 1998, Kerry said that Hussein was “pursuing a program to build weapons of mass destruction,” and in October 2002, he said, “The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real. I am prepared to hold Saddam Hussein accountable.”
Kerry’s main response was that Bush did not press hard enough or long enough with the UN, that he did not plan for the aftermath, and was too eager to go to war when Hussein was isolated and weak. But Rove believed they had Kerry pretty cold on voting to give the president a green light for war and then backing off when he didn’t like the aftermath.
KERRY: I stood up to the people of Massachusetts and the country. Those are the people I answer to. There was a right way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and there was a wrong way. The right way was what the president promised, to go to the UN, to respect the building of an international coalition in truth, to exhaust the remedies of inspections and literally to only go to war as a last result
Now, I’ve fought all my life for peace. I fought against the war in Vietnam when I came home. I fought against Ronald Reagan’s illegal war in Central America. I fought with John McCain to make peace in Vietnam. I fought to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable in Cambodia. And on and on. If anybody believes that John Kerry would have in fact gone to war the way George Bush did, they shouldn’t vote for me. I would have stood up and exhausted the remedies and lived up to the values of our country.
KERRY: The $87 billion is at issue. I have introduced an amendment that calls on shared sacrifice in America. We need to ask the wealthiest people in our country to bear some of the burden, as our troops and as the middle class in America is bearing the burden.
And so, I believe if we’re going to pass any money at all, it ought to come at the expense of President Bush’s ill-advised, unaffordable tax cut, which is driving this country into deficit.
Secondly, there are some other conditions that I think are critical and, until I know how that comes out in the struggle, I can’t tell you exactly where I’m going to vote.
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