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Ted Kennedy on War & Peace

Democratic Sr Senator (MA)


Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam

Shortly after the 2006 elections, I invited a group of senior lawmakers to the Oval Office. Afterwards, I pulled Ted Kennedy aside. Unfortunately, our relationship had deteriorated since the days of No Child Left Behind. I knew Ted disagreed with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein. But I was disappointed by his vitriolic speeches, in which he claimed I had "broken the basic bond of trust with the American people," compared me to Richard Nixon, and called Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam."

His harsh words were such a contrast to the affable, polite man I'd come to know. I was particularly surprised given that Ted had been on the receiving end of so many nasty political attacks over the years. One of my regrets is that I never sat down with Ted for a talk about the war. I wouldn't have changed his mind, but he was a decent man, and our discussion might have persuaded him to tone down his rhetoric.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.304 , Nov 9, 2010

1969 Vietnam strategy was senseless, like "Hamburger Hill"

In 1969, the Vietnam War had just reached its peak of escalation, with 543,400 troops in country at the end of April. The mad futility of that escalation was just then on display once again: a ten-day battle of breathtaking, needless carnage. I took the Senate floor on May 20, the concluding day of the slaughter that came to be known as Hamburger Hill, and gave my outrage full cry. It was "both senseless and irresponsible," I declared, that US Army generals "continue to send our young men to their deaths to capture hills and positions that have no relation to this conflict."

It was clear I'd infuriated Nixon with my speech denouncing Hamburger Hill, and, by extension, the Vietnam War policies that he now administered. My opposition to his administration's policies was not personal, but Nixon took things quite personally indeed. By 1971, I was a member of his famous "enemies list."

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.285&314 , Sep 14, 2009

1968: gap between Vietnam rhetoric and reality on the ground

My second visit to Vietnam, in 1968, grew out of my conviction that an even greater gap existed between rhetoric and reality than during my first trip, in 1965. I met with President Nguyen Van Thieu, as well as US military commander Westmoreland. Their stonewalling of questions and their boilerplate optimism made me wonder whether they were speaking about the same torn nightmare of a country as the one I'd just seen. In response to my queries about refugees, whose festering camps I'd seen for myself, they declared that the refugees were being well cared for. To my report that I'd heard of American artillery fire being directed into an area that might have held civilians, Westmoreland assured me that no civilians could possibly be injured or die from indiscriminate US fire. Why not? Because there was no indiscriminate fire. The handbooks forbade it.

I left Vietnam with one further thought in my mind: I could no longer support this atrocity of a war.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.255-257 , Sep 14, 2009

Bush squandered post-9-11 international goodwill

The eyes of the world were on us and the hearts of the world were with us after September 11th until this administration broke that trust. We should have honored, not ignored, the pledges that we made. We should have strengthened, not scorned, the alliances that won two world wars and the Cold War. Most of all, we should have honored the principle so fundamental that our nation’s founders placed it in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, that America must give a decent respect to the opinions of mankind. We failed top do that in Iraq.

And more than 900 of our service men and women have already paid the ultimate price. Nearly 6,000 have been wounded in this misguided war. The administration has alienated longtime allies. Instead of making America more secure, they have made us less so. They have made it harder to win the real war on terrorism and the war against al Qaeda. And none of this had to happen

Source: Speech to the Democratic National Convention , Jul 28, 2004

Fraudulent threat from Iraq was made up in Texas

Kennedy questioned how much of a threat Saddam Hussein had posed in the US fight against terrorism. “There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud,” Kennedy said. He added that Bush officials employed “distortion, misrepresentation, a selection of intelligence” to justify the war. As for the administration’s current policy in Iraq, Kennedy called it “adrift.” He said Bush officials had failed to account for $1.5 billion of the $4 billion the war costs each month, citing a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office. “My belief is this money is being shuffled all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops.” Kennedy was one of 23 senators who opposed the resolution last year authorizing Bush to go to war in Iraq.
Source: CNN.com , Sep 18, 2003

Bush squandered world goodwill in rush to Iraq war

In a speech to the annual conference of the Methodist Church, Ted Kennedy paid brief tribute to Bush’s leadership after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and then let blast: “Few can also deny that after that, President Bush squandered too much of the goodwill of the world community because of his single-minded rush to war with Iraq--even if he has few or even no allies to go to war with him--and even if there are other ways to contain the threat posed by Saddam’s Iraq. Surely we can have effective relationships with other nations without adopting a chip-on-the-shoulder, my-way-or-the-highway policy that makes all our other goals in the world more difficult to achieve. We cannot be a bully in the world schoolyard and expect cooperation, friendship, and support from the rest of the world.“ For good measure, Kennedy described Bush’s personal understanding of the situation in Iraq as ”simplistic“ and ”ridiculous.“
Source: The Right Man, by David Frum, p.286 , Jun 1, 2003

1969: Get out of Southeast Asia lock, stock, and barrel

In March, Ted Kennedy and wife Joan, attended the Firat Lady's yearly reception for members of Congress. Pat Nixon, like the other women attending, wore a floor-length gown. The president was in black tie. As Joan Kennedy passed through the receiving line, she caught every eye and camera. She had chosen a low-cut cocktail dress, shimmering with silver sequins and stopping a full half foot above her knees. "Wow!" a Nixon cabinet member exhaled.

In April, Ted Kennedy flashed a more lethal contempt for the new Nixon order. "This is the time to begin to get out of Southeast Asia, lock, stock, and barrel," he demanded. Next, Kennedy jumped on reports that the White House was wiretapping journalists it suspected of getting "leaks" about secret US bombing in Cambodia. Kennedy's Judiciary Subcommittee demanded that the Justice Department come clean. Attorney General John Mitchell's people stonewalled the Kennedy request.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.278 , Jun 3, 1996

Voted YES on redeploying non-essential US troops out of Iraq in 9 months.

Vote to transition the missions of US Forces in Iraq to a more limited set of missions as specified by the President on September 13, 2007: S.AMDT.3875 amends S.AMDT.3874 and underlying bill H.R.2764:

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LEVIN: "The amendment requires redeployment be completed within 9 months. At that point, funding for the war would be ended, with four narrow exceptions:"

  1. Security for US Government personnel and infrastructure
  2. Training Iraqi security forces
  3. Equipment to US service men and women to ensure their safety
Targeted operations against members of al-Qaida.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. McCAIN: "This year, after nearly 4 years of mismanaged war, our military has made significant gains under the so-called surge. Overall violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since [2003]. Improvised explosive device blasts now occur at a rate lower than at any point since September 2004.

"Al-Qaida's leadership knows which side is winning in Iraq. It may not be known in some parts of America and in this body, but al-Qaida knows. We are succeeding under the new strategy.

"Given these realities, some proponents of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq have shifted their focus. While conceding, finally, that there have been dramatic security gains, they have begun seizing on the lackluster performance of the Iraqi Government to insist that we should abandon the successful strategy and withdraw U.S. forces. This would be a terrible mistake."

Reference: Safe Redeployment Of US Troops From Iraq Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.3875 to H.R.2764 ; vote number 2007-437 on Dec 18, 2007

Voted NO on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards as terrorists.

Vote on a "Sense of the Senate" amendment, S.Amdt. 3017, to H.R. 1585 (National Defense Authorization Act), that finds:

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text]. That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.

Reference: Sense of the Senate on Iran; Bill S.Amdt. 3017 to H.R. 1585 ; vote number 2007-349 on Sep 26, 2007

Voted YES on redeploying US troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

Begins the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq within 120 days of enactment of this joint resolution with the goal of redeploying by March 31, 2008, all US combat forces from Iraq, except for a limited number essential for protecting US and coalition personnel and infrastructure, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations. Such redeployment shall be implemented as part of a diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community in order to bring stability to Iraq.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.

Reference: US Policy in Iraq Resolution; Bill S.J.Res.9 ; vote number 2007-075 on Mar 15, 2007

Voted YES on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007.

Voting YEA on this amendment would establish a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Voting NAY would keep the current situation without a timetable. The amendment states:
  1. The President shall redeploy, commencing in 2006, US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007, leaving only the minimal number of forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces and conducting specialized counterterrorism operations.
  2. The President should maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence to prosecute the war on terror and protect regional security interests.
  3. Within 30 days, the administration shall submit to Congress a report that sets forth the strategy for the redeployment of US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007.
Reference: Kerry Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act; Bill S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766 ; vote number 2006-181 on Jun 22, 2006

Voted YES on investigating contract awards in Iraq & Afghanistan.

To establish a special committee of the Senate to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts to conduct activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and to fight the war on terrorism. Voting YES would: create Senate special committee to investigate war contracts, taking into consideration: bidding, methods of contracting, subcontracting, oversight procedures, allegations of wasteful practices, accountability and lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reference: Committee to Investigate War Contracts; Bill S Amdt 2476 to S 1042 ; vote number 2005-316 on Nov 10, 2005

Voted YES on requiring on-budget funding for Iraq, not emergency funding.

Amendment to express the sense of the Senate on future requests for funding for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. A YES vote would:
Reference: Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act; Bill S.AMDT.464 to H.R.1268 ; vote number 2005-96 on Apr 20, 2005

Voted NO on $86 billion for military operations in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Vote to pass a bill that would appropriate $86.5 billion in supplemental spending for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Fiscal 2004. The bill would provide $10.3 billion as a grant to rebuild Iraq. This includes:
Reference: FY04 Emergency Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan; Bill S1689 ; vote number 2003-400 on Oct 17, 2003

Voted NO on authorizing use of military force against Iraq.

H.J.Res. 114; Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. The administration would be required to report to Congress that diplomatic options have been exhausted before, or within 48 hours after military action has started. Every 60 days the president would also be required to submit a progress report to Congress.
Reference: Bill H.J.RES.114 ; vote number 2002-237 on Oct 11, 2002

Voted YES on allowing all necessary force in Kosovo.

Majority Leader Trent Lott motioned to kill the resolution that would have authorized the president to "use all necessary forces and other means," in cooperation with U.S. allies to accomplish objectives in Yugoslavia.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)78; N)22
Reference: Motion to table S. J. Res. 20; Bill S. J. Res. 20 ; vote number 1999-98 on May 4, 1999

Voted YES on authorizing air strikes in Kosovo.

Vote to adopt a resolution to authorize the President to conduct military air operations and missile strikes in cooperation with NATO against Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).
Reference: Bill S.Con.Res 21 ; vote number 1999-57 on Mar 23, 1999

Voted NO on ending the Bosnian arms embargo.

Ending the Bosnian arms embargo.
Status: Bill Passed Y)69; N)29; NV)2
Reference: Bosnia Herzegovina Self-Defense Act of '95; Bill S. 21 ; vote number 1995-331 on Jul 26, 1995

Condemns anti-Muslim bigotry in name of anti-terrorism.

Kennedy co-sponsored the Resolution on bigotry against Sikh Americans:

Title: Condemning bigotry and violence against Sikh Americans in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

Summary: Declares that, in the quest to identify, locate, and bring to justice the perpetrators and sponsors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, including Sikh-Americans, should be protected.

Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR255 on Oct 4, 2001

Move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Kennedy co-sponsored the Jerusalem Embassy Act

Corresponding House bill is H.R.1595. Became Public Law No: 104-45.
Source: Bill sponsored by 77 Senators and 78 Reps 95-S1322 on Oct 13, 1995

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