Where Kerry stands on Iraq.

Politics and policy.
Sept. 20 2004 6:27 PM

Where Kerry Stands on Iraq

A Kerry-English translation.

(Continued from Page 1)

8. Bush's pre-emption doctrine is running amok. On Friday, prompted by a weapons-inspection report that said Saddam intended to build WMD before the war but didn't have them, Bush said Saddam "had the capability of making weapons, and he could have passed that capability on to the enemy. And that is a risk we could not afford to take." Kerry points out: "Thirty-five to forty countries have greater capability to build a nuclear bomb than Iraq did in 2003. Is President Bush saying we should invade them?"

9. Bush keeps saying things that aren't true. Bush says Kerry habitually contradicts himself. Kerry's answer is that Bush habitually contradicts the facts. In his speech, Kerry cites Bush's claims about Iraq's WMD (contradicted by Bush's chief inspector), its links to al-Qaida (contradicted by the 9/11 commission), the trustworthiness of Ahmad Chalabi (contradicted by recent intelligence), and a host of postwar conditions—Iraqis' embrace of their liberators; the adequacy of the current number of troops; the size and readiness of postwar Iraqi security forces, and the trend of postwar fighting—all of which are contradicted by data and independent reporting on the ground.

10. Bush fires aides who tell the truth. According to Kerry, "the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones who told the truth. Gen. Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. He was retired. Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion. He was fired."

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11. Kerry changes his mind when the evidence requires it. "It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger. But it's essential if we want to correct our course," says Kerry. "I know this dilemma firsthand. After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent. I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it [to] those risking their lives to speak truth to power."

Kerry doesn't draw the contrast explicitly, because he's afraid of being called a flip-flopper again. But if you agree that he's an equivocator (I do, though I'd call him a leaner, not a flipper), this is the most charitable explanation: When presented with evidence that he's wrong, Kerry changes his mind. Bush doesn't—and the latter propensity is more dangerous than the former.

12. Iraq is now part of the war on terror. It wasn't before we invaded, but now it's "becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States," says Kerry. This is the sort of distinction Bush loves to mock because it sounds fishy until you think about it. But both halves of the statement can be true, and in fact, they are. The problem is that Kerry doesn't clarify how the latter truth should guide us.

13. Use money, programs, and financial favors to get more done in Iraq. Kerry complains that Bush "prohibited any nation from participating in reconstruction efforts that wasn't part of the original coalition." He urges Bush to "give other countries a stake in Iraq's future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq's oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts." Translation: Give them a cut of the action. He says Bush should spend money more quickly on "high visibility, quick impact projects" that will "relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency." Kerry argues that "an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers." He says Bush should "expand the security forces training program inside and outside Iraq" and "use more Iraqi contractors and workers."

Solicitousness, spending, job training, public employment, crime prevention through economic aid. It sounds a lot like domestic liberalism. I'm sure Kerry would object to that simplification of his position. I'm sure he thinks all of his views are more complicated than I've outlined here. But we're about to have an election. We need a clear picture of how Kerry's position on Iraq differs from Bush's. This is it.