Home > Political Ranting > An Important Message to Hear (Kerry’s NYU Speech, Part II)

An Important Message to Hear (Kerry’s NYU Speech, Part II)

September 24th, 2004

To continue on John Kerry’s speech at NYU earlier this week:

The centerpiece of the speech was Iraq, with Kerry pointing out, in detail, exactly how Bush had gone wrong before and after the invasion. One aspect of that is the fact the Bush diverted resources away from Afghanistan–where the real fight against al Qaeda was centered–and instead focused them on Iraq, where there was no terrorist threat. As a result, Bush alienated our allies and sowed discord in the Middle East, while sabotaging the real war against terrorists. As Kerry himself summarized:

The President’s policy in Iraq has not strengthened our national security. It has weakened it.

And it is here where Kerry further clarifies his stand on the vote to authorize the president with war powers: that it was to give Bush the ability to play a strong hand so he could accomplish the desired goal of getting arms inspectors in. Instead, Bush abused the authority and rushed to war, flushing out the inspectors who Bush later outrageously claimed were thrown out by Hussein. Kerry pointed out how Bush violated his promises:

Bush promised to let inspectors do their work–instead, he drove them out of Iraq even though progress was being made;

Bush promised he would take “every precaution” and would “plan carefully”–he did neither;

And Bush promised he would only go to war with an international coalition, “allies at our side”–when in fact he went in with Great Britain only, all other members of the “coalition” playing only token roles.

Many people criticize Kerry for not providing a “magic bullet” for solving the Iraq problem, that his proposals are only marginally better than Bush’s–but the criticism is weak. There is no magic solution to the Iraq problem, and that’s the point: Bush got us into a mess that is now impossible to get out of cleanly, and as more time passes, the prognosis becomes worse and worse, so that even Republicans in an election year are criticizing Bush. It is less about the inevitable painful endgame in Iraq, and more about judgment: do we want to give Bush another four years so he can make many more fatal errors? Kerry has it right when he says what he would have done:

I would have concentrated our power and resources on defeating global terrorism and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. I would have tightened the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein – who was weak and getting weaker — so that he would pose no threat to the region or America.

And in Iraq, Kerry’s ideas are better than Bush’s.

First, an expanded international role could bring the benefits of true legitimacy to the forces working there–people would know it would less about the oil, the business, and the bases for America, and more about putting Iraq on its feet. Bush could never rally that support having alienated the world, but Kerry could achieve it. There is no denying Kerry’s advantage there.

Second, a large contingent of Iraqi soldiers must be fully trained, not the pathetic handful Bush achieved, and then later lied about their numbers.

Third, the reconstruction plan must be aimed at helping the people of Iraq; Bush has failed to spend what he was authorized to accomplish this goal, and has left the vastly unemployed Iraqi labor force out of it (so that Halliburton can overcharge us to obscene extremes). Push through “high-visibility, quick-impact projects” to encourage the people.

And fourth, bring about real elections as soon as possible, not the sham without even giving people in huge swaths of the country the chance to vote.

I will be the first to agree that these goals don’t stand a great chance of succeeding to the point where we can painlessly withdraw, but I cannot imagine a better plan considering what damage Bush has done–and Kerry would certainly be more able and credible in the effort than Bush could ever hope to be. Half a chance is better than none.

Kerry pointed out what anyone with an objective, informed view already knows: Bush misled us, committed gross errors in judgment, failed to plan properly, and bungled the post-invasion occupation. As a result, our people are being cut down with no hope in sight. I know people personally who have family members in the military who are scared to death at what they believe to be their loved ones’ inevitable assignment to Iraq. The soldiers are game, they want to perform their duty. But we owe it to them not to subject them to this.

Bush’s strategies in Iraq have failed miserably. A change is essential. Bush’s credibility is nil. Only Kerry can bring the right credentials to the table. Bush has done little more than fail and than lie about it. Kerry could not help but do far, far better.

Kerry ended on this important note:

I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in the war against terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective war on terror – and make us safer.

Today, because of George Bush’s policy in Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place for America and Americans.

If you share my conviction that we can not go on as we are …that we can make America stronger and safer than it is… then November 2 is your chance to speak… and to be heard. It is not a question of staying the course, but of changing the course.

I’m convinced that with the right leadership, we can create a fresh start and move more effectively to accomplish our goals. Our troops have served with extraordinary courage and commitment. For their sake, and America’s sake, we must get this right. We must do everything in our power to complete the mission and make America stronger at home and respected again in the world.

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