Friday, August 27, 2004
Pro-Resolution, Not Pro-War by "My Left Brain"
On the off chance that someone's actually reading this, thanks. Hopefully there will be much more in the very near future.
Anyway, this entry falls into the "someone-else-said-it-perfectly-so-I'm-not-going-to-bother-saying-it-in-a-different-way-instead-I'm-just-going-to-quote-them-directly" category.
First, I'd like to point out that I'm not a huge fan of John Kerry. I still think the Democratic Party made a huge mistake by not nominating Dennis Kucinich and by treating him like a joke when he was by far the strongest candidate. I understand the perception that people want some kind of tough military hero type who places "defense" (that is, offense) and "national security" (that is, perpetual war) at the top of their agenga. But look where the Democrats are now: back in the same old situation, with a middle-of-the-road moderate who inspires few, who is more likely to get votes for the simple fact that he's not George Bush than for any actual qualities, policies or ideas he possesses. [And the peasants rejoioced: yay.]
I'll probably vote for the guy (I'm tempted as hell by Nader, but Minnesota is, after all, a "swing" state, and until we have run-off voting I am fully aware that I would be essentially throwing my vote away--actually, I had almost made up my mind to vote for Nader this year, if given the choice, until I heard about all these Republican groups who are campaigning for and donating to Nader, and I just stopped dead and said: no fuckin way, Ralph. Not this year.)
That said, the whole "flip-flopper" label really makes me want to tear my own arm off and beat myself to death with it. We've got a president now who apparently gets his instructions directly from Jesus Christ Our Lord And Savior (briefly bow your heads--thank you) and feels he has never been wrong in his life and never will be, and people are less bothered by that than they are about the fact that John Kerry thinks about things a lot
You know what? People who actually think about complex issues and recognize that there might be many different nuances and opinions and many possible courses of action to pursue, all with different and unpredictably outcomes, etc. etc., ocassionally ACTUALLY CHANGE THEIR MINDS, GEORGE. (Perish the thought.)
As many have pointed out, when Kerry gets time enough to address an issue/question, he does so extremely thoroughly and thoughtfully, and often quite persuasively. He seems honest and genuine, speaking his mind even if it's not exactly what people might want to hear. As a politician he is lacking because he doesn't have a lot of quick one-liners and sound-bytes, like Dubya; and unfortunately even now with three 24-hour cable news channels, he's rarely given more than 10-20 seconds (when I say "given" of course what I mean is the media outlets will snatch a sound byte and re-play it, and that's all the context we get).
I think three of the best examples of so-called "flip-flopping" are on NAFTA, on "No Child Left Behind," and--yes, I'm actually gonna say this, folks--on the Iraq war vote. Now I take it for granted that if you have a brain in your skull you can see how both NAFTA and No Child Left Behind are controversial, seemingly good initiatives but perhaps wrought with flaws if not applied/enforced well and (in the latter case) sufficiently funded. From what I know about it, I think NAFTA is a disaster, and perhaps not salvagable (largely due to its own wording).
But I digress a bit: the main point here is the War. Now, I'm one of those people who just absolutely could not fathom how supposedly intelligent people (e.g. Congress) could buy into this absurd rhetoric about Iraq--suddenly it's a threat, WMD's, links to Al Qaeda and 9-11, etc. etc. blah blah blah. It was so transparent, I would have thought a child could see through the lies and propaganda. (For a while there, I was so baffled that I forced myself to assume [wrongly, it turns out] that the president had secretly briefed Congress about some important intelligence that [for national secruity reasons, of course, what else], the public could not be told; later, I rationalized, we would find out, and all would make at least a LITTLE BIT of sense. Alas, no such luck.) And the media unquestioningly repeating these ridiculous lies over and over and over again, as the administration makes clearer and clearer that it's fully intent on going to war no matter what and we must begin to simply accept this--no, even to LIKE it, to CHEER for "our side" . . .
Ack: another slight digression.
But: on the other hand, the most you can really fault Congress for is for BELIEVING THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Now, if you're going to disparage Kerry because he voted for the war, perhaps you should be proposing instead that Bush be impeached for lying to Congress and to the rest of us--don't blame the deceived, blame the deceiver.
And on the $87 Billion: I'm sorry, George, but if you don't think there was anything complicated about that vote, you're even more of an imbecil than I thought. After a ruthless rush into an unneccesary war, before the weapons inspectors had finished thier work or even found any banned weapons of note, against the will of millions of people here and around the world, with no U.N. authorization and no major support from Europe or even Canada, without even a NATO coalition, without even an estimate as to how much the war would cost in lives OR in dollars but with repeated assurances that the war would be quick, easy, and very cheap, with no plan for "winning the peace," as it's being called but with repeated assurances that we would be welcomed with flowers and candy as "liberators," . . . . . In a recession, I might add. When we taxpayers had ALREADY been asked to fork over an additional $43 Billion dollars annually for the defense budget (most of which is powerless against terrorism, by the way). And while another war in Afghanistan was still going on. And despite the fact that it was becoming more and more abundantly clear at this point that A.) there were not WMD's, B.) we were not seen as "liberators" (already known in advance, by the way), C.) this war was a mistake and a disaster in the making, more likely to fuel recruitment for terrorists than to limit them (also known in advance, by the way) . . . And, of course, that this war was clearly going to cost at least $100 Billion dollars (it has now already cost more than $200 Billion).
Gee . . . Nothing complicated to consider there at all. Just keep forking out the dough, writing the President a blank check for however much he wants, for whatever purposes, and thus casting an implicit vote of confidence/support for his decisions and for an ill-planned and poorly-executed war. Simple.
That's it in a nut shell, George: Simple, simple, simple.
O.K. So here is the blog I was referring to (waaaay at the top of this longer-than-intended rant):
August 11, 2004
Pro-Resolution, Not Pro-War
Back when I was a Wes Clark gal, I defended him against accusations of flip-flopping in regard to the Iraq war after Clark acknowledged that had he been in congress, he "probably" would have voted for the October 2002 resolution authorizing the president to use force.
Today, I'm going to recycle part of that defense on John Kerry's behalf. George Bush recently threw out a challenge to Kerry to answer yes or no on whether he would have voted for that resolution knowing then what we know now--that Saddam Hussein had no WMD.
I believe the correct answer to Bush's question is NO. Now, this could not have been construed as a flipflop, since Kerry voted for the war resolution on the premise that Hussein had WMD. Had Bush requested congress authorize him to use force against Hussein knowing Iraq had no WMD, it likely would not have passed. After all, Hussein had been a "bad" man for decades, and without evidence of a renewed threat, there simply wasn't any reason to believe it was in our national interest to initiate a war which would cost American lives and billions of dollars and squander international goodwill.
My Left Brain has already concluded that removing Hussein has not made America safer, and in fact has made us less safe, because the Iraq war has triggered unparalleled emnity from the world's other inhabitants toward the U.S. and facilitated a recruiting boom for Osama bin Laden. But we'll set that discussion aside for now.
Back in September 2002, Bush petitioned congress to pass a resolution authorizing him to act with force against Iraq if he deemed it necessary; this resolution fell far short of a declaration of war. Bush went out of his way to reassure skeptical lawmakers--which included John Kerry--and the nation that voting for the resolution was a vote for peace. In a September 19 photo-op in the Oval office, Bush responded to a reporter's inquiry on whether the resolution would authorize force:
That will be part of the resolution, the authorization to use force. If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force.[emphasis added] But it's -- this will be -- this is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the peace.[emphasis added] That's what this is all about.
Bush never presented this as what we know now to be the case--he intended to invade Iraq regardless: regardless of whether the resolution passed and regardless of whether Hussein had WMD or was working with terrorists. Bush's recent statements that he'd have gone to war even if he knew what we know now regarding WMD prove that the resolution, presented as a way to secure Hussein's cooperation on WMD and possibly head off a war, was a sham.
It was a sham in which Colin Powell, either by choice or ignorance, chose to take part. In September, Powell worked hard to convince skeptical democrats like "Sarbanes of Maryland, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin" to support the resolution:
The senators did not question a need to get tough with Iraq for blocking U.N. weapons inspections for nearly four years and refusing to disarm. But they said the congressional resolution the president proposed was far too broad.
For instance, Sarbanes said, it would authorize force against Iraq for refusing to return Kuwaiti prisoners held since the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. Kerry told Powell "you are asking for blanket authority" and Feingold said "we are hearing shifting justifications for using force in Iraq."
Powell tried to placate them, saying the Bush administration was unlikely to use force except if Iraq continued to refuse to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. [emphasis added] [CBS News, September 2002]
In Iraq: Eye of the Storm, published before the onset of the Iraq war, author Dilip Hiro talks about the Bush administration's war plan which was "leaked" to the New York Times in July 2002, and the administration's decision to send US Special Forces to Iraqi Kurdistan as well as the administration's very public embrace of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. Hiro says "the net effect of this policy was to channel the debate on the subject to 'how to topple Saddam' while skipping the the more basic 'why'?" and quotes one senator of being very critical of this kind of thinking:
Among the early critics of this strategy was Senator John Kerry, a veteran of the Vietnam War, who accused Bush of allowing his "rhetoric to get ahead of his thinking."
Of course, we now know the "why" was only established for the public's benefit through a series of carefully orchestrated misstatements and misrepresentations of intelligence. Bush has now made it clear that he always intended to take out Hussein, even if he knew Hussein had no WMD. This begs the question: why should we believe this administration then, when it says they did not intend to mislead America on WMD? It's obvious Bush intended to mislead congress, the UN, the international community, and America by presenting this resolution as the best possible means of avoiding a war in Iraq since Bush would have gone to war regardless.
When it seemed congress was balking at passing the resolution, the Bush administration--as John Kerry pointed out in his speech on the Senate floor before the resolution was voted on--said they did not need congress' authorization anyway. Bush and Blair also concluded they did not need UN permission to go to war, claiming (wrongly) that previous UN resolutions allowed it. People like Kerry (and Clark), who did not believe war was justified without an imminent threat, did believe the resolution was necessary to (1) stall Bush from taking immediate action against Iraq; (2) pressure the United Nations to send inspectors back to Iraq; and (3) pressure Hussein to accept those inspectors and cooperate.
In October 2002, Kerry said the following before voting for the resolution authorizing--not mandating--force:
...[I]n early September, I argued that the American people would never accept the legitimacy of this war or give their consent to it unless the administration first presented detailed evidence of the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and proved that it had exhausted all other options to protect our national security. I laid out a series of steps that the administration must take for the legitimacy of our cause and our ultimate success in Iraq--seek the advice and approval of Congress after laying out the evidence and making the case, and work with our allies to seek full enforcement of the existing cease-fire agreement while simultaneously offering Iraq a clear ultimatum: accept rigorous inspections without negotiation or compromise and without condition. ...
The Bush administration began talking about Iraq by suggesting that congressional consultation and authorization for the use of force were not needed. Now they are consulting with Congress and seeking our authorization. The administration began this process walking down a path of unilateralism. Today they acknowledge that while we reserve the right to act alone, it is better to act with allies. The administration which once seemed entirely disengaged from the United Nations ultimately went to the United Nations and began building international consensus to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. The administration began this process suggesting that the United States might well go to war over Saddam Hussein's failure to return Kuwaiti property. Last week the Secretary of State and on Monday night the President made clear we would go to war only to disarm Iraq. [emphasis added]
...I want to underscore that this administration began this debate with a resolution that granted exceedingly broad authority to the President to use force. I regret that some in the Congress rushed so quickly to support it. I would have opposed it. It gave the President the authority to use force not only to enforce all of the U.N. resolutions as a cause of war, but also to produce regime change in Iraq, and to restore international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region. It made no mention of the President's efforts at the United Nations or the need to build multilateral support for whatever course of action we ultimately would take.
I am pleased that our pressure, and the questions we have asked, and the criticisms that have been raised publicly, the debate in our democracy has pushed this administration to adopt important changes, both in language as well as in the promises that they make.
The revised White House text, which we will vote on, limits the grant of authority to the President to the use of force only with respect to Iraq. It does not empower him to use force throughout the Persian Gulf region. It authorizes the President to use Armed Forces to defend the ``national security'' of the United States--a power most of us believe he already has under the Constitution as Commander in Chief. And it empowers him to enforce all ``relevant'' Security Council resolutions related to Iraq. None of those resolutions or, for that matter, any of the other Security Council resolutions demanding Iraqi compliance with its international obligations, calls for a regime change.
In recent days, the administration has gone further. They are defining what "relevant" U.N. Security Council resolutions mean. When Secretary Powell testified before our committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, on September 26, he was asked what specific U.N. Security Council resolutions the United States would go to war to enforce. His response was clear: the resolutions dealing with weapons of mass destruction and the disarmament of Iraq. In fact, when asked about compliance with other U.N. resolutions which do not deal with weapons of mass destruction, the Secretary said: The President has not linked authority to go to war to any of those elements. [emphasis added]
...Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances.
In voting to grant the President the authority, I am not giving him carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses or may pose some kind of potential threat to the United States. Every nation has the right to act preemptively, if it faces an imminent and grave threat, for its self-defense under the standards of law. The threat we face today with Iraq does not meet that test yet.
Admittedly, after reading Kerry's speech, I find it difficult to reconcile it with his recent statement that he would have voted for the resolution authorizing force although he would have handled things differently. If the purpose for voting for the resolution was to pressure Hussein to allow inspectors in, why would you vote for the resolution knowing Hussein didn't have active weapons programs?
Perhaps the answer is simply that knowing Hussein had no WMD was not enough. It was necessary to get inspectors back in Iraq to ensure he would never acquire any. No one can deny Hussein had a long-held interest in WMD; left to his own devices, he may have resuscitated those programs.
Would Kerry have considered that just cause to oust Hussein militarily? Certainly, if the rest of the international community concurred. Hans Blix once said that if Bush had only waited a few more months, the UN would have tired of Hussein's cat and mouse games and likely would have supported deploying force. That's a small price to secure the international community's cooperation and spread the financial and blood burden more equitably among our allies. It could have made the difference between the near-quagmire in which we find ourselves and a rousing success story, because Iraqis might have been more receptive to a UN liberation than a U.S. occupation.
I don't find Kerry has flip-flopped, but instead his habit of carefully analyzing a situation and offering an answer several sentences longer than Bush's scripted soundbites does him in (temporarily) because the media loves the sour scent of Bush's snotty little statement.
In reality, Bush flip-flopped. He said the war was about WMD and both he and Powell assured congress the WMD threat was the only thing necessitating the resolution to authorize force in Iraq. Now Bush admits that was a lie. He'd have gone to war anyway, exactly as he did. Being determined to drive the same path, even if it heads over the edge of a cliff, isn't exactly a positive attribute.
Posted by Cat M. at August 11, 2004 11:23 PM | TrackBack
I still wish Kerry had had the courage to vote against this rotten war. (I also wish he would promote his post-Vietnam activism and Congressional testimony more, rather than portraying himself as a "hero" for having fought in an immoral war in East Asia that is now almost universally regarded as a dire mistake and a tragedy. But again, I digress.)
While the long and short of it is still, unfortunately, Anyone But Bush, I do respect Kerry a lot when I hear him speak at length. And I'm going to trust that by the debates come around and we actually get more ample opportunity to hear him, he will crush Bush hands-down.