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Kerry Talks to Imus: “They Were Hell Bent for Leather, to Take Out Saddam Hussein”

by Pamela Leavey

John Kerry was on Imus in the Morning today. Amid the humorous banter between Imus and John Kerry, about whether or not Kerry will run again (he’s still not talking), there were discussions over the recent right wing twist on Kerry’s “Face The Nation” interview; withdrawing troops from Iraq; the mis-leading information that was used to justify the war in Iraq and on Kerry’s call for Rumsfeld to resign.

On the “Face The Nation” interview:

IMUS: … Second of all, what did you — what do you mean by that? You don’t mean American soldiers are terrorists?

KERRY: Obviously — obviously not. You know, the only people who are making, trying to make anything out of that, to be honest with you, is, you know, Rush Limbaugh and a few people on the right.

Well, it’s fun. After three years, almost three years, Iraqis ought to be capable of searching a home. And, you know, I’ve been over there a number of times, I just — I’ve talked to the troops over there, as all of us have. It’s inexplicable that when the biggest killers in Iraq are suicide bombers and IEDs, improvised explosive devices, that we’re still on the front lines going into homes and going out in the dead of night, and it scares people.

I mean, our own General Sanchez, who was the first commander in Iraq, said the same thing. The U.S. Institute of Peace, which, you know, the entire board of the U.S. Institute is made up of Bush appointees, says the same thing.

This has a very negative impact on our soldiers and on our presence in Iraq. So what I want to do is redeploy our troops in a way that accomplishes the goal, but does it without needlessly putting troops at risk and incurring greater difficulties in feeding the insurgency in the country.

General Casey told the Congress about, gosh, a couple of months ago — you know, he said that our large troop presence feeds the insurgency and delays the willingness of the Iraqis to stand up on their own. Now, if you listen to the commanding general in Iraq, as I do and others do, then you’ve got to respond to that. And the way you respond is by pushing the Iraqis out, pulling the Americans back into a more rear garrison position, and hopefully being successful.

IMUS: Well, I understand that all that. And not to belabor this point, but what it sounded like you said was that American troops are going into Iraqi homes and terrorizing women and children. And I took the liberty of explaining what I thought you meant.

KERRY: Well, you understood it. And most reasonable people, Bob Kerrey, and others, reasonable people understood it. People who, you know, wanted to make something out of it do. But, look, the bottom line…

IMUS: So you meant what? You meant they go in looking for insurgents.

KERRY: Sure.

IMUS: The women and children are there, and they’re terrorized.

KERRY: Sure.


KERRY: I mean, you know, it’s scary.

KERRY: It’s tough. Well, I understand.

Let me read you — this is interesting. “The Washington Post” reported this in January…

KERRY: It says, “Often the raids turn up little and leave hard feelings among civilians who resent foreign soldiers bursting into their homes, breaking doors and gates, and pointing guns at their heads. They resent these men catching their wives and daughters in their bed clothes, they resent them barking orders, telling them to get on the ground, invading their homes, opening drawers, and turning over mattresses.”

And that’s a report almost over a year ago. That resentment hurts our soldiers.

I’m trying to help our soldiers. We all are.

Our soldiers deserve — and they’re extraordinary…

On withdrawing troops from Iraq:

KERRY: Well, increasing numbers are doing that. And, you know, I’m not Pollyannish about this, which is why I think you have to start withdrawing some people to shift the responsibility. And I’ve proposed bringing back 20,000 at Christmas time because we put in an extra number to provide safety for the referendum and provide safety for the election.

If the election is successful, and I believe it will be — it’s a very important moment.

IMUS: What does that mean, successful?

KERRY: Successful means that you have a large percentage of people voting, whether you vote for or against, that they turn out, that they succeed in having an election, and move on to the first full-term elected government in Iraq. And that provides us a momentum moment where hopefully we can use it to do what we really need to do, which is provide the political reconciliation necessary.

The insurgency is fed largely today by the Ba’athists who want to return power and then the people who just want their piece of the action and don’t have it yet. There has not been a sufficient leverage of the Sunni world, the Sunni population around Iraq and in Iraq, to reconcile with the Shia and the Kurds. If you don’t get that reconciliation, all bets are off.

IMUS: You know, we’ve — we’ve been told by the president and by Rumsfeld, and by some of these other people, that these insurgents are all — most of them are foreign insurgents, are torn in the country there. And yet, we have — I just talked to Lisa Myers (ph) an hour ago, who did a two-year study of this and a two-year report and found that about 7 percent of them are. So…

KERRY: Right. Well, the president actually admitted for the first time — you’re right, they’ve led people to believe that all along.

IMUS: I’ve said that.

KERRY: And at Annapolis, he actually broke it down more candidly and said that the foreign jihadists are actually the smallest percentage of the insurgency. And what’s interesting about that is, you know, when you talk to the Shia or you talk to the Kurds, they’ll tell you they don’t want those guys there.

And so, once you’ve got the Iraqis moving forward more responsibly, taking care of their own security, they’re going to take care of the jihadists. And that’s really the answer to the sort of war on terror component of this with respect to jihadists.

Now, I gave a speech yesterday here in New York at the Council of Foreign Relations, where I talked about the real struggle on the war on terror is not a military struggle. It’s the struggle within Islam. And the problem in Islam is that you have nothing in between the mosques and these authoritarian governments.

So there’s no secular structure. And within the mosques, within Islam, there’s no center of moral authority that speaks out against people murdering people.

Yesterday, for the first time in Mecca, led by King Abdullah, leaders of the region spoke for the Muslim world and said we’re not going to tolerate this. That’s the real battle. And that’s the way we’re ultimately going win this.

On mis-leading information leading to the Iraq war and Osama bin Laden:

IMUS: Knowing what you know now, would you — knowing what you know now, today, December 9, or whatever it is, 2005, would you still vote to authorize the president to use force?

KERRY: Absolutely not. Not a possibility.

IMUS: OK. What’s changed your mind since — from the last time?

KERRY: Everything. Well, the intelligence, above all. We’ve learned the ways in which we really were misled about the intelligence. The intelligence — and we believe if you had that knowledge today, we wouldn’t even have a vote.

IMUS: Do you think…

KERRY: We wouldn’t even have a vote.

IMUS: Do you think the president lied? Do you think Vice President Cheney lied?

KERRY: I think they misled. I think — I mean, if you look at the words in the State of the Union message, where he talked about the nuclear materials in Africa…

IMUS: Right.

KERRY: … we know to a certainty that on three occasions in writing and verbally the CIA told the White House that’s not good intelligence. They put it in the State of the Union anyway. That’s misleading.

When you listen to Vice President Cheney tell us that there was a meeting between Iraqis and al Qaeda, that had an impact on people. It didn’t happen. And they didn’t tell us that the intelligence people didn’t buy into that meeting.

IMUS: But he said…

KERRY: In addition — yes?

IMUS: He said the meeting didn’t happen?


IMUS: Well, that’s lying.

KERRY: Well, misleading, a lie, I mean, it depends on what the information is, intent. I can’t get in the intent, but I’m telling you it’s misleading.

IMUS: Well, if he — if a meeting happened, he knows it didn’t happen…

KERRY: Well, I don’t know if he knew. I’m telling you that…

IMUS: Oh. You said — you said — you said you did know.

KERRY: The intelligence people said — the intelligence people said they didn’t know. What they didn’t tell us, we didn’t know that the intelligence had a different view on that.

Likewise, on the delivery of chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes. The Air Force intelligence people did not accept it. And we were never told that they didn’t accept it.

So you can go down a long list of things.

The unmanned aerial vehicles that supposedly existed, I mean, those things had a lot of impact on people’s thinking. We now know there were people within the intelligence community that didn’t just buy that, period.

IMUS: Well, why do you — then let’s just say all of that is true. Some of it probably is.

KERRY: Well, it is true.

IMUS: OK — that they lied. Why mislead us?

KERRY: Because they were hell bent for leather, determined to take out Saddam Hussein and go to war on a theory of Middle East transformation. And it was the theory of Mr. Wolfowitz and Doug Feith over at the Pentagon and others who had this view. And in retrospect, that’s what was driving things.

IMUS: Remember, for a long time, they tried to tie — I mean, for a long time, you take these polls, people thought that Iraqis were in those planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

KERRY: Yes, they did. And in fact — in fact, the president helped lend to that belief.

Last year during the election, we observed that about 70 percent of the American people or higher, 77 percent of the people supporting George Bush believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Now, they didn’t just get there by accident.

And what’s really disturbing about this — and it ought to be to every single person in New York, especially, is that the people we were after who did what they did to New York, and to the Pentagon, and to, you know, the country, came out of Afghanistan, out of al Qaeda, out of Osama bin Laden.

We had Osama bin Laden trapped in the mountains of Tora Bora . But the president and Donald Rumsfeld decided not to use Americans, the best fighting in the world — we have SEALS on the ground there. I’ve talked to some of them.

They wanted to go up after Osama bin Laden. And the orders were never given to bring in the 82nd Airborne or the Marines, or others, surround that mountain, do anything necessary. We outsourced that job to Afghans, who went up in the hills and Osama bin Laden escaped.

There were other ways we could have gotten Osama bin Laden. I think the whole beginning of the war, you know, the three weeks of bombing, lost us the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that we knew they used cell phones, we knew they traveled in convoys.

We have the best special forces in the world, and I think that was the time to have an entebbe-type raid, where you take the time to know with certainty where they are, and then you envelop, and then you go in, and then you can do your bombing and the other things necessary. But the object was to get Osama bin Laden, and frankly, through a series of decisions, they allowed Osama bin Laden to escape.

And I think that’s a much larger issue than a lot of people focus on.

On Rumsfeld:

IMUS: You think Rumsfeld should resign?

KERRY: Absolutely.

IMUS: Yes.

KERRY: Should have long ago. I mean, what’s happened to accountability in America?

The entire transcript is available here.

Related Post: See “Debunking the Right Wings Attacks on John Kerry’s Face the Nation Interview” for links to the references made by John Kerry to General Sanchez, the Washington Post and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

6 Responses to “Kerry Talks to Imus: “They Were Hell Bent for Leather, to Take Out Saddam Hussein””

  1. Pamela, great job! I just caught the clip of Kerry on this show on MSNBC News Live and wanted to hear more — and there you were right on top of the matter.

    Short and sweet: I’m happy Kerry spoke out to the “My Pet Goat” crowd in their simple language using the word “scaring” instead of “terrorizing” which Webster, Oxford, and other main dictionaries used by intelligent people in this country defines terrorizing as frightening, scaring, intimidating(whoops, that might be a “big” word for those guys.)

    Keep Going, John Kerry! Keep Going…..

  2. Dotti

    I loved that JK used the hell bent for leather line. It’s such a great line.

    The bantering back and ofrth about whether JK would run again was hysterical…

    IMUS: Are you going to run again?

    KERRY: I may be snowed in here.

  3. GO JK!! Keep telling it like it is! America needs more people like you!! Not weak democrats like Joe Liberman and Hillary Clinton who just kiss Bush’s ass all the time!

  4. lol, I liked it when he said “when you’re having a conversation about politics, have you ever equated being strong with bench pressing?” hehe.

    Anyone know if theres a video anywhere?

  5. I looked all over for a video, replay, and couldn’t find one. The banter was priceless.

  6. I would like to see or hear it too. 🙂