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Democratic Views on The War Revisited In Light of Today’s Knowledge

by RonChusid

My previous post discussed the ambiguity created by Saddam as to the presence of WMD in Iraq prior to the war, especially prior to the return of the inspectors. While the conservative argument for going to war based upon WMD has been thoroughly discredited, some on the left are also wrong when they claim to have known with absolute certainty that Saddam did not process WMD. If Saddam’s own generals believed WMD was present, there was sufficient reason for the United States to see need to insist upon the return of the inspectors even if there was never justification for going to war.

The ambiguity as to the existence of WMD explains why some Democrats, such as John Kerry, saw reason to provide George Bush with the leverage to force Saddam to allow the inspectors back in. In retrospect, as Kerry has admitted, the vote for the IWR was wrong as George Bush could not be trusted with this authority. In retrospect, it is also clear George Bush was lying when he said at the time of the vote, “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.”

John Kerry had made it clear that the only reason he voted for the IWR was to give Bush the leverage to force Saddam to allow the inspectors to return. In his Senate floor speech at the time of the vote, Kerry said, “In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days–to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.”

William Pitt reported a similar explanation when Kerry was asked to explain his vote by journalists:

“This was the hardest vote I have ever had to cast in my entire career,” Kerry said. “I voted for the resolution to get the inspectors in there, period. Remember, for seven and a half years we were destroying weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In fact, we found more stuff there than we thought we would. After that came those four years when there was no intelligence available about what was happening over there. I believed we needed to get the weapons inspectors back in. I believed Bush needed this resolution in order to get the U.N. to put the inspectors back in there. The only way to get the inspectors back in was to present Bush with the ability to threaten force legitimately. That’s what I voted for.”

“The way Powell, Eagleberger, Scowcroft, and the others were talking at the time,” continued Kerry, “I felt confident that Bush would work with the international community. I took the President at his word. We were told that any course would lead through the United Nations, and that war would be an absolute last resort. Many people I am close with, both Democrats and Republicans, who are also close to Bush told me unequivocally that no decisions had been made about the course of action. Bush hadn’t yet been hijacked by Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney and that whole crew. Did I think Bush was going to charge unilaterally into war? No. Did I think he would make such an incredible mess of the situation? No. Am I angry about it? You’re God damned right I am. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake.”

Pitt then explained that Kerry’s explanation was justified:

History defends this explanation. The Bush administration brought Resolution 1441 to the United Nations in early November of 2002 regarding Iraq, less than a month after the Senate vote. The words “weapons inspectors” were prominent in the resolution, and were almost certainly the reason the resolution was approved unanimously by the Security Council. Hindsight reveals that Bush’s people likely believed the Hussein regime would reject the resolution because of those inspectors. When Iraq opened itself to the inspectors, accepting the terms of 1441 completely, the administration was caught flat-footed, and immediately began denigrating the inspectors while simultaneously piling combat troops up on the Iraq border. The promises made to Kerry and the Senate that the administration would work with the U.N., would give the inspectors time to complete their work, that war would be an action of last resort, were broken.

Democrats such as John Kerry, even if incorrect on the IWR vote, were correct in arguing for a return of the inspectors and the use of military force only should it be necessary, as a last resort, to disarm Saddam. This position was neither pro-war as some on the left claim, or a sign that Democrats were not willing to defend the country when necessary. Howard Dean, despite being mislabeled as a radical anti-war candidate by the media, held essentially the same position. On January 31, 2003 Ron Brownstein of the Los Angles Times noted that “In his Thursday comments, Dean said if Bush presents what he considered to be persuasive evidence that Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction, he would support military action, even without U.N. authorization.”

Adam Nagourney reported a similar statement on February 10, 2003:

But Dr. Dean said in an interview that he would support a United States invasion of Iraq if it was approved by the United Nations.

”Action with the U.N. is where we should be aiming at right now,” Dr. Dean said. ”We should be going back and set a timeline with the U.N. for absolute disarmament. I’ve chosen 60 days. And then there would be military action.”

Jack Tapper presented a similar report of Dean’s view in Salon:

He gets a deluge of phone calls from reporters asking him to clarify his position. Which is — “as I’ve said about eight times today,” he says, annoyed — that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn’t, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.

A look back at what was really known before the war, and what Democratic leaders such as Kerry and Dean said, disputes Republican claims that war was justified, that Kerry either flip-flopped or supported Bush’s decision to go to war, or that Democrats would not defend America if actually threatened. Despite the emphasis on trivial differences during the primary battles, Kerry and Dean stood together in being strong on demanding that the inspections continue, and in opposing going to war unless we were proven to be endangered.

10 Responses to “Democratic Views on The War Revisited In Light of Today’s Knowledge”

  1. Nice post Ron,

    The only thing is that Kerry can’t go back and retract his vote. It’s sealed up in the history books. And people (I know we do of course) can not understand why he didn’t see the death and destruction of this tragic war from the start.

  2. Indie,

    But Kerry did predict the death and destruction which would occur, which is why he urged Bush to keep his word and not go to war.

    For example, from his pre-war Georgetown speech:

    I have no doubt of the outcome of war itself should it be necessary. We will win. But what matters is not just what we win but what we lose. We need to make certain that we have not unnecessarily twisted so many arms, created so many reluctant partners, abused the trust of Congress, or strained so many relations, that the longer term and more immediate vital war on terror is made more difficult. And we should be particularly concerned that we do not go alone or essentially alone if we can avoid it, because the complications and costs of post-war Iraq would be far better managed and shared with United Nation’s participation. And, while American security must never be ceded to any institution or to another institution’s decision, I say to the President, show respect for the process of international diplomacy because it is not only right, it can make America stronger – and show the world some appropriate patience in building a genuine coalition. Mr. President, do not rush to war.

  3. Ron,

    I am glad he spoke out against the war, and some people will think the IWR dosen’t matter cause Iraq is such as mess, but one thing he will have to admit, this war is no longer winnable. It is turning into a Civil War, maybe more like Vietnam. We have to withdraw now.

    Hopefully he will make a speech concerning Iraq in the coming months. It has deteriorated so badly over there.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not singling Kerry out or anything, it’s just time for some leadership from the party. Bush’s approval ratings are in the toilet, and has been exposed as an arrogant, incompetent, lame duck, criminal president.

    I do think Kerry is making a good start with the 10 point plan. I am glad he is putting it out there.

  4. Great post Ron!


    Thw wieght of Iraq rests clearly on Bush’s shoulders and that is what history books will show. Some may neber get that, but most will in time. Trust me, the history books will be far kinder to John Kerry than they ever will be to Goerge W Bush.

  5. I hope you and Ron are right. 🙂

  6. Excellent, Ron. This is a good development. A real discussion of the situation. Maybe a more honest look back. I sense some progress.
    Kerry will be seen more and more clearly as the reasonable man he is.
    I would love this country to return to some intelligent debate. I think we’re due.

  7. Ron,

    Such a fine post to see first thing in the a.m. Finally, the truth is coming out, that Kerry did not give the nod to Bush’s war with his vote back in 2002, Bush gave himself the nod. Somehow, I wish Kerry’s actual floor speech in the senate could be replayed for all to see and hear, especially people like Geo. Clooney, a liberal I admire but one who’s got it all wrong about Kerry and his vote. And I’m so glad you mentioned Kerry’s Georgetown speech, where he was a visionary, and months later Murtha is heralded for expressing these same great ideas. I’ve written to Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann, and others to ask why they don’t just sit down with John Kerry and interview him for an hour, and actually listen to what he has to say. Wouldn’t that be a treat for the American people, hearing Kerry talk without the journalists’ filters interpreting and framing everything for us. Great thanks to you, Pam, and William Pitt for keeping the flame burning.

  8. Thanks for this post. I know we’re all sick of making these arguments, but as citizens, we can’t let our principled leaders go on being smeared to distract from the crimes of this administration.

    Thanks again. Peace.

  9. I just want to emphasize that for many of us, the finesse of diplomacy in these situations is very complicated. While our principles and values say don’t vote for war, leaders like Kerry who have been in this game a long time know that what you have to do in voting sometimes appears to support what you don’t want. It is part bluff and part threat.

    What was truly modern precedent in public deception, Bush made some major changes to his tactics and on record positions. He rationalizes this by saying everything changed on 9/11. Personally, it was not so much that anything changed, it was that Americans could no longer deny the change that had been happening and was bound to happen here sooner or later. We needed to change our foreign policy and increase security in the country. And we needed to pursue getting the inspectors into Iraq.

    Bush just took a huge tragedy and multiplied by an incalcuable number. If Kerry had been enough of a visionary to figure this out, he probably would have run the risk of getting a Tin Foil Hat wearer reputation. It makes no difference if you are ultimately right. The tin still sticks to you.

    That is how we would expect the MSM to act, professionally and as the watchdogs of American Government. They are still owned and run by people who do not like Kerry for good reason. If (when) he is elected to POTUS, the subsequent changes will include reregulating the MSM and restoring the incentive to investigate and report with reason and logic.

  10. I read and re-read Kerry’s floor speech a dozen times. Each time I read the speech it seemed Kerry was trying to set parameters. Let the inspections continue; go to the UN; and as a last resort, go to war. Bush went right to war. Did Kerry not know Bush had already made up his mind before he was elected? Did Kerry think the Senate was giving up their power to declare war? Was the speech an attempt to score points against Dean?

    It is now obvious that Kerry knew Bush was going to go war. His floor speech is almost a tortured attempt to force preliminary actions. Kerry made the mistake of thinking that in the end Dumbo was an honorable person. The last thing anybody would do is send people to war because Kerry knew what war is like. Who would even dream of sending people to war before all other paths were exhausted? Well, we all know what Dumbo is like. There were other issues such as the 87B and the famous Grand Canyon admission where he said he would do it all over again.
    Yes he would do it all over again because the floor speech was an attempt to slow down the war mongers. I missed that and thought the speech was an approval of the war. It wasn’t. It was approval to continue steps to avoid war; the exact opposite.
    The 87B vote by Kerry was an attempt to get the war costs paid for by the massive tax cuts for the wealthy. In the end he had to approve it.