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John Kerry: ‘It’s Immoral for Old Men to Send Young Americans to Fight and Die in Conflict With a Strategy That is Failing’

by Pamela Leavey

John Kerry let it rip on the Senate Floor Wednesday in the debate on a “no-confidence vote on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.” The Republican controlled Senate blocked the “no-confidence vote” but not before John Kerry and other Dems had their say.

Democrats blasted Rumsfeld as a key architect of the war, they said the problem was broader than the secretary and that Bush must abandon failing policies.

John Kerry, blasted Rumsfeld for his “speech to the American Legion in which he likened critics of the administration’s Iraq policies to those who appeased Nazi Germany before World War Two,” calling it a “low and ugly political speech, smearing those who dissent from the catastrophic policy.”

Kerry added, “I think it’s immoral for old men to send young Americans to fight and die in conflict with a strategy that is failing, and a mission that has not weakened terrorism but strengthened it.”

The following is a transcript of John Kerry’s floor speech on Rumsfeld:

MR. KERRY:

MR. PRESIDENT, THANK YOU. MR. PRESIDENT, LET ME BEGIN BY SAYING THAT HAVING LISTENED TO THE DEBATE NOW FOR A GOOD PERIOD OF TIME, IT IS A PLEASURE TO HEAR THE SENATOR FROM VIRGINIA, WHO IS ALWAYS CIVIL IN HIS APPROACH TO THESE DEBATES AND WHO ALWAYS ASKS INTELLIGENT AND PROBING QUESTIONS, AND I THINK THE COLLOQUIES THAT I HAVE HAD WITH HIM AND THE COLLOQUY THAT I LISTENED TO JUST A MOMENT AGO ARE WHAT THE SENATE OUGHT TO BE ABOUT AND I THINK IT’S BEEN AN INTELLIGENT AND HEALTHY EXCHANGE WITH RESPECT TO THE POLICY IN IRAQ.

I’M GOING TO SPEAK TO THE QUESTION OF SECRETARY RUMSFELD A LITTLE BIT IN A FEW MOMENTS, BUT I WANT TO JUST SHARE SOME THOUGHTS BECAUSE REGRETTABLY THE DEBATE THAT PRECEDED THE SENATOR FROM VIRGINIA, WITHOUT MENTIONING SENATORS SPECIFICALLY, IS RELATIVELY INSULTING AND JUST IS NOT WORTHY OF THIS SUBJECT AND ITS IMPORTANCE.

ONE COLLEAGUE TALKED ABOUT HOW WAR WAS DECLARED AGAINST THE UNITED STATES ON SEPTEMBER 11 AND DRUMMED UP AMERICA’S PASSION THAT WE ALL SHARE ABOUT OPPOSING TERRORISTS. BUT HE DID EXACTLY WHAT A THE LOT OF PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE THE OF THE AISLE HAVE BEEN DOING FOR FOUR OR FIVE YEARS NOW, WHICH IS CONFLATING THE WAR ON TERROR INTO IRAQ.

LET ME REMIND MY COLLEAGUES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE, I HAVE NOT HEARD ONE PERSON IN THIS COUNTRY WHO DOESN’T WANT TO DO EVERYTHING IN THE POWER OF OUR NATION IN ORDER TO STAND UP TO TERRORISTS. WE ALL VOTED TO GO TO AFGHANISTAN.

WE ALL VOTED TO TAKE ON THE TALIBAN AND AL QAEDA, AND IF THE PRESIDENT HAD KEPT HIS EYE ON THE BALL AND DONE WHAT WAS NECESSARY IN AFGHANISTAN AND NOT OUTSOURCED THE JOB TO AFGHAN MERCENARIES, WE WOULD HAVE PERHAPS USED THE 82nd AIRBORNE OR THE MARINES TO NO DO WHAT THE C.I.A., IT IS NOW KNOWN PUBLICLY, WAS ARGUING ADAMANTLY OUGHT TO BE DOING, WHICH IS SURROUNDING TORA BORA OR CAPTURING OR KILLING OSAMA BIN LADEN AND THOSE 1,000 OR SO PEOPLE WHO WERE UP THERE WITH HIM.

THE PRESIDENT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD TO QUOTE OSAMA BIN LADEN YESTERDAY IF WE DID THE JOB AT TORA BORA. THAT’S WHAT WE VOTED TO DO, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US. WE OF GAST MONEY AND WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY — WE GAVE THE MONEY AND WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY VOTED FOR THE PATRIOT ACT AND VOTED FOR THE REORGANIZATION OF OUR INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY. LET ME REMIND OUR COLLEAGUE WHO WANTED TO DRUM UP THE PASSION OF THE NATION THAT IT WAS NOT SADDAM HUSSEIN WHO ATTACKED US.

IT WAS NOT ANYBODY FROM IRAQ.

IT WAS OSAMA BIN LADEN AND OTHER TERRORISTS. THE FACT IS, THERE ARE MORE TERRORISTS TODAY IN IRAQ THAN THERE WERE ON SEPTEMBER 11. THERE ARE MORE TERRORISTS IN THE WORLD TODAY WHO WANT TO KILL AMERICANS THAN THERE WERE ON SEPTEMBER 11. IS THAT A POLICY THAT’S WORKING?

IS THAT A POLICY THAT’S WORKING?

MORE TERRORISTS TODAY WANT TO KILL AMERICANS THAN ON SEPTEMBER 11 WHEN THE WHOLE WORLD WAS UNITED BEHIND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WHEN NEWSPAPERS ACROSS THE WORLD SAID, WE’RE ALL AMERICANS NOW AND EVERYBODY WAS READY TO GO DO WHAT WE NEED D.O.D. IN AFGHANISTAN. WE SQUANDERED THAT, MR. PRESIDENT. IS THAT THE ADMINISTRATION HAS SQUANDERED IT AND THERE’S BEEN A COMPLETE AND TOTAL LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY FOR WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN BETWEEN.

I HEARD ONE OF OUR COLLEAGUES COME TO THE FLOOR AND SAY IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE TO LEAVE BEFORE IRAQ CAN PROVIDE ITS OWN SECURITY. WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT LEAVING BEFORE THEY CAN PROVIDE THEIR OWN SECURITY. I HEARD ANOTHER COLLEAGUE SAY, WHAT A MISTAKE IT WOULD BE TO WITHDRAW PRECIPITOUSLY. PRECIPITOUSLY. WHAT IS PRECIPITOUS ABOUT SAYING THAT YOU’RE GOING TO SET A TARGET FOR WITHDRAWAL A YEAR FROM NOW, A YEAR FROM NOW, A WHOLE YEAR FROM NOW?

WE’RE GOING TO GIVE THE IRAQIS TO STAND UP THEIR FORCES TO PROVIDE FOR THE SECURITY OF THEIR NATION. THAT’S NOT PRECIPITOUS. AND I’M TIRED OF A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO CONFLATE AND DISTORT AND MISLEAD AMERICANS AND HAVE A PHONY DEBATE ABOUT THE WAR ON TERROR.

IRAQ WAS NOT THE WAR ON TERROR, AND TODAY IT’S NOT THE CENTER OF THE WAR ON TERROR. NOW, ARE THERE SOME TERRORISTS IN IRAQ? YOU BET THERE ARE. IT’S THE BEST TRAINING IN THE WORLD FOR TERRORISTS — IT’S THE BEST TRAINING GROUND IN THE WORLD FOR TERRORISTS. IT IS A POSTER CHILD FOR RECRUITMENTS FOR — IT’S A POSTER CHILD FOR RECRUITMENTS FOR TERRORISTS. AND YOU KNOW WHERE THEY’RE GO GOING? THEY’RE GOING TO EUROPE. EUROPE IS NOW THE CENTER FOR AL QAEDA.

THERE ARE CELLS IN GERMANY AND ELSEWHERE IN EUROPE AND WE’RE PROVIDING THE TRAINING GROUND. THE FACT IS THAT THE IRAQIS THEMSELVES DON’T REALLY WANT AL QAEDA THERE. IF WE CAN PROVIDE THEM THE CAPACITY TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR OWN SECURITY, BELIEVE ME, THEY WILL DRIVE OUT WHATEVER IS LEFT OF THE REMNANTS OF FOREIGN TERRORISTS BECAUSE SHIA DON’T LIKE THEM, SUNNI DON’T LIKE THEM, KURD DON’T LIKE THEM OR NEED THEM. THEY’RE NOT GOING TO SURVIVE EXCEPT TO THE DEGREE THAT THEY CURRENTLY PROVIDE A CONVENIENT CONVECTION BETWEEN THE INTERESTS OF THE DIFFERENT PARTIES IN IRAQ THAT CAN ONLY BE RESOLVED POLITICALLY. LET’S COME BACK TO THAT.

LET’S GET AWAY FROM THIS PHONY DEBATE WE’VE HAD IN THE SENATE AND THIS COUNTRY. SECRETARY RICE SAID THIS CAN ONLY BE RESOLVED POLITICALLY AND DIPLOMATICALLY.

GENERAL CASEY HAS SAID, THERE IS NO MILITARY SOLUTION. AND IF THERE’S NO MILITARY SOLUTION, WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? THE SENATOR FROM TEXAS SAID, GIVE ME A PLAN. GIVE ME AN IDEA. ONE IDEA THAT’S DIFFERENT. WELL, WE’VE DONE IT. WE HAVE SUGGESTED — MANY OF US, INCLUDING DISTINGUISHED PEOPLE LIKE GENERAL ZINNI, WHO THOSE THE REGION — HE IS ABOUT AS GOOD AND AS TOUGH AND AS PATRIOTIC AS THERE IS A SOLDIER IN AMERICA — AND HE BELIEVES, AS I DO AND OTHERS DO, THAT THE ONLY WAY TO RESOLVE WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND IN IRAQ IS THROUGH DIPLOMACY AND POLITICAL EFFORT.

I SUGGESTED IN THE COURSE OF THE AMENDMENT THAT I HAVE SEVERAL MONTHS AGO THAT WE OUGHT TO HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT. SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS BELIEVES IT, THE KING OF JORDAN BELIEVES IT, THE PRESIDENT OF EGYPT BELIEVES IT, A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE IN THE REGION BELIEVE THAT UNLESS YOU GET THE FULL MEASURE OF ALL THE PARTIES TOGETHER, THE SUNNI, THE SHIA, THE KURDS, THE FACTIONS OF IRAQ, THE IRAQIS THEMSELVES OBVIOUSLY AS A GOVERNMENT, THE ARAB LEAGUE, THE NEIGHBOR STATES, INCLUDING SYRIA AND IRAN, YOU CANNOT BEGIN TO RESOLVE THIS PROBLEM.

ASK YOURSELVES THE SIMPLE QUESTION: HOW IS THIS GOING TO BE RESOLVED? HOW ARE AMERICAN FORCES GOING TO COME BACK? WELL, THEY’RE GOING TO COME BACK IF YOU PROVIDE THE MEASURE OF STABILITY TO IRAQ THAT IT DESERVES AND NEEDS. HOW DO YOU PROVIDE THE MEASURE OF STABILITY IT DESERVES AND NEEDS? BY PROVIDING CONFIDENCE TO THE PEOPLE AND CONFIDENCE TO THE PARTIES THAT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEM ARE ADEQUATELY RESOLVED, THAT THERE IS A LEVEL OF INVESTMENT, OF A STAKEHOLDER INVESTMENT IN ALL OF THOSE PARTIES. HOW DO YOU GET THERE?

YOU DON’T GET THERE BY NOT TALKING TO EACH OTHER. YOU DON’T GET THERE BY NOT HAVING THE KIND OF SUMMITRY AND DIPLOMACY THAT HAS GUIDED THE WORLD THROUGH MOST OF THE LAST CENTURIES OF CIVILIZED BEHAVIOR. THAT’S NOT TAKING PLACE. THERE’S A TOTAL ABSENCE OF THE KIND OF EFFORT THAT CAN HELP TO RESOLVE WHAT IS HAPPENING IN IRAQ. OUR SOLDIERS HAVE DONE THEIR JOB. THEY PROVIDED THE OPPORTUNITY FOR DEMOCRACY. THEY PROVIDED FOR SEVERAL ELECTIONS, FOR THE TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY, AND TO MEASURE PLANS — THE SENATOR FROM TEXAS SAID, GIVE ME A PLAN. WHAT WAS THE PLAN OF THE REPUBLICANS, OF THE ADMINISTRATION?

THE PLAN IS, AS THEY STAND UP, WE WILL STAND DOWN. WHAT AMERICAN HASN’T HEARD THOSE WORDS FROM THE PRESIDENT? HAS THEY STAND UP, WE’LL STAND DOWN. WELL, WHAT’S HAPPENED? 85% OF THEIR FORCES ARE NOW SUPPOSEDLY TRAINED.

I MEAN, YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. AT SOME POINT HERE, THE GAME HAS TO STOP. EITHER THERE REALLY IS 85% TRAINED AND THEY’RE MAKING PROGRESS, WHICH THEY KEEP TELLING US, OR THEY’RE NOT. IF THEY ARE, THEN WHY AREN’T WE ABLE TO WITHDRAW A FEW TROOPS? EITHER THEY ARE OR THEY AREN’T, AND YOU OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO WITHDRAW SOME OF THOSE TROOPS. THE FACT IS THAT WE’RE NOT STANDING DOWN. THE VIOLENCE IN THE LAST MONTH WAS THE WORST. THEY JUST UPPED THE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE IN THE MORGUE, TRIPLED IT. IT’S THE WORST MONTH IN THE LAST MONTHS. AND EACH MONTH KEEPS ON BEING THE WORST MONTH THAN THE MONTH BEFORE. NOW, SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE I LEARNED IN THE MILITARY THERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY. A CAPTAIN RUNS A SHIP AGROUND, HE’S GONE. THAT’S IT. USUALLY NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

I NOTICE THAT THE COMMANDER OF THE KOHL WAS JUST HELD RESPONSIBLE, EVEN THOUGH IT WASN’T HIS FAULT, FOR WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BOMBING OF THE COLE, AND HE IS NOT GOING TO BE PROMOTED. THESE THINGS AFFECT CAREERS AND THEY AFFECT YOUR TENURE. ASK GENERAL SHINSEKY. ASK THE FOLKS WHO WERE INVOLVED IN ABU GHRAIB, AT LEAST AT THE LOWER LEVELS. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ACCOUNTABILITY IN THIS ADMINISTRATION, PARTICULARLY WITHIN THE MILITARY BRANCH, THE WAY?

OUR PLAN SAYS THAT WE WILL SET A DATE BY WHICH TIME THE IRAQIS HAVE GOT TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY SO THAT WE LEVERAGE THE IRAQIS TO ASSUME THAT RESPONSIBILITY. NOW IS THAT PRECIPITOUS A YEAR FROM NOW? I DON’T THINK SO. PARTICULARLY WHEN YOU READ THE LANGUAGE OF WHAT WE LAID OUT, WHICH SAYS THE PRESIDENT HAS THE DISCRETION TO LEAVE TROOPS THERE TO COMPLETE THE TRAINING. THERE IS NOTHING PRECIPITOUS ABOUT ALLOWING THE PRESIDENT TO HAVE THE DISCRETION TO COMPLETE THE TRAINING AND LEAVE TROOPS THERE.

THAT’S NOT A WITHDRAWAL EVEN, COMPLETE AND TOTAL. SECONDLY, WE ALLOW THE PRESIDENT THE DISCRETION TO KEEP SUFFICIENT SPECIAL FORCES THERE TO FIGHT AL QAEDA. AND, THIRDLY, WE ALLOW THE PRESIDENT TO BE ABLE TO PROTECT AMERICAN FACILITIES AND FORCES. NOW THAT’S PRETTY BROAD, FOLKS.

IT’S TIME WE HAD A REAL DEBATE ABOUT WHAT IS GOING TO EMPOWER THE IRAQIS TO BE ABLE TO TAKE CONTROL OVER THEIR OWN FUTURE, AND WE HAD A REAL DEBATE THAT JUST DOESN’T TRY TO SCARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THE WAY FEAR HAS BEEN THROWN AROUND BY THIS ADMINISTRATION IS DISGRACEFUL. THEY KEEP DRUMMING UP TERRORISM AND SUGGESTING THAT IRAQ IS SOMEHOW THE CENTER OF THIS WAR ON TERROR, WHICH IT IS NOT NOW TODAY AND NEVER HAS BEEN.

THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS MADE OUR NATION LESS SAFE THAN IT OUGHT TO BE, BECAUSE THEY HAVE FOCUSSED SO MUCH TIME AND ENERGY AND EFFORT AND SQUANDERED IT IN IRAQ. THEY’VE LOST ALLIES AND REGIONAL LINKS THAT WE OUGHT TO HAVE TRADITIONALLY BECAUSE THEY’VE PUSHED PEOPLE AWAY FROM US. THEY DON’T HAVE CREDIBILITY IN THE REGION. IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO CONDUCT DIPLOMACY WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T — WHO FRANKLY, DON’T TRUST THEM. IN FACT, THEY HAVE EMPOWERED IRAN. IRAN IS STRONGER TODAY BECAUSE OF IRAQ THAN IT WOULD HAVE BEEN WITHOUT IRAQ. AND THERE’S NO EXPERT ON IRAN THAT WON’T TELL YOU THAT. ARE WE SAFER BECAUSE IRAN IS STRONGER TODAY? BECAUSE WE’RE SO BOGGED DOWN IN IRAQ, WE DON’T HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO WHAT WE NEED TO DO?

MR. PRESIDENT, I LISTENED TO MY COLLEAGUES TALK ABOUT SECRETARY RUMSFELD. I HEARD THEM SAY THAT THEY’VE KNOWN HIM A LONG TIME, THAT THEY HAVE A GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP, THAT THERE’S A MUTUAL RESPECT, THAT THEY LIKE HIM, THAT HE’S SMART, AND A WHOLE HOST OF THINGS THAT ARE PART OF WORKING WITH SOMEBODY THROUGH THE YEARS. AND I RESPECT THAT. BUT NONE OF THAT GOES TO THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF WHETHER YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE IN HIS JUDGMENT.

NONE OF THAT GOES TO THE QUESTION OF WHETHER OR NOT HE HAS MADE SUCH A SERIES OF MISTAKES THAT HE IS A SYMBOL, AN EMBLEM OF OUR FAILURE IN IRAQ AND IS ONE OF THE REASONS YOU CAN’T GET OTHER COUNTRIES AND OTHER PEOPLE TO THE TABLE TO HELP RESOLVE THE DIFFERENCES HERE.

I CALLED FOR SECRETARY RUMSFELD TO RESIGN THREE YEARS AGO. THREE YEARS AGO I FELT THAT THE LEVEL OF THE MISTAKES WERE SO SIGNIFICANT IN THE DEPLOYMENT OF TROOPS, IN THE ABANDONMENT OF A PLAN FOR POSTWAR IRAQ, IN THE CHOICES THAT WERE MADE THAT I THOUGHT THAT TRACK RECORD EXHIBITED TERRIBLE JUDGMENT, POOR PLANNING AND IDEOLOGICALLY DRIVEN DECISION-MAKING TO WHICH THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS CONSISTENTLY TURNED A DEAF EAR.

I THINK THE OFFICE OF SECRETARY OF STATE OUGHT TO BE ABOVE POLITICS — OF SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. AND I THINK THAT IT ALSO OUGHT TO BE NEVER BEYOND ACCOUNTABILITY. BUT UNDER SECRETARY RUMSFELD, IT HAS BEEN PROFOUNDLY POLITICAL, AS WE SAW LAST WEEK REEMPHASIZED AGAIN, AND IT’S BEEN UTTERLY UNACCOUNTABLE. THE SECRETARY’S RECORD SAYS A LOT ABOUT THE QUESTION OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN THIS ADMINISTRATION, AND CERTAINLY HASN’T STOPPED HIM FROM SPEAKING HIS MIND.

JUST A FEW DAYS AGO SECRETARY RUMSFELD GAVE A LOW AND UGLY POLITICAL SPEECH, SMEARING THOSE WHO DISSENT FROM THE CATASTROPHIC POLICY. AND THEN HE SPOKE OF MORAL CONFUSION IN OUR COUNTRY. WELL, THERE IS SOME MORAL CONFUSION AROUND, MR. PRESIDENT.

I THINK IT’S IMMORAL FOR OLD MEN TO SEND YOUNG AMERICANS TO FIGHT AND DIE IN A CONFLICT WITH A STRATEGY THAT IS FAILING AND A MISSION THAT HAS NOT WEAKENED TERRORISM, BUT
STRENGTHENED IT.

I THINK IT’S IMMORAL TO NOT TELL THE TRUTH TO AMERICA ABOUT THE PROGRESS IN THAT WAR JUST TO GET THROUGH A NEWS CYCLE OR AN ELECTION.

I THINK IT IS IMMORAL TO TREAT 9/11 AS A POLITICAL PAWN AND TO CONTINUE TO EXCUSE THE INVASION OF IRAQ BY EXPLOITING THE 3,000 MOTHERS, FATHERS, SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO WERE LOST ON SEPTEMBER 11. THEY WERE ATTACKED AND KILLED, I REMIND THE SENATE AGAIN, NOT BY SADDAM HUSSEIN BUT BY OSAMA BIN LADEN. AND IT IS DEEPLY IMMORAL TO COMPARE A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS — A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS — WHO OPPOSE A FAILING POLICY AND SEEK A — POLICY AND SEEK A WINNING ONE.

WE DON’T SEEK TO QUIT, AS ONE SENATOR SUGGESTED. WE SEEK TO WIN. AND WE HAVE A BETTER STRATEGY FOR WINNING. AND TO COMPARE THOSE WHO SEEK A BETTER STRATEGY TO WIN TO APPEASERS OF FASCISM AND NAZIISM IS AN INSULT TO THE QUALITY OF DEBATE WE OUGHT TO HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY, AND IT IS OVERTLY POLITICAL. THE LEADERS IN THIS ADMINISTRATION HAVE SHOWN THAT THEY WILL DO ANYTHING, SAY ANYTHING, TWIST ANY TRUTH AND EVEN ENDANGER OUR NATION’S CHARACTER AS ONE AMERICA SIMPLY TO EXECUTE A POLITICAL STRATEGY FOR THE ELECTION.

I HEARD ONE SENATOR TALK ABOUT POLITICAL STRATEGY. KARL ROVE HAS BEEN PRETTY OPEN ABOUT EXPRESSING WHERE THE REPUBLICANS NEED TO GO IN ORDER TO TRY TO WIN, AND IT’S TO EXPLOIT SECURITY.

AMERICANS, I BELIEVE, NOW SEE THROUGH THIS CHARADE. THEY KNOW THE TRUTH. THEY KNOW THAT WE HAVE A KATRINA FOREIGN POLICY, A EXECUTIVE SESSION OF BLUNDERS AND FAILURES THAT HAVE BETRAYED OUR IDEALS, KILLED AND MAIMED SOLDIERS AND WIDENED THE TERRORIST THREAT INSTEAD OF DEFEATING IT. AND IN THE PLACE OF ACCOUNTABILITY, WE HAVE VICIOUS PARTISAN ATTACKS ON ANYONE WHO OPPOSES THOSE POLICIES WITH THE SUGGESTION NOT FOR HOW YOU QUIT, NOT FOR HOW YOU RUN, BUT FOR HOW YOU WIN. HOW YOU WIN. WE’VE WATCHED IRAQ SLIDING FURTHER AND FURTHER INTO A BLOODY CIVIL WAR, WITH TOO FEW TROOPS AND NO PLAN. WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR TOO FEW TROOPS AND NO PLAN? THE PRESIDENT AND THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE.

I’VE HEARD REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES PRIVATELY EXPRESS THEIR RESERVATIONS ABOUT THIS POLICY AND ABOUT THIS SECRETARY. CAN WE AFFORD TO TRUST THIS PENTAGON TO AN INDIVIDUAL WHO SEEMS TO BE THE LAST PERSON TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE MISTAKES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE? SECRETARY RICE SAID THERE HAVE BEEN THOUSANDS OF MISTAKES. WHO ADMITS TO KEY OF HUBRIS AND MISMANAGEMENT THAT FALLS LARGELY AT THE SECRETARY’S OWN DOORSTEP, CAN ONLY REACH FOR A SORT OF CLUMSY RHETORICAL BRICK TO HURL AT THEIR OPPONENT SUGGESTING WITHOUT AN OUNCE OF SHAME THAT THEY’RE SOFT ON HITLER. SOFT ON HITLER.

MR. PRESIDENT, WE ARE TOO LONG OVERDUE FOR SOME ACCOUNTABILITY. BUT INSTEAD OF THE PINK SLIPS THAT THEY SO RICHLY DESERVE, THIS ADMINISTRATION’S WORST FOREIGN POLICY FAILURES ARE INSTEAD REWARDED. GET A PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM. GEORGE TENET, MEDAL OF FREEDOM. PAUL BREMER, WHO BOTCHED THE OCCUPATION, MEDAL OF FREEDOM.

IT SOMEHOW SEEMS THE ONLY PEOPLE IN THIS ADMINISTRATION WHO ARE REWARDED ARE THOSE WHO MAKE THE MISTAKES, WHILE THOSE WHO TELL THE TRUTH ARE PUNISHED. ACCORDING TO SECRETARY OF STATE RICE, WE KNOW THAT THIS HAS TO BE RESOLVED POLITICALLY AND DIPLOMATICALLY, BUT IT’S NOT BEING RESOLVED.

WHO’S ACCOUNTABLE FOR THOSE MISTAKES?

WHO’S ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE DYING AS A RESULT OF MISTAKES?

WHO’S ACCOUNTABLE FOR BILLIONS OF DOLLARS BEING SPENT AS A RESULT OF MISTAKES?

ON ISSUE AFTER ISSUE — WE’RE ALL HUMAN, WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES, WE UNDERSTAND THAT. BUT THERE’S A POINT OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE CARRYING OUT OF THE HIGH PUBLIC JOB WHERE MISTAKE COMPOUNDED ON MISTAKE COMPOUNDED ON MISTAKE BEGS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY. ON ISSUE AFTER ISSUE, SECRETARY RUMSFELD HAS MADE THE WRONG DECISION.

YOU MAY LIKE HIM, RESPECT HIM, ADMIRE HIS LONG YEARS OF PUBLIC SERVICE, BUT HE’S BEEN WRONG. WHEN HE COULD HAVE LISTENED TO GENERAL SHINSEKY AND PUT ANOTHER TROOPS TO MAINTAIN ORDER, AND OTHER GENERALS. WE HEARD A WHOLE GROUP OF OTHER GENERALS SPEAK OUT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED OVER THERE. HE CHOSE NOT TO LISTEN. HE CHOSE NOT TO LISTEN. HE WAS WRONG. WHEN HE COULD HAVE IMPLEMENTED A DETAILED STATE DEPARTMENT PLAN FOR RECONSTRUCTING POST-SADDAM IRAQ, GUESS WHAT? HE IGNORED IT. THREW IT AWAY. WOULDN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT. HE WAS WRONG AGAIN. WHEN HE COULD HAVE ORDERED THE PROTECTION OF AMERICAN FORCES BY GUARDING THE AMMO DUMPS AND MAKING SURE A PLAN WAS IN PLACE TO MOVE ACCURATELY, TO MOVE EFFICIENTLY THROUGH THE TERRITORY THAT THEY WERE TAKING, WHERE THERE WERE WEAPONS OF INDIVIDUAL DESTRUCTION, HE CHOSE NOT TO.

AND HE WAS WRONG, AND HE EXPOSED OUR YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN TO THE AMMO THAT MAIMS AND KILLS THEM BECAUSE THEY CHOSE NOT TO ACT. WHO’S ACCOUNTABLE FOR THAT?

WHEN HE COULD HAVE IMPOSED IMMEDIATE ORDER AND STRUCTURE IN BAGHDAD AFTER THE FALL OF SADDAM, YOU KNOW WHAT HE DID?

HE SHRUGGED HIS SHOULDERS PUBLICLY ON TELEVISION AND HE SAID BAGHDAD WAS SAFER THAN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND HE CHOSE NOT TO ACT. HE WAS WRONG. WHEN THE ADMINISTRATION COULD HAVE KEPT AN IRAQI ARMY SELECTIVELY INTACT, THEY CHOSE NOT TO. HE WAS WRONG. WHEN THEY COULD HAVE KEPT AN ENTIRE CIVIL STRUCTURE FUNCTIONING AND PROVIDED BASIC SERVICES TO IRAQI CITIZENS, THEY CHOSE NOT TO, AND THEY WERE WRONG. WHEN THEY COULD HAVE ACCEPTED THE OFFERS OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES THAT WERE PROVIDED AT THE TIME IN ORDER TO GIVE US ON-THE-GROUND PEACEKEEPERS TO HELP US AND RECONSTRUCTION ASSISTANCE TO HELP US SO THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER AND SOLDIER DIDN’T CARRY THE WHOLE BURDEN, HE CHOSE NOT TO. THEY WERE WRONG.

WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE LEVELED WITH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THAT THE INSURGENCY HAD GROWN, WHEN MANY OF US WERE ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE SAYING THE INSURGENCY IS GROWING, OUT OF CONTROL, THEYIGNORED THE INSURGENCY, CHOSE TO IGNORE IT. AND THEY WERE WRONG. WRONG DECISIONS, WRONG PRIORITIES. BUT TRAGICALLY, NO ACCOUNTABILITY.

SOME REPUBLICAN SENATORS HAVE HAD THE COURAGE TO COME TO THE FLOOR AND TALK ABOUT IT, THIS LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY, AND TALK ABOUT THESE JUDGMENTS THAT WERE WRONG. WELL, HOW DID IT GET SO WRONG? IT GOT SO WRONG BECAUSE IN PART THE SECRETARY BECAME SO ENAMORED WITH NEW-THINK AND TRANSFORMATION AT THE PENTAGON THAT HE FAILED TO SEE THE LIMITS. HE BELIEVED THAT THE AMERICAN MILITARY COULD OPERATE LIGHTER, SMALLER, LEANER. AND A LOT OF PEOPLE SPENT A GREAT DEAL OF TIME IN THE 1990’S THINKING ABOUT THIS. THEY LOOKED AT THE FIRST PERSIAN GULF WAR, AND THEY SAW HOW THE APPLICATION OF AIR POWER AND STEALTH AND PRECISION MUNITIONS COMBINED WITH THE LATEST INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY COULD RADICALLY CHANGE THE WAY WARS ARE FOUGHT, AND OPERATIONALLY THEY WERE RIGHT.

BUT AT THE OPERATIONAL LEVEL, WE HAD A MILITARY THAT EMERGED FROM THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION PREPARED TO APPLY ITS TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE AGAINST ANY ENEMY. WITNESS THE FACT THAT IT WAS THE CLINTON BUILD-UP AND CAPACITY THAT IN EFFECT WAS USED, BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT HAD ONLY BEEN PRESIDENT FOR TEN MONTHS. THEY HADN’T TRANSFORMED THE MILITARY.

THAT WAS THE MILITARY THAT SUCCEEDED IN ROUTING THE IRAQI ARMY. IT WAS THAT MILITARY THAT DROVE TO BAGHDAD IN THREE WEEKS. AND THAT IS AN EDGE THAT WE ALL WANT TO MAINTAIN FOREVER.

BUT SECRETARY RUMSFELD FAILED TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE WARS OF THE FUTURE WOULD NOT BE FOUGHT ONLY AT THE OPERATIONAL LEVEL. HE FELL IN LOVE WITH THE VISION OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE FUTURE AND LOST TRACK OF THE REALITY OF THE CURRENT THREAT, AND HE BELIEVED THAT A HEAVY DOSE OF SHOCK AND AWE WAS ALL THAT IT WOULD TAKE TO BREAK OUR ADVERSARY’S WILL.

WELL, THAT FAILURE TO SEE PAST THE OPERATIONAL LEVEL WAS PART AND PARCEL OF AN ADMINISTRATION THAT CAME TO POWER WITH NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT FOR NATION-BUILDING, AND THEY SCOFFED AT THE LESSONS THAT HAVE BEEN LEARNED PREVIOUSLY. AND THAT’S WHY THE SECRETARY BEGAN HIS TENURE TRYING TO SLASH ARMY END STRENGTH AND BOOTS ON THE GROUND TO FUND MISSILE DEFENSE. HE WAS BETTING UNWISELY THAT AMERICA WOULDN’T FIND ITSELF IN ANY MORE FAILED STATES.

SO NOW WE HAVE THE FIFTH SUMMER OF MR. RUMSFELD’S TENURE COMING TO A CLOSE AND WE FIND OURSELVES IN MASSIVE OPERATIONS IN TWO FAILED STATES, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN. IN SHORT, MR. RUMSFELD WAS WRONG AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. AND AMERICAN TROOPS HAVE HAD TO PAY THE PRICE FOR THAT. THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER AND MANY — TOO MANY HAVE PAID WITH THEIR LIVES.

I BELIEVE PERSONALLY THAT SECRETARY RUMSFELD SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE WITH HIS JOB. WHEN FACED WITH WIDESPREAD LOOTING IN IRAQ, THE SECRETARY QUIPPED “FREEDOM IS MESSY.” WHEN HE WAS ASKED BY A SOLDIER WHY THEY WERE SENT WITHOUT THE ARMOR, HE SAID, “YOU GO TO WAR WITH THE ARMY YOU HAVE, NOT THE ARMY YOU WANT,” DESPITE THE FACT THAT PARENTS WERE ABLE TO BUY ARMOR FOR THEIR KIDS ON THE INTERNET AND ELSEWHERE.

HIS DISMISSAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW GOVERNING THE TREATMENT OF DETAINEES CREATED THE COMMAND ENVIRONMENT THAT LED TO THE ABUSES AT ABU GHRAIB AND HE STILL REFUSES TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE ARMY AND THE MARINE CORPS ARE TOO SMALL FOR THE MISSIONS THAT THEY FACE. EARLIER THIS YEAR HE EVEN SAID STUBBORNNESS IS OUR WEAKNESS. HE LIKES TO TALK ABOUT THE WAR ON TERROR AS THE LONG WAR, BUT IN THIS LONG WAR, HE’S STRETCHING THE ARMY TO ITS LIMITS, AS OFFICERS AND NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICERS ARE SENT ON BACK-TO-BACK DEPLOYMENTS WITH INADEQUATE RESOURCES AND DESPITE THEIR HEROIC SERVICE THEY ARE LEAVING THIS MILITARY. AND IT IS COSTING US ENORMOUS EXTRA SUMS OF MONEY TO HOLD IT TOGETHER.

MR. PRESIDENT, THE SECRETARY’S BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT HAS COME AND DOWN, AND I THINK THE MOMENT OF ACCOUNTABILITY IS LONG OVERDUE. AMERICANS DESERVE LEADERSHIP THAT THEY CAN TRUST.

WE NEED TO CHANGE THE COURSE IN IRAQ. WE ALL WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL, BUT THE CURRENT COURSE IS NOT LEADING TO THAT SUCCESS, AND IF IT IS, THEN THERE’S NO REASON THAT THEY CAN’T BEGIN AN ADEQUATE REDEPLOYMENT AS GENERAL CASEY HAS SAID.

IN FACT, GENERAL CASEY’S OWN DATES COINCIDE WITH THE DATES OF THOSE OF US WHO HAVE SUGGESTED YOU SET A DATE ABOUT A YEAR FROM NOW. YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE A DATE, MR. PRESIDENT, IF YOU HAVE TO. IF THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND DOESN’T CHANGE ADEQUATELY, YOU HAVE FLEXIBILITY. BUT UNLESS YOU LEVERAGE THE WILLINGNESS OF THE IRAQIS TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN FUTURE, HERE IS NOTHING THAT AMERICAN TROOPS CAN DO EXCEPT CONTINUE TO BE SENT OUT ON MISSIONS HERE THEY DISCOVER IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICES THE HARD WAY.

WE GOT TOO MANY YOUNG AMERICANS WHO’VE GONE TO BETHESDA AND WALTER REED AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THAT POLICY, AND I BELIEVE DEEPLY THERE IS A BETTER POLICY FOR AMERICA TO FIGHT TERROR, A BETTER POLICY TO LIBERATE US TO REALLY FIGHT THE WAR BROADLY IN SOME 65 COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD WHERE AL QAEDA IS CURRENTLY EMBEDDED AND WE NEED TO FIGHT THAT. AND WE NEED IN FACT A GREAT TROOP LEVEL AND A GREAT CAPACITY ON THE GROUND IN AFGHANISTAN.

SO ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE NEEDED. ALL OF THEM ARE SUFFERING BECAUSE OF THE DECISIONS MADE AND NOT MADE. AND I BELIEVE THAT CREDIBILITY ENTREADS AND THE TRACK RECORD OF DECISIONS BASED ON IDEOLOGY, THIS SECRETARY IS NOT THE PERSON NOR THE JOB. I YIELD THE FLOOR.

One Response to “John Kerry: ‘It’s Immoral for Old Men to Send Young Americans to Fight and Die in Conflict With a Strategy That is Failing’”

  1. Well, I think the vote block is going to hurt the GOP even more. They are really getting beyond stupid on this. Rumsfeld’s number of serious errors is too obvious and his replacement is long overdue. The protection of Bush’s decision here is another argument for getting the Senate back as well as the House.

    As much as I resist the idea of amending the Constitution, it occured to me yesterday that there is no provision in it about removing Cabinet Secretaries. I think this is a unique situation, but if there is one position Congress ought to be able to change, it would be the Secretary of War for this reason.