John Kerry Circa '97

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On CNN's Crossfire in 1997 (via Drudge):

"We know we can't count on the French. We know we can't count on the Russians," said Mr. Kerry. "We know that Iraq is a danger to the United States, and we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest."

NEXT: Mocking Cat Stevens

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  1. Wait. Are you saying Kerry said one thing seven years ago, and now is saying something different? This is unprecendented!

  2. Even my skeptical side is starting to believe that all Bush has to do is not pull an Admiral Stockdale in the debates and he wins by 6 to 8.

  3. So a candidate who changes their opinion based on new experiences and information is a bad thing?

    I’d honestly much rather a candidate flip flops and ends up going nowhere, rather than a decisive one going the wrong direction.

  4. that was before 9-11. remeber 9-11 changed everything.

  5. I seem to remember Shrub’s anti-nation building position, too.

  6. What was that Bush quote about having a “humble foreign policy”? Avoiding “nation building”? Actually I voted for the dude in part because I thought he’d get us involved in less overseas advertures of dubious value to national security. No, really. I figured he’d be a harmless, mediocre caretaker type president.

    Yeah, I know.

    Anyway this general proposition that a politician can’t change his mind based on changing facts is quite strange.

  7. “Anyway this general proposition that a politician can’t change his mind based on changing facts is quite strange.”

    I agree, but I am curious about something. We know what events precipitated Bush’s ostensible conversion from humble foreign policy to Iraq invader. We may not agree that such a wild swing was justified, but I think the theory is at least comprehensible.

    What are the precipitating events for any of Kerry’s position changes? I have the perception that judging the direction of popular opinion has much to do with it, but I’m willing to listen.

  8. And this is supposed to contradict…what? Even decontextualized, it is exactly the same position he had when he voted for the use of force resolution, when he criticized how the president used the use of force resolution, and now, when he’s pointing out the problems with how the president misused the use of force resolution.

    If Kerry blows your mind, man, because his positions aren’t black or white, please do us all a favor and spend election day watching Spongebob.

  9. Those of you predicating your comments on the assumption that Kerry has “changed his position” since this quote, please find something he’s said to back up that assertion.

    Something other than a Bush supporter saying “John Kerry has changed his position,” please.

  10. What are the precipitating events for any of Kerry’s position changes?

    Well, the fact that he’s running against the guy who invaded Iraq probably has a lot to do with this particular flip-flop.

  11. joe:

    According to Kerry, can we trust France to do the right thing in Iraq or not?

  12. Wait a minite. Didn’t Kerry vote FOR the resolution authorizing force against Iraq? How does this disclosure constitute the basis for a flip-flopping charge against Kerry? I don’t know that Kerry has ever stated that we don’t have the right to attack countries like Iraq, his criticism is that this war has been fought in the wrong manner, including the lack of the full support of our allies.

  13. Down with flip-floppers! (And while we’re at it, down with partisan loyalist hypocrites!)

    – Wants bin Laden “dead or alive.” Says he’s “not that concerned about him.”

    – Doesn’t want a Dept. of Homeland Security. Wants a Dept. of Homeland Security.

    – Opposes creation of 9/11 commission. Supports creation of 9/11.

    – Oppses time extension for 9/11 commission. Supports time extention for 9/11 commission.

    – Says gay marriage is a state issue. Supports consitutional ammendment banning gay marriage.

    – Opposes Palestinian/Israeli summits. Supports Palestinian/Israeli summits.

    – Opposes McCain/Feingold. Signs McCain/Feingold into law.

    – Says he’ll lobby OPEC regarding oil prices. Refuses to lobby OPEC regarding oil prices.

    And the list goes on, folks. Republicans might as well criticize Kerry (whom, I should repeat, I don’t support) for being a politician.

  14. “including the lack of the full support of our allies.”

    Like France, whom we can’t trust on Iraq?

  15. I don’t know about watching SpongeBob (hopefully there’ll be a “Cops” marathon) on election Day, but I definitely plan on staying home. Who cares about 7 or 30 years ago? It’s turning into a real shit-show and neither Kerry nor Bush has any answers or solutions….

  16. That was then, this is now. Launching a war with Iraq in the middle of our pursuit of Al-Qaeda was stupid and irresponsible.

  17. Exactly, Kerry voted for the war so this quote contradicts what exactly? Also, has Kerry ever said that including France alone would make this a true international coalition? His beef isn’t with attacking Iraq. His beef is with how we attacked.

  18. This is a little off topic, but I was reading in the San Fran paper talk of the US getting tough on places like Faluja in Iraq so that the January elections can satisfy Jimmy Carter.

    It sounds as silly as a mother saying to her son, “Either you eat your spinach or I’m gonna kill you.”

    Mothers don’t do that in France, do they?

  19. The issue isn’t that Kerry “Flip-Flops.” The issue is that he’s a bad canidate. He can’t defend his supposedly nuanced positions. He can’t explain to voters why he made the votes he made. “ed” in an above post did a better job in four sentences defending Kerry postion than Kerry has done in the whole campaign.

  20. If I recall correctly, in 1997, the U.N. was still in the process of accounting for Saddam’s WMDs which were accumlated before Gulf War I. Saddam kicked inspectors out, and U.S. and British forces responded with “Operation Desert Fox” in December of 1998.

    Striking pre-emptively at that time seemed like a good idea. It certainly worked, according to David Kay. So how does Kerry’s statement back then seem so bad or illogical with the current situation?

  21. It’s going pretty bad, Nick. Better post a picture of Kerry in a wetsuit.

    Ha! First he faces left, then he faces right!

    Get it!?!

    Jason, “According to Kerry, can we trust France to do the right thing in Iraq or not?” Left to their own devices, probably not. It’s important, as the wise Senator points out, to make sure the whole team of liberal democratic republics is pulling in the same direction.

  22. “The issue isn’t that Kerry “Flip-Flops.” The issue is that he’s a bad canidate. He can’t defend his supposedly nuanced positions. He can’t explain to voters why he made the votes he made. “ed” in an above post did a better job in four sentences defending Kerry postion than Kerry has done in the whole campaign.”

    You’re right about Kerry as a candidate. He’s just awful, isn’t he? As John Stewart pointed out, he sounds like more of a dick telling the truth than George Bush does lying.

    Damn Lurch-looking motherfucker. He’s going to get his ass kicked in the debates.

  23. Says gay marriage is a state issue. Supports consitutional ammendment banning gay marriage.

    When did Bush say gay marriage is a state issue?

  24. When did Bush say gay marriage is a state issue?

    On February 15, 2000, Bush said, “The state[s] can do what they want to” on issues surrounding gay marriage, and he reiterated this position on May 2, 2000, saying it is “going to be up for cities and states to make those decisions.” Similarly, Vice President Cheney said on October 5, 2000, “I think the fact of the matter, of course, is [same-sex marriage] is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions and that’s appropriate. I don’t think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.”

    Also, don’t forget medical marijuana:
    ?I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose,? (George W. Bush, 2000)

  25. Jason, “According to Kerry, can we trust France to do the right thing in Iraq or not?” Left to their own devices, probably not. It’s important, as the wise Senator points out, to make sure the whole team of liberal democratic republics is pulling in the same direction.

    But wasn’t the whole point of his saying that we can’t trust them on Iraq to indicate that we should not make any actions on our part contingent on their participation?

  26. Thanks Pete; I knew about Cheney’s comments but didn’t know Bush had essentially said the same thing.

  27. “But wasn’t the whole point of his saying that we can’t trust them on Iraq to indicate that we should not make any actions on our part contingent on their participation?”

    No, it was not. Your phrase “any actions” is where you get into trouble. Operation Desert Fox was pretty different from Operation Iraqi Freedom, wouldn’t you agree?

    The point of Kerry’s old quote was to indicate that we should not make actions necessary for our self defense contingent on their participation. In 1997, prior to Operation Desert Fox, Iraq did in fact pose a possible threat to us. No way should we allow France and Russia’s objections prevent us from pre-empting a threat. That was Kerry’s position then, and he has reiterated in throughout the primaries and general election.

    However, as well all now know (and always knew, because it was the argument from the beginning, and we have always been at war with East Asia), the Iraqi invasion was not about pre-empting a threat, but about remaking a region of the globe to achieve long-term goals. In this quite different scenario, support from other liberal democratic allies is much more important, because the legitimacy of liberal democracy, and specifically the legitimacy of our invading a country to impose liberal democracy, was the whole ballgame.

    Obviously, we can blow up Saddam’s weapons labs by ourselves – hell, Israel did it in the 1980s, and Clinton did it again in 1998. Threat pre-empted, Mission Accomplished.

    But as for changing the regime and bringing about a government that is both legitimate in the eyes of its people and consistent with our beliefs, trying to do so without our traditional allies on board is a hopeless cause. Look at Iraq, look at what Russia and China are doing.

    In order to consider this a flip-flop, you have to ignore about 90% of the relevant information. I’m just no good at that – maybe it’s a liberal thing.

  28. …so now someone argues, “But joe (because this someone is aware that I’m case-sensitive), the regime change you describe WAS necessary for our self defense, in the long term, and WAS pre-empting a threat, in the long term.”

    Which is ok as far as it goes, but let me draw a parallel: a guy pulls a gun on me, every libertoid hawk in libertopia will agree that I have the right to shoot him first, all by myself, whether the courts and police and federal government and my neighbors like it or not.

    But if a guy has a bad attitude, and he might own a gun (he used one before, but the cops raided his house and carried them out, but you can’t be too sure), and he’s been looking at me funny, and he has an arrest record, do I hae the same right to shoot him before he – um – decides to try to take some steps to get another gun that he could use if he were to ever want to shoot me? Maybe I DO have a legitimate case that I need to act in self-defense, but that would mean I should get a restraining order, talk to my neighbors about the problem and ask if they’ve seen him acting funny, maybe get the cops to have a talk with him. In other words, I don’t have the right to just shoot him on my own, I need to work with others to give my actions legitimacy.

    Getting John Kerry elected may well mean getting Americans to pay more attention to arguments like this, than to Shrub smirking and saying, “I’ll never trust a madman” while a flag waves behind him.

    God I’m depressed.

  29. Matt,

    Flip-flopping is the issue when Republicans constantly bring it up. I don’t disagree that Kerry’s a bad candidate for President, but I don’t understand how people can turn their noses up at Kerry while defending the willfully ignorant, dishonest, simple-minded religious fundamentalist in office today.

  30. “In other words, I don’t have the right to just shoot him on my own, I need to work with others to give my actions legitimacy.”

    You gloss over quite a bit in the comments about we always knew there was no threat. We only know that because we put troops on the ground. An invasion of Kuwait is not obviously a greater threat to the US than a known enemy with an unknown weapons capability right after we’ve been hit on our home turf.

    In any event, at some point in the past, you have noted that your neighbors are in bed with the guy to an extent that you would not trust them to be with you EVEN IF you had hard evidence of imminent threat. What are you going to do to convince them now?

    I think your argument is 100X more sophisticated than the one Kerry is making, which is currently War with Allies Good, War without Allies Bad, but only this time. I have never once heard an attempt by any of Kerry’s people to make a distinction between a war where allies were needed and a war where they weren’t.

  31. Operation Desert Fox was pretty different from Operation Iraqi Freedom, wouldn’t you agree?

    Desert Fox, like Desert Storm previously, failed to take Saddam out. The main difference is in follow thru.

    We could engage in quite a few Desert Fox operations without solving the problem. So clearly there is a difference in the two operations.

    The point of Kerry’s old quote was to indicate that we should not make actions necessary for our self defense contingent on their participation. In 1997, prior to Operation Desert Fox, Iraq did in fact pose a possible threat to us.

    In ’97 Saddam posed pretty much the same threat as he did prior to W’s invasion. Even assuming significant WMD in ’97 and none in the next century, the type of WMD he had operational was never a threat to the continental US (aside from possible terrorist applications), and was unlikely to be useful militarly against the US military.

  32. Operation Desert Fox? We named an operation after a World War II German general? Slick, guys, slick.

  33. But if a guy has a bad attitude, and he might own a gun (he used one before, but the cops raided his house and carried them out, but you can’t be too sure),

    Of course, the police hauling out his guns proves he’s unarmed and not at all a threat.

    and he’s been looking at me funny, and he has an arrest record, do I hae the same right to shoot him before he – um – decides to try to take some steps to get another gun that he could use if he were to ever want to shoot me?

    Right? Probably not, but I tend to like the creed:

    Shoot.
    Shovel.
    Shut up.

    Who’s to say he doesn’t have a gun hidden away somewhere, and does he really need a gun to kill you?

    Maybe I DO have a legitimate case that I need to act in self-defense, but that would mean I should get a restraining order, talk to my neighbors about the problem and ask if they’ve seen him acting funny, maybe get the cops to have a talk with him.

    The above steps do not constitute self defense , but they are good things to do if you anticipate a confrontation, and don’t plan to follow the last two S’s of the creed. that’s to say, these would be good things to have presented in a trial following a defensive shooting.

    Now, what was this anaology about, anyway?

  34. It’s amazing how so many intelligent people lose the capability to reason when it comes to the Iraq war. Nobody has any idea what’s going to happen in Iraq. Everybody is just blowing smoke out of their asses. Anyone who thinks that the Iraq situation is “impossible,” as I’ve heard any number or anti-war folks say, or think that the situation is “under control,” as certain dishonest pro-war folks believe, is a fool. We’ll know in 20 years or so if this works. If you want it to work out well, support those policies that you believe will help and oppose those that won’t. If you want to make sure that millions die and the region descends into chaos, call for the pull-out of US troops and be the callous and short-sighted idiot that you are.

    The biggest problem with the debate about Iraq is the ignorance of so many debating the issue. I supported the war with the understanding that it would be a generational commitment. That it would require many lives and much treasure. You may disagree with my support, but I definitely understood the dangers of my position. I cringed when war supporters implied that it would be a short-term thing. Only a person ignorant of history could possibly think such a thing. If the citizens of democracies would use their freedom to educate themselves, instead of appealing to authority like the idiots they are, then democratic governments wouldn’t make so many mistakes. Make no mistake people, the mistakes of the US government are YOUR mistakes. Freedom isn’t free folks. If we want a decent world, we need to work at it, not just sit in front of the boob tube blaming politicians (who you elected) for the world’s troubles.

    P.S.: Those of you who are informed enough to make a rational decision this election, but won’t vote because you don’t like Bush or Kerry, are part of the problem of democracy. You’re as stupid as someone who votes for either Bush or Kerry because they “don’t want to waste their vote” for a third party. If no one votes for alternative parties, they will never succeed at gaining power or even influence over the Democrats and Republicans. Vote for the party that best represent your views! Five percent gets them matching funds. Any additional support gets them additonal press coverage. Alternative parties don’t have to win to influence American politics. So, if you are informed, vote. If you are not, don’t. But not voting because you don’t like Bush or Kerry is short-sighted and lame.

  35. I supported the war with the understanding that it would be a generational commitment.

    Generational projects are great for sci-fi novels where mathematicians establish elaborate projects to transform the galaxy. If you can find Hari Seldon I will gladly support any generational (or even multi-generational) project that he might support. But if you want a generational project to transform a region under the guidance of people like Bush and Kerry, I’ll have to demur.

  36. I understand how you feel, thoreau, but other concerns of mine outweighed my lack of confidence in Bush.

  37. I volunteer Bill to go over there and kick some ass.

  38. Bill-

    Do you really want our politicians sinking billions of dollars into projects that won’t show any success or failure for 20 years or more? Do you trust them on that?

    If so, I hear that some Democrats have plans to reform the health care system. Don’t worry, they’ll find a way to work around the unintended consequences. You can trust them.

  39. Gadfly,

    I’m not stupid enough to think that I could do the job myself, just as I wouldn’t try to perform surgery on myself. We have professional soldiers. They are volunteers. They are my heroes. I may not have the courage and skills to do what they do, but I’m smart enough to know who keeps me (relatively) free, and I’m grateful. So instead of going, I propose that Social Security be eliminated and my SS taxes go to veterans and their families. They are the only people that I’m willing to accept as partial owners of my labor. I’m willing to be a partial slave to those that preserve the freedom and safety of me and mine.

  40. thoreau,

    The money spent to liberate and reconstruct Europe brought peace to the continent and allowed for significant wealth from trade. This was a multi-generational project.

    I hate to trust the government, but my fear of the consequences of doing nothing (or trying to fix things with talk) overcomes my fear of the government’s inadequacies.

  41. Don, you’re a psycho. We don’t shoot at people unless they prove that they’re not a threat; we hold our fire until we’re sure there really is a threat. “I shot him cause he might have been dangerous. No, I didn’t see a gun. No, he didn’t do anything to me. But you can’t be too careful.” That’s insane, dude.

    Bill, I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to be out of step with your own side, while the political dynamics of society force you to pick one side or another. I’ll see your “short and easy,” and raise you an Afghani pipeline.

  42. Well, this was a particularly worthless discussion. Thanks for wasting my time, guys & gals.

  43. But if you want a generational project to transform a region under the guidance of people like Bush and Kerry, I’ll have to demur.

    That’s fair, but it’s not like an alternative is even possible. So long as democracy reigns we are not likely to ever see even a true intellectual in the White House, to say nothing for a “psychohistorian” like the fictional Hari Seldon. Seldon himself was never a ruler, at most an advisor to the emperor.

    We elect politicians, and politicians are motivated chiefly to maintain power both for themselves and for the encompassing structure, in the vain and misguided belief that such a structure is requisite to guarantee the tenets of (in our case) that wrinkled piece of hemp we worship like a god. The progression of history as a sum of predictable events is for the academics to debate and the politicians to manipulate as 1. reasons for their existence or 2. indicators of some deity’s pleasure or displeasure with us. Ah, such power the mystery of the crop cycle holds over our vast imaginations.

    It’s not fair to call Kerry a flip-flopper based on his attitudes in 1997. He was in all likelihood displaying typical party “solidarity” for Clinton’s Iraqi Liberation Act. 9/11 changed everything, true, but it was not the beginning of history; the administrative “mandate” to eventually unseat Hussein arguably goes all the way back to the “international community’s” failure to remove him in 1991 when they had the chance. To say that only we acted in the interests of oil, and only now, is wildly naieve. Europe saw the opportunity in controlling the economy of an oil rich nation, and the profits have been immense. Nobody wanted to abandon their cash cow. This was a battle between the elites of both sides.

    The irony is all this is that leftists actually believe Kerry would not have invaded Iraq, even given the mandate left behind by his wildly popular political predecessor. As far as the White House and Congress were concerned, they had all the evidence they needed to unseat Hussein in 1997. The Democratic line now is based solely on the fact that WMD has not yet been discovered. In the sense of election the Jackass party is thanking their lucky stars that Bush was wrong, else the upcoming election would likely have been a Reagan-Mondalesque landslide. Even the EU was getting into the act at the passage of 1441 before the invasion:

    “The European Union urges Iraq to accept immediately UNSCR resolution 1441 and to comply unconditionally with all the provisions of the resolution. This is Iraq’s last opportunity to fulfil its disarmament obligations. (emphasis mine) The European Union urges Iraq to extend full cooperation to the weapons inspectors and to secure immediate, unimpeded and unrestricted access for the weapons inspectors to all areas and facilities in Iraq.”

    Apparently, it was not actually Baghdad’s last opportunity to fulfill its disarmament obligations, at least not in the eyes of those who were profiting from the widespread belief that Iraq still had them. That was the flip-flop, because if Iraq didn’t have them, and Bush was just a liar, then why were the sanctions continued by this vaunted “international community” right up to the second war? Why was it ok to kill “5,000 kids under 5 per day” for weapons Hussein didn’t have, but not okay to unseat Hussein for the same “reason”?

    Kerry’s statement is just a reflection of a larger embarrassment, spun into blame on the usual, easy suspects of American imperialism, corporate greed, etc. etc. Fact is, the whole world failed, and as usual we came in to close. What pissed off the world is that we went off our leash to do it, instead of waiting to attack on their command.

  44. Oh, and by Bush being wrong, I mean in the sense of the political argument. Saying that he was objectively wrong is like saying the earth was flat until 1492. Hussein had them, used them, had an active program in ’96, and had not yet demonstrated to anyone’s satisfaction that he did not have them. The reasonable conclusion is therefore that he still had them. The other conclusion was born of political necessity.

  45. This post about John Kerry’s supposed 1997 comments is based on a fabricated quote. You refence Drudge as the source. Drudge appears to have relied on a Wahington Times article quoting Rep. Peter King (NY-Rep) on what Kerry supposedly said.

    The Washington Times has now printed a correction of that erroneous story:

    Due to erroneous information from Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, an item in the Inside the Beltway column in yesterday’s editions incorrectly quoted Sen. John Kerry in a 1997 appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire” as arguing for a unilateral, pre-emptive war against Iraq.
    In reference to a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding access to Iraqi weapons sites, Mr. Kerry actually said: “I think that’s our great concern [-] where’s the backbone of Russia, where’s the backbone of France, where are they in expressing their condemnation of such clearly illegal activity [-] but in a sense, they’re now climbing into a box and they will have enormous difficulty not following up on this if there is not compliance by Iraq.”
    Later, referring to French and Russian reservations on the use of force, Mr. Kerry said: “There’s absolutely no statement that they have made or that they will make that will prevent the United States of America and this president or any president from acting in what they believe are the best interests of our country.”

    Although Cong. King is no stranger to spouting outrageous comments on the air, I’m sure this was an entirely innocent error on his part. Oddly, there don’t seem to be any howls in the media that John McCaslin of Wash Times resign because of this error. I trust, however, that someone will post a correction in Hit & Run.

  46. “Hussein had them…”

    Can’t argue with that.

    “…used them,”

    With our support and protection, of course.

    “…had an active program in ’96, and had not yet demonstrated to anyone’s satisfaction that he did not have them.”

    There were plenty of intelligence people working for the Bush adminstration who were not convinced that he had them and who expressed their lack of conviction to the Bush administration. In order to convince the world that there was “no doubt” that he had them, the Bush administration had to lie. That’s no way to run a war.

  47. In order to convince the world that there was “no doubt” that he had them, the Bush administration had to lie.

    Then why the sanctions?

  48. Just because lots of people thought Hussein had WMD’s doesn’t change the fact that the Bush administration received significant intelligence reports that doubted the existence of WMD’s (especially nuclear weapons) and then went on to say that there was “no doubt” that Hussein had WMD’s and nuclear weapons. It doesn’t change the fact that they were told by their own experts that aluminum tubes they thought were part of a nuclear program could not have been used for those purposes BEFORE they repeatedly made public claims that the aluminum tubes were part of a nuclear program.

    It’s a mystery to me why people who aren’t Republican loyalists have such a hard time accepting the obvious and demonstrable fact that the Bush administration lied to increase support for the war in Iraq.

  49. and then went on to say that there was “no doubt” that Hussein had WMD’s and nuclear weapons.

    Wow. We thought he had nukes and we still invaded. Talk about stones. I just thought he had a nuke program . . .

  50. Oddly, there don’t seem to be any howls in the media that John McCaslin of Wash Times resign because of this error.

    Well, the Wash Times right off said where it had recieved the info, so right off that’s a significant difference. In contrast, Rather was up their voutching for the source of the document (unimpeachable, IIRC). The Wash Times also corrected their story quickly w/o the CBS stonewalling.

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