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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Kerry at the VFW

John Kerry gave a speech to the VFW today.

Rhetorically, I think Kerry started strong by pointing out his congressional commitment to veterans issues -- and the failures of the current White House to assure adequate pensions and health care. Kerry also talked about his work with Senator John McCain on the MIA question in regard to Vietnam.

Then, Kerry moved to a powerful critique of the US military strategy in Iraq:
The Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki told Congress we would need several hundred thousand American troops to win the peace and do the job properly. His candor was rewarded with early retirement and his advice ignored, sending a chilling message through the ranks of the professional military.

By dismissing the State Department’s plan for post-war Iraq and proceeding unilaterally, the civilian leadership simply did not put the mechanism in place to secure the country. They were unprepared for the looting, insecurity, and insurgency that burst out with the fall of Saddam’s regime.

They failed to secure Iraq’s borders, and so allowed thousands of foreign terrorists, Islamist militants, and intelligence agents to penetrate and destabilize post-war Iraq.

Amazingly, they had no real plan for post-war political transition. All of this happened despite clear and precise, bipartisan, warnings from Congress, and regional experts.
Kerry next pointed out that this was followed by a series of terrible decisions by the civilian leadership.

I'm sure this will be the most quoted part of the speech:
...when the president says we have the same position on Iraq, I have to respectfully disagree. Our differences couldn’t be plainer. And I have set them out consistently. When it comes to Iraq, it’s not that I would have done one thing differently, I would’ve done almost everything differently.
Here's the list of things Kerry said he would have done differently. It's a powerful critique:
I would have relied on American troops in Tora Bora when we had Bin Laden in our sights. I never would have diverted resources so quickly from Afghanistan before finishing the job.

I would’ve given the inspectors the time they needed to do the job.

I wouldn’t have ignored my senior military advisors.

I would’ve made sure that every soldier put in harm’s way had the equipment and body armor they needed.

I would have built a strong, broad coalition of our allies around the world.

And, if there’s one thing I learned from my service, I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the peace.

The bottom line is that if I don’t believe we had to be shouldering nearly the entire financial cost of this war – more than $200 billion – and shortchanging investments in education, health care, and our safety at home.
Finally, before turning briefly to some domestic issues, Kerry explained what he would do differently from this point forward:
We need to bring our allies to our side, share the burdens, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. And together, we need to more rapidly train Iraqi police and military to take over the job of protecting their country. That's what I’ll do as Commander-in-Chief – because that’s the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

In an interview two days ago, the President said we can’t win the war on terror. I absolutely disagree.
Note: Kerry mentioned McCain a second time late in the speech, in the context of passing the Arizona Senator's reforms to end corporate welfare.

Also note, the RNC press release lamely says Kerry "flip flopped" on the VFW by writing this in 1971:
"We will not quickly join those who march on Veterans Day waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands who died for the 'greater glory of the United States.' ... We will not readily join the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars."
Do you think they know the meaning of "quickly"? It's been 30 years, Kerry is actually a veteran of a foreign war. As an American he was free to protest that war in 1971. And now he's free to put the past behind him (as McCain has urged) and try to improve the world.

Is Kerry the only person who opposed the Vietnam war, opposed the way the Iraq adventure was bungled, but still wants to see Iraq made secure?

Meanwhile, in response to criticism of his saying earlier this week that the US cannot win the "war on terror," Bush "clarified" and is back to saying the US can win after all.

A clear flip flop, in just a few days!

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