More headlines: John Kerry on War & Peace

(Following are older quotations. Click here for main quotations.)

Against a misapplied blanket pre-emptive doctrine

Q: Will you repeal Bush’s pre-emptive war doctrine?

A: I spoke out against it during the Senate’s Iraq debate, stating that we should not be “giving Bush carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses - or may pose - a potential threat to the US.” Bush’s position is a blanket doctrine that can easily be misinterpreted and misapplied. As President, I will use force when it is necessary to defend core American values and interests against imminent threats.

Source: interview Jun 17, 2003

FactCheck: US didn’t have bin Laden surrounded at Tora Bora

KERRY: I would not take my eye off of the goal: Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, he escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora. We had him surrounded. But we didn’t use American forces, the best trained in the world, to go kill him. The president relied on Afghan warlords and he outsourced that job too. That’s wrong.

FACT CHECK: Kerry said U.S. forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape in 2001 during the battle at Tora Bora in Afghanistan because the administration “outsourced” fighting to Afghan “warlords.” Actually, it’s never been clear whether bin Laden actually was at Tora Bora. It is true that military leaders strongly suspected bin Laden was there, and it is also true that the Pentagon relied heavily on Afghan forces to take on much of the fighting at Tora Bora in an effort to reduce US casualties. But Kerry overstates the case by stating flatly that “we had him surrounded.”

Source: Analysis of first Bush-Kerry debate (FactCheck 2004) Oct 1, 2004

Bush outsourced to Afghan warlords to kill Osama bin Laden

I would not take my eye off of the goal: Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, he escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora. We had him surrounded. But we didn’t use American forces, the best trained in the world, to go kill him. Bush relied on Afghan warlords and he outsourced that job too. That’s wrong.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Hunting Osama-not Saddam-should be priority

The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, al Qaeda. There’s just no question about it. The president’s misjudgment, miscalculation and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win. George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority. I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority, I will finish the job in Iraq and I will refocus our energies on the real war on terror.
Source: coverage Sep 24, 2004

Based vote for Iraq war on CIA’s intelligence reports

Beatty accused Kerry of having “blood on his hands” over his vote to send U.S. troops into Iraq during a fiery televised debate last night. A combative Beatty launched a vicious verbal assault after Kerry snorted at Beatty’s claim that he failed to read vital intelligence reports before voting for the war. “Don’t laugh. It’s not a joke,” fumed Beatty, a counterterrorism consultant and former CIA agent. “You knew. You knew when you voted for that war that we didn’t have what we needed for the war... and you didn’t care because it was always about getting elected president. You have got blood on your hands.“

Kerry branded Beatty’s attack ”insulting and frankly disgusting.“ He said his vote was based on intelligence reports presented to him by forme CIA director George Tenet and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The candidates agreed the United States should withdraw from Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan, while working to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.

Source: 2008 MA Senate Debate reported in the Boston Herald Oct 20, 2008

Democrats proposing success in Iraq by political solution

KERRY: [to McCain]: Bin Laden is able to [claim success against America] because this administration took their eye off of him and chose to go to war in a place that had nothing to do with the war on terror. Al-Qaeda loves our being in Iraq. If you want to put al-Qaeda off balance then change the equation. And Iran loves the fact that we’re in Iraq. And Iran is getting stronger.

McCAIN: Iran loves to be in Iraq, and they are in Iraq. And al-Qaeda is in Iraq. If we don’t continue to beat them back, they will be a major influence, and have training bases. I hope we can also point out the consequences of failure, which is what the Democrats are proposing now.

KERRY: We’ve had four and a half years of failure. We are not proposing failure. We’re proposing a way to, in fact, make Iraq successful to the degree that it can be by playing to the real undercurrents of their cultural and historical divisions. Nothing in the surge addresses the question of Shia & Sunni divide [or other political issues]

Source: [Xref McCain] Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” Sep 16, 2007

Relieve troops by adding divisions and use Guard in US

Q: What would you do about holding National Guard and Reservists for repeated call-ups?

KERRY: I’ve proposed adding two active-duty divisions to the armed forces -- one combat, one support. I’m going to double the number of Special Forces so that we can fight a more effective war with less pressure on the National Guard and Reserve. And what I would like to do is see the National Guard and Reserve be deployed differently. There’s much we can do with them with respect to homeland security.

BUSH: The best way to take the pressure off our troops is to train Iraqis to give them a chance to defend their country. We’ll have 125,000 troops trained by the end of this year. I remember going to say thanks to the reservists and Guard that were headed overseas. Some of them had been there before. The people I talked to their spirits were high. They didn’t view their service as a back-door draft. They viewed their service as an opportunity to serve their country.

Source: Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ Oct 13, 2004

FactCheck: Shinseki retirement was pushed but not forced

KERRY: General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, told him he was going to need several hundred thousand [troops in Iraq]. And guess what? They retired Gen. Shinseki for telling him that.

FACT CHECK: Kerry claimed, as he had in the first debate, that the Army’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, was forced to retire. It is true that Shinseki said on Feb. 25, 2003 that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would be required for an occupation of Iraq. And it is true that the general retired several months later on June 11, 2003. But the administration didn’t force Gen. Shinseki to retire: he had plans to retire since 2002. There was some truth to Kerry’s comment, however. According to the Oct. 9 Washington Post , the story of Shinseki’s replacement was leaked “in revenge” for Shinseki’s position on troop requirements, which he was already expressing in private. By naming a replacement 14 months early, the Post said Pentagon leakers effectively undercut Shinseki’s authority

Source: Analysis of second Bush-Kerry debate by FactCheck 2004 Oct 10, 2004

Reach out to our allies to deal with the chaos in Iraq

Q: The US is preparing a new Iraq government and will proceed to withdraw US troops. Would you proceed with the same plans as Bush?

A: I have laid out a different plan because Bush’s plan is not working. King Abdullah of Jordan said just yesterday you can’t hold elections in Iraq with the chaos that’s going on today. Senator Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the handling of the reconstruction aid in Iraq by this administration has been incompetent. Those are the Republican chairman’s words. Senator Hagel said that the handling of Iraq is beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing; it’s in the zone of dangerous. Those are the words of two Republicans, respected, both on the Foreign Relations Committee. He pushed them away, time and again. Pushed them away at the UN, pushed them away individually. I’m going to get the training done for our troops. I’m going to get the training of Iraqis done faster. And I’m going to get our allies back to the table.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO Oct 8, 2004

We have trained many and are spending a lot in Iraq

KERRY: Two weeks ago, there was a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, which is the political arm of NATO. They discussed the possibility of a small training unit or having a total takeover of the training in Iraq. Did the Bush administration push for the total training of Iraq? No. Were they silent? Yes. Was there an effort to bring all the allies together around that? No. Because they’ve always wanted this to be an American effort. They even have the Defense Department issue a memorandum saying don’t bother applying for assistance or for being part of the reconstruction if you weren’t part of our original coalition.

BUSH: Two days ago I met with the finance minister from Iraq. He came to see me and talked about how optimistic he was and the country was about heading toward elections. My opponent says he has a plan. It sounds familiar because it’s called the Bush plan. We’re going to train troops, and we are. We’ll have 125,000 trained by the end of December. We’re spending about $7 billion.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO Oct 8, 2004

“Last resort” means something to someone who’s seen combat

Bush promised he would go to war as a last resort. Those words mean something to me as somebody who has been in combat. Last resort. You’ve got to be able to look in the eyes of families and say to those parents, I tried to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of your son and daughter. Today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost: $200 billion - $200 billion that could have been used for health care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs for seniors.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

The oil ministry is guarded but not the nuclear facilities

I didn’t say I would bring troops out in six months. I said, if we do the things that I’ve set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw the troops down in six months. A critical component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the US doesn’t have long-term designs on it. We’re building some 14 military bases there now, and some people say they’ve got a rather permanent concept to them. When you guard the oil ministry, but you don’t guard the nuclear facilities, the message to a lot of people is maybe, “Wow, maybe they’re interested in our oil.” The problem is that they didn’t think these things through properly. What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground, by beginning to not back off of places like Fallujahs, and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the borders. You’ve got to show you’re serious in that regard. You’ve also got to show that you are prepared to bring the rest of the world in and share the stakes.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Make sure the outcome of war honors soldiers’ nobility

BUSH: I understand the stakes of this war on terror. I understand we must find Al Qaida wherever they hide. We must deal with threats before they fully materialize. And Saddam Hussein was a threat, and that we must spread liberty because in the long run, the way to defeat hatred and tyranny and oppression is to spread freedom. In the long term a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, will set such a powerful in a part of the world that’s desperate for freedom.

KERRY: I am determined for those soldiers and for those families, for those kids who put their lives on the line. That’s the most noble thing that anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome honors that nobility. We have a choice here. I’ve laid out a plan by which we can be successful in Iraq: with a summit, by doing better training, faster, by cutting - by doing what we need to do with respect to the UN and the elections. There’s only 25 percent of the people in there. They can’t have an election right now. Bush’s not getting the job done.

Source: [Xref Bush] First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

The issue of Saddam Hussein was what to do about it

BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a grave threat. I don’t hold it against him that Kerry said grave threat. I’m not going to go around the country saying he didn’t tell the truth, when he looked at the same intelligence I did.

KERRY: It was a threat. That’s not the issue. The issue is what you do about it. Bush said he was going to build a true coalition, exhaust the remedies of the UN and go to war as a last resort. Those words really have to mean something. And, unfortunately, he didn’t go to war as a last resort. Now we have this incredible mess in Iraq-$200 billion. It’s not what the American people thought they were getting when they voted.

Source: [X-ref Bush] First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Need two army divisions for now-but no draft

KUCINICH: Are we looking at a draft? Because you’ve said you want to send 40,000 more troops to Iraq.

KERRY: No, I said what we need, because our troops are over-extended, and we’ve turned the Guard and the Reserve into almost active duty. On a temporary basis, we need two additional divisions in the overall standing Army, because when we rotate the divisions back this spring, we will only have two divisions active that are able to be deployed.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Only go to war if we have to, not because we want to

Q: How would you view a returning war veteran who tossed his medals away?

KERRY: It would depend on why he did it.

Q: In protest.

KERRY: Given what we now know about Richard Nixon and what he did think about it, he was deeply disturbed by the veterans’ movement that was a movement of conscience. I led thousands of veterans to Washington, we camped on the Mall underneath the Congress. Nixon tried to take us to the Supreme Court. He tried to kick us off. And we stood our ground and said to him “Mr. President, you sent us 8,000 miles away to fight, die and sleep in the jungles of Vietnam. We’ve earned the right to sleep on this Mall and talk to our senators and congressmen.”

I can pledge this to the American people: I will never conduct a war or start a war because we want to; the United States of America should only go to war because we have to. And if you live by that guidance, you’ll never have veterans throwing away their medals or standing up in protest.

Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College Jan 22, 2004

De-Americanize Iraq: the exit strategy is victory

Q: Do you see the war in Iraq as a mistake? KERRY: We need to be successful. People keep asking what’s the exit strategy. The exit strategy is victory. This president rushed to war against the advice of many in this country. This president has turned his back on 200 years of tradition of our country in foreign policy. This president rushed to war against the advice of many in this country. He clearly didn’t plan for the peace. We have to de-Americanize this war, we have to take the target off of American troops as fast as possible, we have to cede some authority for the humanitarian and the governance components of this, even as we take control of the security piece. That’s the only way to be successful. And no, we do not need or want more American troops to do that.

KUCINCH: I think Senator Kerry described well the direction we should be going in. I only wish that he had joined with me in an effort to organize Congress to vote against the war.

Source: Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate Sep 9, 2003

Don’t send more US troops to Iraq-share power & share burden

Q: Would you send more troops to Iraq?

We should not send more American troops. That would be the worst thing. We do not want to have more Americanization. We do not want a greater sense of American occupation. We need to minimize that. And the way to do that is do everything possible, including sharing the power, to bring other countries in to take the burden.

Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Disarm Saddam, but war should be a last resort

I’m the only person running for this job who’s actually fought in a war. I’m not ambivalent about the war [in Iraq]. I believe that before you go to war, it ought to really be the last resort and you should exhaust your diplomatic remedies, but I was in favor of disarming Saddam Hussein, and I’m glad we did. There’s no ambivalence. I believe I bring strength to this ticket: strength about how we maintain a military that is strong, but make ourselves stronger in the world.
Source: Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

We stood up to Bush’s aimless and failed course in Iraq

Hundreds of thousands of you in the community have shown your support for our plan for Iraq. You signed our petition and urged your Senators to stand with us. With your help, we stood up to the Bush Administration’s aimless and failed course in Iraq.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website,, “Issues” Mar 2, 2008

Meant to bash Bush, but ending up bashing soldiers in Iraq

[The White House press secretary has criticized Kerry’s comments on US soldiers as] “an absolute insult.” Kerry fired back at the White House and the GOP, saying he was not disparaging U.S. soldiers. “If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy,” he said.

Kerry made the comments to students at Pasadena City College in California. He said: “You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.“

A Kerry aide said that the prepared statement, which had been designed to criticize Bush, ”was mangled in delivery.“ Kerry was supposed to say, ”I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.“

Source: coverage Nov 1, 2006

UN sanctions were to remove the WMD, not Saddam

BUSH: Kerry said that America must pass a global test before we use force to protect ourselves. That’s the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working. That’s the kind of mindset that said let’s keep it at the UN and hope things go well. Saddam was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorist enemies. Sanctions were not working. The UN was not effective at removing Saddam.

KERRY: The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam. It was to remove the weapons of mass destruction. And, Mr. President, just yesterday the Duelfer report told you and the whole world they worked. He didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, Mr. President. That was the objective. And if we’d used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq, and right now Osama bin Laden might be in jail or dead. That’s the war against terror.

Source: [X-ref Bush] Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO Oct 8, 2004

Bush’s job was to win the peace, not just the war

BUSH: I remember going down to the basement of the White House the day we committed our troops, as last resort, looking at Tommy Franks and the generals on the ground, asking them do we have the right plan with the right troops level? And they looked me in the eye and said, yes, sir, Mr. President. Of course I listened to our generals. A president sets the strategy and relies upon good military people to execute that strategy.

KERRY: You rely on good military people to execute the military component of the strategy, but winning the peace is larger than just the military component. General Shinseki had the wisdom to say you’re going to need several hundred thousand troops to win the peace. Military’s job is to win the war. Bush’s job is to win the peace. Bush did not do what was necessary. Didn’t bring in enough nations, didn’t deliver the help, didn’t close off the borders, didn’t even guard the ammo dumps. And now our kids are being killed with ammos right out of that dump.

Source: [X-ref Bush] Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO Oct 8, 2004

The $87 billion bill gives a slush fund to Halliburton

BUSH: Kerry complains about the fact our troops don’t have adequate equipment, yet he voted against the $87 billion supplemental I sent to the Congress, and then issued one of the most amazing quotes in political history: “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” Saddam Hussein was a risk to our country. He was a risk that and this is where we just have a difference of opinion.

KERRY: Not necessarily be in power. But here’s what I’ll say about the $87 billion. I made a mistake in the way I talk about it; he made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is a worse decision? Now, I voted the way I voted because I saw that he had the policy wrong and I wanted accountability. I didn’t want to give a slush fund to Halliburton. I also thought the wealthiest people in America ought to pay for it, ladies and gentlemen. He wants your kids to pay for it. I wanted us to pay for it, since we’re at war. I don’t think that’s a bad decision.

Source: [Xref Bush] Second Bush-Kerry Debate, in St. Louis MO Oct 8, 2004

FactCheck: Bush has spent $120B in Iraq, not $200B

KERRY: Today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost: $200 billion-$200 billion that could have been used for health care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs for seniors, and it’s in Iraq.

FACT CHECK: Kerry continued to refer to “the cost” of the Iraq war as $200 billion, when it fact the cost to date is just over $120 billion, according to budget officials. Kerry is counting money that has been appropriated to be spent in the fiscal year that started Friday, Oct. 1. Much of the money Kerry counts has not even been requested formally by the Bush administration, and is only an estimate of what will be sought sometime in the coming year, to be spent later. We’ve pointed this out before, in detail. [John Edwards cited the same figure in his October 5 debate].

Source: Analysis of first Bush-Kerry debate (FactCheck 2004) Oct 1, 2004

It’s wrong to make America bear 90% of war casualties

America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world and we are leading strong alliances. I’ll never give a veto to any country over our security. But I also know how to lead those alliances. We’re now bearing 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq and 90 percent of the costs. I think that’s wrong, and I think we can do better.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Bush Sr said our troops would be occupiers in a hostile land

BUSH: A free Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror, and that’s essential. A free Iraq will set a powerful example in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom. A free Iraq will help secure Israel. A free Iraq will enforce the hopes and aspirations of the reformers in places like Iran. A free Iraq is essential for the security of this country.

KERRY: The other day in Wisconsin, a couple of young returnees were in the line, one active duty, one from the Guard. And they both looked at me and said: We need you. You’ve got to help us over there. Bush’s father did not go into Iraq, into Baghdad, beyond Basra. And the reason he didn’t is, he said - he wrote in his book - because there was no viable exit strategy. And he said our troops would be occupiers in a bitterly hostile land. The only building that was guarded when the troops when into Baghdad was the oil ministry. We didn’t guard the nuclear facilities. We didn’t guard the foreign office.

Source: [X-ref Bush] First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Bush promised not to make war inevitable but did just that

From the beginning, I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence. But I also laid out a very strict series of things we needed to do in order to proceed from a position of strength. Then Bush, in fact, promised them. He went to Cincinnati and he gave a speech in which he said, We will plan carefully. We will proceed cautiously. We will not make war inevitable. We will go with our allies. He didn’t do any of those things. They didn’t do the planning. They left the planning of the State Department in the State Department desks. They avoided even the advice of their own general. The Army chief of staff, said you’re going to need several hundred thousand troops. Instead of listening to him, they retired him. The terrorism czar, who has worked for every president since Ronald Reagan, said, Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Bush misled the American people

In his state of the union message, Bush told Congress about nuclear materials that didn’t exist. We know that he promised America that he was going to build this coalition. I just described the coalition. It is not the kind of coalition we were described when we were talking about voting for this. The president said he would exhaust the remedies of the UN and go through that full process. He didn’t. He cut if off, sort of arbitrarily. And we know that there were further diplomatic efforts under way. They just decided the time for diplomacy is over and rushed to war without planning for what happens afterwards. Now, he misled the American people in his speech when he said we will plan carefully. They obviously didn’t. He misled the American people when he said we’d go to war as a last resort. We did not go as a last resort. And most Americans know the difference. This has cost us deeply in the world. It is important to tell the truth to the American people.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Halliburton should not be a factor that pushes allies away

KERRY: What need a president who understands how to bring these other countries together to recognize their stakes in this. The Arab countries have a stake in not having a civil war. The European countries have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep. Bush hasn’t even held the kind of statesman-like summits that pull people together and get them to invest in those states. He’s done the opposite. He pushed them away. To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war, they actually issued a memorandum from the Defense Department saying, If you weren’t with us in the war, don’t bother applying for any construction.

BUSH: The UN was invited in. And we support the UN efforts there. They pulled out after Sergio de Mello got killed. But they’re now back in helping with elections. What’s he say to Tony Blair and Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can’t expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.

Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

It was a coalition of three countries when we went in Iraq

BUSH: I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They’re not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re not going to follow somebody whose core convictions keep changing because of politics in America. There are summits being held. Japan is going to have a summit for the donors; $14 billion pledged; the Prime Minister is going to call countries to account, to get them to contribute. And there’s going to be an Arab summit, of the neighborhood countries. And Colin Powell helped set up that summit.

KERRY: The UN and Kofi Annan offered help after Baghdad fell. We never took him up on that and did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always American-run. Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the US. That’s not a grand coalition. We can do better.

BUSH: He forgot Poland. And now there’s 30 nations involved

Source: [Xref Bush] First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

Preferred strong alliances when Bush decided to go to war

BUSH: The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at. When I stood up there and spoke to the Congress, I was speaking off the same intelligence he looked at to make his decisions to support the authorization of force.

KERRY: I wasn’t misleading when I said Saddam Hussein was a threat. Nor was I misleading on the day that Bush decided to go to war when I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances and that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy. I’ve had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. There was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And Bush chose the wrong way.

BUSH: You cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win. And we have a duty to our country and to future generations of America to achieve a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, and to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.

Source: [Xref Bush] First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

War decisions guided by facts not distorted by politics

I will immediately reform the intelligence system-so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics. I will bring back this nation’s time-honored tradition: America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to. I know what kids go through when they’re carrying an M-16 in a dangerous place and they can’t tell friend from foe. I know what they go through when they’re out on patrol at night & they don’t know what’s coming around. I know what it’s like to write letters home telling your family that everything’s all right when you’re not sure that’s true. I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: “I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm’s way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values from a threat that was real and imminent.” This is the only justification for war.
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 29, 2004

Bring allies to share our burden in fighting terrorism

When I’m in office, our soldiers will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace. I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a President with the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, & reduce the risk to our soldiers. That’s how we can bring our troops home. We need a President who restores America’s respect & leadership-so we don’t have to go it alone in the world, so we can get the terrorists before they get us.
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 29, 2004

Bush has broken his promises & is mismanaging war

Q: You voted for the Iraq resolution but then opposed the $87 billion. Is that inconsistent?

KERRY: It is absolutely consistent, because what I voted for was to hold Saddam accountable but to do it right. This president has done it wrong every step of the way. He has a fraudulent coalition. He promised he would go through the UN and honor the inspections process. He did not. He promised he would go to war as a last resort, words that mean something to me as a veteran. He did not.

Source: Democratic Presidential 2004 Primary Debate in Detroit Oct 27, 2003

Don’t miss 3rd opportunity in Iraq to bring in UN

Q: You voted for, and were a very strong supporter of going to war with Iraq. Going back to the UN, after we basically told the UN that it was irrelevant, what does that do to our standing in the world?

KERRY: It will raise our standing in the world to behave as we ought to, which is to work with other nations. This is the third opportunity of the president to try to get it right.

Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Kerry now fully engaged in fighting Swift Boat Veterans

Three decades after the Vietnam War and nearly two years after Kerry’s failed presidential bid, most Americans have probably forgotten why it ever mattered whether he went to Cambodia or that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused him of making it all up.

But the battle over Kerry’s wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly - because unlike then, Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Kerry’s side, however, have gathered new evidence to support their case.

Swift boat message boards and anti-Kerry Web sites still boil with accusations that Kerry fabricated the military reports that led to his military decorations.

Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard. His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group’s charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Kerry’s valor in combat.

Source: NY Times, "Swift Boat", 2008 speculation May 28, 2006

Kerry releases Navy records to prove his version of Vietnam

Kerry is now fighting back hard against the Swift Boat Veterans’ accusations. While it would be easy to see this as part of Kerry’s exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.

Kerry has signed forms authorizing the Navy to release his record-something he resisted during the campaign-and hired a researcher to comb the naval archives in Washington for records that could pinpoint his whereabouts during dates of the incidents in dispute. Another former crew member has spent days at a time interviewing veterans to reconstruct every incident in question.

Some of Kerry’s friends and former Swift boat crew members made advertisements during the race to try to shoot down the group’s charges. But the campaign declined to air them widely because some strategists said that directly challenging the charges would legitimize them.

Source: NY Times, "Swift Boat", 2008 speculation May 28, 2006

Caught off-guard in 2004 by unexpected attacks on war record

Steve Hayes was an early member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. A former sailor, he was a longtime friend & employee of one of the group’s founders, and he supported the push to have Kerry release his military files. But Hayes came to believe that the group was twisting Kerry’s record. “The mantra was just ‘We want to set the record straight,’ ” Hayes said this month. “It became clear to me that it was morphing from an organization to set the record straight into a highly political vendetta. They knew it was not the truth.“

Of course, plenty of disappointed & angry Democrats would like to know why Kerry did not defend himself so strenuously before the election. Kerry and his defenders say that they did not have the extensive archival material, and that it was too complicated to gather in the rapid pace of a campaign. He was caught off guard, he says; he had been prepared to defend his antiwar activism, but he did not believe that anyone would challenge the facts behind his military awards.

Source: NY Times, "Swift Boat", 2008 speculation May 28, 2006

Swift Boat Vets attack Kerry’s medals

JOHN EDWARDS: If you have any questions about what John Kerry is made of, just spend 3 minutes with the men who served with him.

AD ANNOUNCER: Here’s what those men think of John Kerry.

GEORGE ELLIOTT: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.

LOUIS LETSON: I know John Kerry is lying about his 1st Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.

VAN O’DELL: John Kerry lied to get his bronze star...I know, I was there, I saw what happened.

ANALYSIS: A group funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas began running an attack ad which former Swift Boat veterans claim Kerry lied to get one of his two decorations for bravery and two of his three purple hearts. But the veterans who accuse Kerry are contradicted by Kerry’s former crewmen. One of the accusers says he was on another boat a few yards away during the incident which won Kerry the Bronze Star, but the former Army lieutenant whom Kerry plucked from the water that day backs Kerry’s account.

Source: Ad-Watch analysis by Fact Aug 10, 2004

O’Neil: Kerry’s VVAW comments are libel against veterans

O’NEILL: Mr. Kerry is the type of person who lives and survives only on the war weariness and fears of the American people. This is the same little man who on nationwide television in April spoke of “crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command,” who was quoted in May as saying, “war crimes in Vietnam are the rule and not the exception.” Who brought 50 veterans down to Washington to testify about alleged atrocities in April, the same 50 who refused to provide any depositions or provide any details of any kind.

Never in the course of human events have so many been libeled by so few.

This man has attempted the murder of the reputations of two and a half million of us, including the 55,000 dead in Vietnam, and he will never be brought to justice. We can only seek justice and equity from the American people. Every man kills the thing he loves. By each let this be told: The brave man does it with the sword; the coward with the word.

Source: Debate with John O’Neill on The Dick Cavett Show Jun 30, 1971

VVAW says what’s wrong so we can put out country right

KERRY [to John O’Neill]: Vietnam Veterans Against the War haven’t come back to this country to show bitterness or to tear the country apart or to tear it down. We’re trying to show where the country went wrong, and we believe that as veterans who took part in this war, we can try and say, “Here is where we went wrong and we’ve got to change.” And I think that the attitude of the [John O’Neill’s group] Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace is really, “my country, right or wrong,” which is really on the intellectual level of saying “my mother, drunk or sober.” Just as when your mother is drunk, you take her and dry her out - you take your country, when wrong, and put it right. And that’s what we veterans are trying to do.

We thought we were a moral country, yes, but we are now engaged in the most rampant bombing in the history of mankind. We have dropped more bombs on Laos than we dropped in the entire course of World War II. And I think the question of morality really has to enter in here.

Source: Debate with John O’Neill on The Dick Cavett Show Jun 30, 1971

Voted against a $87 billion supplemental that hurts veterans

BUSH: Kerry says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm’s way, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time? Not a message a commander in chief gives, or this is a great diversion. As well, help is on the way, but it’s certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87-billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it.

KERRY: When I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse? I believe that when you know something’s going wrong, you make it right. That’s what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don’t like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that’s what I did with that vote. And I’m going to lead those troops to victory.

Source: [X-ref Bush] First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL Sep 30, 2004

I’d vote to authorize war, but with allies

On the Iraq war, the Bush campaign has been pressuring Kerry to say whether he would have still voted for the war given the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found. Bush maintains the world is still better off without Saddam Hussein in power. Kerry on Monday said he would have voted to give the president authorization to use force against Iraq “but I would have used that authority effectively.”

Bush and his aides said that was evidence of Kerry flip-flopping from an anti-war stance. “Now, almost two years after he voted for the war in Iraq, and almost 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance. He now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq.“

Kerry’s campaign national security adviser responded, ”The issue has never been whether we were right to hold Saddam accountable, the issue is that we went to war without our allies, without properly equipping our troops and without a plan to win the peace.“

Source: Steve Holland, Reuters Aug 10, 2004

Karl Rove: “Kerry gave green light to Bush on Iraq”

By early February 2004, White House political adviser Karl Rove could see that Iraq was turning into a potential negative. “The good news for us is that Dean is not the nominee,” Rove now argued. But Kerry had voted in favor of the resolution for war. Rove offered some readings from the Kerry record.

“Iraq has developed a chemical weapons capability,” Rove quoted Kerry saying in October 1990. In 1998, Kerry said that Hussein was “pursuing a program to build weapons of mass destruction,” and in October 2002, he said, “The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real. I am prepared to hold Saddam Hussein accountable.”

Kerry’s main response was that Bush did not press hard enough or long enough with the UN, that he did not plan for the aftermath, and was too eager to go to war when Hussein was isolated and weak. But Rove believed they had Kerry pretty cold on voting to give the president a green light for war and then backing off when he didn’t like the aftermath.

Source: Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward, adapted in Washington Post Apr 18, 2004

Bush went to war the wrong way-I voted for the right way

Q: Governor Dean has said that you cast votes that you knew were wrong on the war for political reasons.

KERRY: I stood up to the people of Massachusetts and the country. Those are the people I answer to. There was a right way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and there was a wrong way. The right way was what the president promised, to go to the UN, to respect the building of an international coalition in truth, to exhaust the remedies of inspections and literally to only go to war as a last result

Now, I’ve fought all my life for peace. I fought against the war in Vietnam when I came home. I fought against Ronald Reagan’s illegal war in Central America. I fought with John McCain to make peace in Vietnam. I fought to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable in Cambodia. And on and on. If anybody believes that John Kerry would have in fact gone to war the way George Bush did, they shouldn’t vote for me. I would have stood up and exhausted the remedies and lived up to the values of our country.

Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College Jan 22, 2004

Maybe on $87B for Iraq-repeal Bush tax cut to pay it, if yes

Q: [Bush has asked for] $87 billion for the ongoing war on terrorism. Your vote, yes or no, and if yes, how do you pay for $87 billion?

KERRY: The $87 billion is at issue. I have introduced an amendment that calls on shared sacrifice in America. We need to ask the wealthiest people in our country to bear some of the burden, as our troops and as the middle class in America is bearing the burden.

And so, I believe if we’re going to pass any money at all, it ought to come at the expense of President Bush’s ill-advised, unaffordable tax cut, which is driving this country into deficit.

Secondly, there are some other conditions that I think are critical and, until I know how that comes out in the struggle, I can’t tell you exactly where I’m going to vote.

Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan Sep 25, 2003

Other candidates on War & Peace: John Kerry on other issues:
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