Mary Mostert
February 8, 2004
Sen. John Kerry 1997 vs Sen. John Kerry 2004 on Iraq's WMD
By Mary Mostert

On January 25, 2004, on Fox News, Chris Wallace asked Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry why he had voted against the resolution to confront Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait but voted for the resolution to invade Iraq. Kerry said in response: "We were misled; misled not only in the intelligence, but misled in the way that the president took us to war. ...I think there's been an enormous amount of exaggeration, stretching, deception."

Yet, John Kerry has been giving speechs for more than 6 years about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. In fact, on January 28, 1998, with Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House, Sen. Kerry voted for Senate Concurrent Resolution 71 which warned of the "continued threat" posed by "Iraq's refusal to "end its weapons of mass destruction programs." That resolution, entitled "Iraq's Threat to International Peace and Security" stated:

    "Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring

    (1) Condemns in the strongest possible terms the continued threat to international peace and security posed by Iraq's refusal to meet its international obligations and end its weapons of mass destruction programs;

On November 9, 1997, John Kerry had told America, from the floor of the Senate in a speech entitled, "We Must be Firm with Saddam Hussein":

    In my judgment, the Security Council should authorize a strong U.N. military response that will materially damage, if not totally destroy, as much as possible of the suspected infrastructure for developing and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, as well as key military command and control nodes. Saddam Hussein should pay a grave price, in a currency that he understands and values, for his unacceptable behavior.

    This should not be a strike consisting only of a handful of cruise missiles hitting isolated targets primarily of presumed symbolic value. But how long this military action might continue and how it may escalate should Saddam remain intransigent and how extensive would be its reach are for the Security Council and our allies to know and for Saddam Hussein ultimately to find out. ...

So, while Kerry was trying to GET Bill Clinton to get the UN to take action, or approve action which undoubtedly would have required American money and American troops under the direction of the United Nations to solve the problem of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, he now is saying that GEORGE BUSH was lying about weapons of mass destruction?

If George W. Bush has "misled" the American people in 2003 about Saddam Hussein having Weapons of Mass Destruction what exactly was Kerry doing when he voted to condemn Iraq for not ending "its weapons of mass destruction programs" in 1998?

BELOW: Transcript of Kerry's statements about Iraq, Saddam Hussein and the danger Saddam posed to the entire world and Kerry's frequent urgings that someone do something about it


WALLACE: Let's talk about national security.

KERRY: ... strong on jobs.

WALLACE: Let's talk about national security. In 1995, you were the only sponsor of a bill to cut $1.5 billion from intelligence spending over the next five years.

KERRY: Right.

WALLACE: And in 1997, you said that the intelligence apparatus was too big...

KERRY: Absolutely.

WALLACE: ... there were higher priorities.

KERRY: Right.

WALLACE: And then in 2001, after 9/11, you complained and said, "Why wasn't our intelligence better?"

KERRY: Let me tell you exactly why I did that. I went to Moscow shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. I got out of an airplane, and I looked around me, and there wasn't a light, barely, that worked in the airport. There wasn't a new truck in the parking lots.

I went to the foreign office, and there were 12 telephones on a desk. And I asked, "This guy must be really important. Why does he have 12 phones?" They said, "Because they don't know how to hook up all the phone lines into one phone."

And this was the country that we supposedly had to fear marching through Poland...

WALLACE: But the intelligence, obviously, could have helped against the...


KERRY: Intelligence failed us, because I was on the Intelligence Committee. What we were trying to do, some of us, was push the funding not into technical means there was a fascination always with satellites and listening devices, not with human intelligence.

I've always been somebody who has felt that we needed human intelligence. That's our failure. That was the failure with respect to 9/11. That remains the greatest gap in our intelligence.

So I wanted to reduce some spending from the national technical means and change the culture of our intelligence gathering. I believe we need to strengthen that, obviously now, post-9/11, but I wrote a book in 1996, Chris, called "The New War," and in that book, after that vote, I wrote about how we needed to strengthen our ability to be able to fight international criminal crime, including terror. In fact, I wrote a chapter called "The Globalization of Terror," and I said, four years before New York, it'll take one megaterrorist event in one of our cities to change life as we know it in America.

I think we deserve a president who does see ahead and who knows how to allocate resources correctly.

WALLACE: Senator, let's talk about that, seeing ahead. One of the joys of being a front-runner is, you're getting hit not only by the Republicans...

KERRY: No, I like it. They're...

WALLACE: ... but also by your fellow Democrats.

KERRY: ... emptying out the wastebasket, and it's great. We're going to be able to deal with each of these, and I'm happy to.

WALLACE: All right.

KERRY: I'll answer any question.

WALLACE: Terrific.

Governor Dean yesterday said that questioning your judgment, said, here's a guy who voted against going to war against Saddam Hussein in 1991 after he'd invaded Kuwait, but on the other hand he voted for going to war against Saddam Hussein in 2002 when it turns out there may not have been a threat.

KERRY: Well, you see, once again that's a framing of the issue that's incorrect.

But, secondly, it's interesting, you know, Governor Dean, in the last few days, after saying, two days ago, he was going to stop running a negative campaign, has attacked Alan Greenspan, attacked all of his opponents and attacked me.

Now, I wonder...

WALLACE: What does that say to you?

KERRY: Well, I wonder when he's going to stop running the negative campaign he said he was going to stop running.

Now, I'm happy to answer that. I did indeed vote the way I voted in 1991. I thought we ought to kick Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. I said so on the floor of the Senate. But with the memories of Vietnam, I also thought we ought to take a couple of months more to build the support in the country.

With respect to this time, I voted to give the authority to the president to use force under a set of promises by the president as to how he would do it: build a legitimate international coalition, exhaust the remedies of the United Nations, and go to war as a last resort. He broke every single one of those promises.

And that's why I'm the best candidate to run against him and beat him, because I knew we had to hold Saddam Hussein accountable but I knew how to do it the right way. President Bush did it the wrong way.

WALLACE: While we're discussing Iraq, David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons inspector, says he's now concluded that Iraq had no stockpiles of biological or chemical weapons before we went to war.

KERRY: Right.

WALLACE: And now Secretary of State Powell says, you know what, Kay may be right.

What do you make of that?

KERRY: It confirms what I have said for a long period of time, that we were misled misled not only in the intelligence, but misled in the way that the president took us to war.

And, again, I repeat, Colin Powell came to our committee. I personally asked him the questions, along with Paul Sarbanes. And we went down the list of 16 resolutions at the U.N. that they'd given as a reason to go to war.

He eliminated every one of them, with the exception of one. The only rationale for going to war, according to Colin Powell, who spoke for the administration, were weapons of mass destruction. That was the license he was given by the United States Senate.

Now, we had inspections going on. The U.N., Hans Blix said, "They haven't complied completely, but we'd like to inspect a little further." The president...

WALLACE: But if I may ask you...

KERRY: Let me just finish now. The president...

WALLACE: Let me just ask you specifically about this. Did...

KERRY: The president cut off that process. He chose the date to start this war. He said, the time for diplomacy is over.

I talked to Kofi Annan...

WALLACE: But you voted in your decision to support it I've looked at your speech on the floor of the Senate. You talked about these weapons of mass destruction. Obviously you read the intelligence.


WALLACE: Do you believe that Colin Powell, the president, when they were talking about this threat, were speaking in good faith and just were misled, as you were, or do you think they cooked the books?

KERRY: I don't know the answer to that. I trust Colin Powell implicitly. He's a friend of mine, and I think he's a terrific person, and I would not want to believe that...

WALLACE: Do you trust George W. Bush?

KERRY: I believe that Dick Cheney exaggerated, clearly.

When they talked about weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed in 45 minutes, there were none.

When they talked about aerial devices that could deliver, there were none. When they talked about the linkage to Al Qaida that they've now exaggerated, but they themselves said then there was no smoking gun. They said it. Now they say there was a linkage.

I think there's been an enormous amount of exaggeration, stretching, deception.

And the question is still unanswered as to what Dick Cheney was doing over at the CIA personally in those weeks leading up to the war.

WALLACE: And when you see what David Kay said, do you believe that the president was part of a willful effort to mislead the American people?

KERRY: I would never suggest that about a president of the United States without adequate evidence. I don't know the answer to it. But I do know this...

WALLACE: But you're suggesting it about the vice president?

KERRY: I know the vice president either misspoke or misled the American people, but he did so in a way that gave Congress men and women, who have since said I mean, very good people, good Americans who voted in good conscious, have stood up and said, "I was misled."

This administration has to be accountable for that. And they haven't yet accounted for it.

WALLACE: All right, Senator. We have to take a break. But when we return, I want to ask you about a lot of other questions, including your decision to put $6.5 million of your own money into your campaign.

© Mary Mostert

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Mary Mostert

Mary Mostert is a nationally-respected political writer. She was one of the first female political commentators to be published in a major metropolitan newspaper in the 1960s... (more)


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