Kerry on Iraq War, Honest, Consistent, and Right
Republican Smear Video Distorts the Truth
Republican Smear Video Distorts the Truth

Anatomy of a Smear Video

Kerry says Hussein is a serious threat, we need to get tough with him and pressure him to submit to inspections, and ultimately look to get him out of power, but that we do not need to go straight to war

The GOP video first cuts one clip to suggest that Kerry is ready to go to war immediately, as he talks about being ready to use ground troops if necessary. But the very next thing he said was “I don’t think you have to start there” -- that is, you don't have to start with ground troops. Of course, that line was cut out of the GOP video. Kerry says Clinton proposes bombing Iraq if it does not comply, and Kerry questions whether that will be effective in the long run, because it probably won't succeed in opening Iraq up to inspections. His point is that the Administration needs to deal with Saddam in a more serious way -- first getting weapons inspections going and ultimately doing everything possible to get him our of power -- but he does not advocate invading Iraq, because that isn't necessary, at least not as a first step. There are other methods available for disrupting Saddam's regime.

KERRY: I think there is a disconnect between the depth of the threat that Saddam Hussein presents to the world and what we are at the moment talking about doing. If indeed he is as significant a threat, as you heard him characterized by the president [Clinton], the secretary of state, the secretary of defense — can threaten London, threaten the peace of the Middle East, that he is really a war criminal who is already at war with the civilized world — then we have to be prepared to go the full distance, which is to do everything possible to disrupt his regime and to encourage the forces of democracy.

ROBERTS: And does that mean ground troops in Iraq?

KERRY: I am personally prepared, if that's what it meant. I don't think you have to start there. I think there are a number of other options. But what I hear from the administration, thus far, is if he doesn't comply, then we will hit him. The obvious question is, after you've hit him, have you opened up your inspections?

Well, I think the answer is probably not, certainly not in the near term. After you've hit him, is he still in power, capable of building weapons again? Every bit of intelligence John and I have says within various periods of time, he can rebuild both chemical and biological. And every indication is, because of his deception and duplicity in the past, he will seek to do that. So we will not eliminate the problem for ourselves or for the rest of the world with a bombing attack.

In another part of the conversation, George Will asks whether Kerry is saying that the danger posed by Saddam is not worth fighting about on the ground, and Kerry says that’s not what he said, that in fact he does think it’s worth fighting about on the ground but that you don’t have to start with that. He says there are other ways to squeeze Saddam and presumably get him out of power, but says he’s prepared to use force if necessary. In other words, once again Kerry is talking about getting tough with Saddam but in a more skillful way than either dropping bombs or invading.

In keeping with their usual technique, the GOP video editors give you only the portion where Kerry talks about our need to stand up to Saddam, not the part where he talks about use of troops as “your last position” and finding ways to “deprive [Saddam] of the ability to survive” by methods other than invasion. In other contexts, he has talked about clandestine operations and encouraging opposition within Iraq, and we can assume that's what he's talking about here.

KERRY: Well, first of all, George, I don't believe it's not worth fighting for on the ground. And I think that's your last position, and there are many things you can do. And I'm quite confident you can make his life sufficiently miserable and deprive him of the ability to survive without necessarily having to reach that level. But I'm prepared to go to that level. And the reason is very simple believe he is the kind of threat that has been described. I believe that in the post- Cold War period this issue of proliferation, particularly in the hands of Saddam Hussein, is critical. It has implications for a Qaddafi, for a Sudan, for other countries in the world in the future.

WILL: Senator Kerry, you're way ahead of the commander in chief in this regard.

KERRY: I am way ahead of the commander in chief, and I'm probably way ahead of my colleagues and certainly of much of the country. But I believe this. I believe that he has used these weapons before. He has invaded another country. He views himself as a modern-day Nebuchadnezzar. He wants to continue to play the uniting critical role in that part of the world. And I think we have to stand up to that.

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