Was Kerry Brainwashed About Iraq?

Roundup: Media's Take

Editorial in the WSJ (Feb. 2, 2004):

Was John Kerry brainwashed? That's what we've been wondering as the new Democratic frontrunner struggles to explain his off-again-on-again-off-again support for confronting Saddam Hussein.

Some of our readers may recall that"brainwashing" is the word that turned the late George W. Romney into a footnote in American political history. In the summer of 1967, the Michigan Governor was the leading contender for the 1968 GOP Presidential nod. Then he told a Detroit television station that during a trip to Vietnam he had had"the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get" regarding the increasingly unpopular war. Romney was quickly laughed out of the race.

Now Mr. Kerry seems to be concocting his own Romney-like rationale for changing his mind on Iraq, specifically on weapons of mass destruction. Back in 1991, the Massachusetts Senator opposed President George H.W. Bush's U.N.-backed effort to drive Saddam from Kuwait. But on October 11, 2002 he nonetheless voted to give the current President Bush the unilateral authority"to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate."

So why did the Senator later vote against the $87 billion appropriation to finish the job in Iraq (and Afghanistan), while accusing Mr. Bush of pursuing a" cut-and-run" strategy? Well, he now claims, he was"repeatedly misled" about Iraq's weapons by Bush officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell. And he is demanding an investigation.

But is it really likely that this savvy Washington insider was hoodwinked? As an 18-year member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has spent plenty of time thinking about how to handle Iraq. He also had privileged and direct access to U.S. intelligence, the same data that led President Clinton into a military confrontation with Saddam in 1998, which was the same year"regime change" became stated U.S. policy after Mr. Kerry allowed the Iraq Liberation Act to pass the Senate with unanimous consent.

Presumably, similar intelligence played a role in Senator Kerry's speech on October 9, 2002 that"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction [our emphasis] in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." If Mr. Kerry was misled into believing in such a threat, so were the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Madeleine Albright and Senator Carl Levin, all of whom made similarly unequivocal statements on the matter.

Nor does it appear to have been any contrary evidence that started Mr. Kerry's drift back into the antiwar camp. Rather it was the sudden traction Mr. Dean was getting with his antiwar message that led Mr. Kerry in January 2003 to start accusing Mr. Bush of a"rush to war." These days Mr. Kerry has more or less adopted the entire Dean line, decrying as"fraudulent" a coalition that includes most of our key allies from World Wars I and II.

Mr. Kerry has an explanation for all this, sort of. He says Saddam should have been evicted from Kuwait but voted"no" on the first Gulf War to give the former President Bush more time to amass domestic support. He says his"yes" vote in 2002 was premised on this President Bush attracting more international help. He didn't, he told Rolling Stone, expect Mr. Bush to"f -- it up as badly as he did."

Hell, we might curse too if we felt obliged to offer up such a tortured rationale. We're not the only ones who've noticed. Washington Post columnist David Broder, no Republican shill, recently suggested to Mr. Kerry that it would be difficult for him to explain to voters that"your 'no' [in 1991] did not mean no, and your 'yes' [in 2002] did not mean yes."

The Occam's Razor explanation, it seems to us, is that the former Naval Lieutenant tacks with the political winds -- and not just over the course of years and months but of days. The liberal New Republic magazine recently republished two Kerry letters to the same constituent in 1991, one appearing to support the Gulf War, the other to oppose it.

We think Mr. Kerry knows full well that there was no Administration conspiracy to mislead anybody this time around. Intelligence on Iraq was indeed faulty, as weapons inspector David Kay told Senators last week. But Mr. Kay was emphatic that any mistakes were not because of Administration pressure. Meanwhile, the prior occupant of the White House continues to believe the WMD existed. The Portuguese Prime Minister says Mr. Clinton told him recently"he was absolutely convinced, given his years in the White House and the access to privileged information which he had, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction until the end of the Saddam regime."

All of which raises the vital question of Mr. Kerry's constancy and character. In the Romney era, at least, some sort of consistency on matters of war and peace -- or at least a plausible explanation for a change of heart -- was considered a prerequisite for would-be commanders-in-chief. Shouldn't it still be today?

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Jay Ell Bee - 11/22/2005

The poster has forgetten to include just what Kerry considers "if necessary". In the same speech, he goes on to say, "In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days — to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.

If we do wind up going to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent — and I emphasize 'imminent' — threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs."
Snopes.com has an article that shows how similiar quotes from Democrats have been taken out of context to "show" their support of the war here: