Kerry's 'last resort'

Posted: Jan 27, 2004 12:00 AM

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., can't give a credible explanation as to why he voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991 but then for a 2002 resolution that authorized the use of force in Iraq, even though he now opposes how President Bush is conducting the war.

Kerry told "Fox News Sunday," "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."


For one thing, the October 2002 resolution did not outline a "set of promises" that limited what Bush would do and how he must do it. Au contraire, to the extent that there were promises in the resolution, they were the promises Saddam Hussein failed to keep in the 1991 cease-fire agreement that followed his ignominious defeat by a U.S.-led coalition.

It's true that the Joint Resolution Authorizing Use of Force Against Iraq includes one paragraph that quotes Bush addressing a U.S. commitment to "work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge." The same paragraph, however, continues by noting that the president also made it clear that "the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable."

I don't see a "last resort" in that language. Do you?

Instead, the resolution made references to Hussein's "direct and flagrant violation" of the 1991 cease-fire agreement, Iraq's continued attempts to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi forces firing on U.S. and coalition planes "on many thousands of occasions," as well as Hussein's brutal oppression of his people. Added up, Iraq's aggressive actions "combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself."

Here's another reason why you know Kerry isn't telling the truth. One month before Kerry voted aye, Bush delivered a speech to the United Nations in which he made it clear that America would act against Iraq if the United Nations continued to allow Hussein to violate the U.N. cease-fire agreement and U.N. resolutions. As Kerry's hometown paper, the Boston Globe, reported, "The president left little doubt that the United States reserved the right to strike first. In the absence of definitive steps by the United Nations, he said, the United States will go it alone."

"Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?" Bush asked the United Nations.

So Kerry can't say he trusted Bush not to wage war against Hussein -- and expect to be believed. It makes you wonder whether he believes voters -- and journalists -- won't remember the events surrounding the resolution. Or maybe he thinks that Democrats want a nominee who talks out of both sides of his mouth.

"I know I can make the tough decisions," Kerry told The Washington Post this week.

I know that Kerry can run away from the tough decisions. He voted to authorize the war against Hussein -- and now that the war is unpopular among key primary voters, he won't stand by his vote.

On a related note, readers should be clear on what outgoing chief weapons inspector David Kay is saying. It's big news that Kay told The New York Times he believes there are no large caches of weapons of mass destruction.

It's important to note, however, that Kay does believe there may have been small caches. Kay also said the Iraqis were working on research and development for the biological weapon ricin "right up until" the U.S. led coalition invaded Iraq in March. He also said that Iraq had begun retooling its nuclear weapons program in 2000 and 2001 and that officers in the Republican Guard told interrogators they had believed other units possessed biological or chemical weapons. And: "The only comment I ever had from the president was to find the truth. I never got any pressure to find a certain outcome."

Kay may refute the once catholic belief that Iraq held significant stockpiles of newly manufactured weapons of mass destruction, but he paints the picture of a country that was a danger to the world.

Most important, Kay said: "We know that terrorists were passing through Iraq. And now we know that there was little control over Iraq's weapons capabilities. I think it shows that Iraq was a very dangerous place. The country had the technology, the ability to produce, and there were terrorist groups passing through the country -- and no central control."

Readers should not forget that it was what we didn't know that scared us.