WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kerry, who approved the use of force against Saddam Hussein by the Bush administration, but now, as a presidential candidate, claims he cast that vote only because he was deceived, was ready for war on Iraq in November 1997, according to statements he made on a CNN debate show.
Kerry sparred with CNN “Crossfire” co-host John Sununu Nov. 12, 1997, using language that sounded remarkably similar to the rhetoric of the Bush administration six years later – criticizing the United Nations and allies France and Russia for not standing tougher against Iraq.
“Well, John, you’re correct that this resolution is less than we would have liked,” said Kerry. “I don’t think anybody can deny that we would have liked it to have threatened force and we would have liked it to carry the term ‘serious consequences will flow.’ On the other hand, the coalition is together. I mean the fact is there is a unanimous statement by the Security Council and the United Nations that there has to be immediate, unrestricted, unconditional access to the sites. That’s very strong language. And it also references the underlying resolution on which the use of force is based. So clearly the allies may not like it, and I think that’s our great concern – where’s the backbone of Russia, where’s the backbone of France, where are they in expressing their condemnation of such clearly illegal activity? But in a sense, they’re now climbing into a box and they will have enormous difficulty not following up on this if there is not compliance by Iraq.”
Audio tapes of the remarkable debate will be played today on Joseph Farah’s nationally syndicated daily radio program broadcast live from the nation’s capital. They were obtained from Monica Crowley, host of a radio show on WABC in New York.
Kerry, who now blames Bush for not achieving a broader international alliance in the war, said in 1997 nothing other nations had to say would stop the U.S. and Clinton from acting in defense of America’s security interests.
“There’s absolutely no statement that they have made or that they will make that will prevent the United States of America and this president or any president from acting in what they believe are the best interests of our country,” said Kerry. “And obviously it’s disappointing. It was disappointing a month ago not to have the French and the Russians understanding that they shouldn’t give any signals of weakening on the sanctions and I think those signals would have helped bring about this crisis because they permitted Saddam Hussein to interpret that maybe the moment was right for him to make this challenge.”
Kerry said it was clear the U.S. did not need allies nor the U.N. to force its will on Iraq.
“The administration is leading.” said Kerry. “The administration is making it clear that they don’t believe that they even need the U.N. Security Council to sign off on a material breach because the finding of material breach was made by Mr. (Richard) Butler. So furthermore, I think the United States has always reserved the right and will reserve the right to act in its best interests. And clearly it is not just our best interests, it is in the best interests of the world to make it clear to Saddam Hussein that he’s not going to get away with a breach of the ’91 agreement that he’s got to live up to, which is allowing inspections and dismantling his weapons and allowing us to know that he has dismantled his weapons. That’s the price he pays for invading Kuwait and starting a war.”
Kerry blamed France’s objections to force against Iraq on monetary interests.
“The fact is that over a period of time France and Russia have indicated a monetary interest,” he said. “They on their own have indicated the desire to do business. That’s what’s driving this. I mean, as (The New York Times’) Tom Friedman said in a great article the other day, France Inc. wants to do business with oil and they are moving in the exact sort of opposite direction on their own from the very cause of the initial conflict, which was oil.”
Kerry made clear that the move against Iraq was about more than weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s efforts to back out of its agreements. He also left no doubt he was talking about war.
“This is not just a minor confrontation,” said Kerry. “This is a very significant issue about the balance of power, about the future stability of the Middle East, about all of what we have thus far invested in the prior war and what may happen in the future.”
Kerry, who now boasts about the support he has from other nations around the world, was particularly tough on France in his comments urging force in Iraq. He said the Clinton administration did all it could behind the scenes to pull France into agreement.
“It’s not the first time France has been very difficult. … ” he said. “I think a lot of us are very disappointed that the French haven’t joined us in a number of other efforts with respect to China, with respect to other issues in Asia and elsewhere and also in Europe. These are, this is a disappointment. But the fact is this. The president has, in effect, put military action on the table. Secretary (Richard) Cohen canceled his trip, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff canceled a trip, troops are deployed, the aircraft carriers are being brandished. There’s no misunderstanding here about where the United States is prepared to go and I think that people need to just sort of back off. It’s funny how in Washington inevitably there are always distinctions to be found, even if they’re only at the margins here, and I would suggest that if all we’re doing is suggesting that the president needs to be doing some diplomacy behind-the-scenes, that’s not a bad criticism because he’s obviously doing that behindthe scenes.”
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