Bush Campaign Lies

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #58: John Kerry has a 'Record of Contradiction' on Iraq's WMD 

The Bush folks have a brand new smear online to convince you that Kerry has a 'record of contradictions' on Iraq.

Their presentation is confusing, but perhaps that's done intentionally. By presenting their evidence in a confusing way, the reader will come away thinking 'I'm confused. That must mean Kerry really does have a record of contradiction!' For one thing, they present their arguments in reverse chronological order. For another, they actually make five separate arguments against Kerry, and then throw in some random stuff about weapons inspectors and Bill Clinton just to make things extra confusing. Of the 19 items presented, they break down like this:

  1. Discussion of Kerry's vote against the $87 billion supplemental funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan (items 2, 5 and 6).
  2. Statements Kerry made to the effect that Saddam's removal would be a good thing (items 17, 19).
  3. Statements Kerry made suggesting that Iraq had WMD or something like it (items 8, 9, 13, 15 and 18).
  4. One statement Kerry made suggesting that Saddam had ties to terrorism (item 14).
  5. Kerry's support of the war and/or Bush's decision to go to war (3, 4, 7, 10, 11, 12).
  6. Random stuff (items 1 and 16).
Let's knock off item (6) first. It's true that Iraq ceased its cooperation with weapons inspectors on October 31, 1998, and it's also true that Kerry said 'When Bill Clinton left office, not one young American in uniform was dying in a war anywhere in this world.' The Bushies never explain how these facts are relevant to their claim.

Anyway. We have already extensively discussed item (1). Kerry voted against the $87 billion to protest Bush's lack of a clear plan to bring democracy to Iraq, and he wouldn't have voted against it if there had been any doubt about the bill passing overwhelmingly. But it makes a good sound bite for the ill-informed, so you can expect the Republicans to keep repeating this from now 'til November. One bit we haven't addressed previously is Kerry's maladroit 'I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it' statement, which sounds pretty dopey, I'll admit. But when one reads the context of this statement, it's clear that Kerry is referring to the amendment he authored which would have taken the $87 billion out of Bush's tax cuts.

Bottom line: Kerry is always, consistently, supporting our troops. And he will apply political leverage whenever possible to make sure it's done right.

The rest of this post will be devoted to item (3), and items (2) and (5) will be handled in a future post. I don't have a response to item (4) right now.

For item (3), all inconsistency comes from the Bush administration, and they're bashing Kerry for responding to it appropriately. To begin with, no one has ever seriously doubted that Saddam Hussein wanted WMD. So it doesn't mean too much when the Bushies provide part of a Kerry floor speech from 1997, in which he says:

[Saddam Hussein] cannot be permitted to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a matter about which there should be any debate whatsoever in the Security Council, or, certainly, in this Nation. If he remains obdurate, I believe that the United Nations must take, and should authorize immediately, whatever steps are necessary to force him to relent . . . .
Notice, Kerry does not say that Hussein has the weapons, merely that he wants them. Note also Kerry's consistent emphasis that the UN is the appropriate body to insure Hussein's desires are not fulfilled.

Similarly, a Kerry quote from a 2001 airing of "Face the Nation", only says (maybe) that Hussein wants WMD: 'Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, and there is some evidence of their efforts to try to secure these kinds of weapons and even test them.' Actually, he was probably talking about al-Qaeda or other terrorists --- note that he says 'their efforts' instead of 'his efforts'. Read the whole transcript for yourself and see what you think (Kerry's quote is mistakenly attributed to Bob Graham).

The first time Kerry actually suggests that Hussein has WMD is in a floor speech on October 9, 2002 on the resolution authorizing use of force in Iraq. Why would Kerry suddenly believe that Iraq had the weapons, rather than merely wanting them? Well, probably because in October 2002, a classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared jointly by U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Iraq 'has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions'. Further, it stated that Iraq had:

Since there was no reason a priori for Kerry to doubt that report's conclusions, he included that 'fact' in his floor speech, and then went on to support the resolution. (By the way, in this same speech Kerry emphasized the need to work with the UN Security Council, and to '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 . . . .')

But, as we found out in June 2003, the report was full of misinformation. It turns out that a preliminary report in September 2002, which Kerry never saw, as well as a follow-up report in November 2002, found 'no reliable information' that Iraq was producing or stockpiling chemical weapons. This inconsistency in the administration's NIE leads directly to the very 'inconsistency' the Bush campaign is now trying to pin on Kerry. This is why George Stephanopoulos was asking Kerry, on June 15, whether Bush had hyped the intelligence, and this is why Kerry stated on June 18 that 'He misled every one of us.'

Again: In September 2002, a preliminary report states there is 'no reliable information' about Iraq's WMD capability. This report does not become public until 8 months later. In October 2002, U.S. intelligence releases to Congress a National Intelligence Estimate concluding that Saddam does have WMD. Then in November 2002, a follow-up to the September report, again private, confirms there is no reliable information about Iraq's WMD.

Is John Kerry the inconsistent one here?

9:58 PM