Keene [N.H.] Sentinel

Sunday, October 24, 2004 

John Kerry 

Those who remain troubled by Senator John Kerry’s vote October 9, 2002, to authorize military action against Iraq can take a measure of  inspiration from the remarks he made that day in a speech to the Senate. All President George W. Bush wanted was enough congressional votes to allow him to start a war, and he got them. But Kerry served up his vote accompanied by some very good advice. He warned:

“The administration may not be in the habit of building coalitions, but that is what they need to do. And it is what can be done. If we go it alone without reason, we risk inflaming an entire region, breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots, and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day, even with Saddam Hussein disarmed.”

As Americans go to the polls in a few days, they would do well to compare that clear-headed warning to the false assurances and misinformation from the president as he led the country into a pointless war. The question now before the nation is whether we will inflict upon ourselves and our children the likely consequences of four more years of similarly   delusional and deceptive foreign policies.

There are many reasons to vote for Senator Kerry over President Bush. Kerry offers more enlightened approaches to economic policy, education,  environmental protection, job creation, medical research, health insurance,  personal privacy,  Social Security, tax policy — most of the matters that are on Americans’ minds from day to day. In normal times, these moderate and rational stands would be enough to recommend him to the White House.

But these are not normal times, the nation is at war, and so there is another, even more important, reason to vote for Kerry.

   Bush initially responded to a terrible attack on American soil responsibly and in measured fashion by striking at those responsible in Afghanistan. But then he lashed out wildly in a different direction to topple Saddam Hussein. It was an extraordinary and unnecessary action. Some former Bush officials contend that he had planned it all along. In any event, he confused and angered much of the world, while, as Kerry predicted, breeding a new generation of terrorists in Islamic nations. Americans, who always support and defend their country in times of trouble, are wondering how best to react to this exceptional act of governmental malpractice. 

   There is, of course, no turning back now. Going to war in Iraq was at best a huge error of judgment, but it has created the very dilemma it was sold to the country to prevent: The president has turned Iraq into an international center for Islamic fanatics bent on the destruction of the United States. No Vietnam-style retreat is possible. Our country must persevere.

That will require wisdom, toughness and the cooperation of those around the world who still retain confidence in American ideals. The question for November 2 Tuesday is which candidate we should entrust with the task of undoing the damage: the man who bumbled and dissembled his nation into the Iraq disaster, or the man who warned of the danger in advance? In this context, a vote for Kerry could be seen as an expression of both patriotism and self-interest.

 Copyright © 2004 The Keene Sentinel.  Reprinted by permission.  (Guy MacMillin, Dec. 14, 2004)