Presidential Debate-Question 7
University of Miami - Coral Gables, FL - September 30, 2004
Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
KERRY: No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put -- that I'm offering.
I believe that we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that. And from the beginning, I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence.
But I also laid out a very strict series of things we needed to do in order to proceed from a position of strength. Then the president, in fact, promised them. He went to Cincinnati and he gave a speech in which he said, "We will plan carefully. We will proceed cautiously. We will not make war inevitable. We will go with our allies."
He didn't do any of those things. They didn't do the planning. They left the planning of the State Department in the State Department desks. They avoided even the advice of their own general. General Shinsheki, the Army chief of staff, said you're going to need several hundred thousand troops. Instead of listening to him, they retired him. The terrorism czar, who has worked for every president since Ronald Reagan, said, "Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor." That's what we have here.
And what we need now is a president who understands how to bring these other countries together to recognize their stakes in this. They do have stakes in it. They've always had stakes in it.
The Arab countries have a stake in not having a civil war. The European countries have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep.
But this president hasn't even held the kind of statesman-like summits that pull people together and get them to invest in those states. In fact, he's done the opposite. He pushed them away.
When the Secretary General Kofi Annan offered the United Nations, he said, "No, no, we'll go do this alone."
To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war, they actually issued a memorandum from the Defense Department saying, "If you weren't with us in the war, don't bother applying for any construction."
That's not a way to invite people.
LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
BUSH: That's totally absurd. Of course, the U.N. was invited in. And we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled out after Sergio de Mello got killed. But they're now back in helping with elections.
My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war. What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.
Plus, he says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to call upon nations to serve. So what's the message going to be: "Please join us in Iraq. We're a grand diversion. Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?"
I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They're not going to follow somebody who says, "This is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time."
I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently.
They're not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. They're not going to follow somebody whose core convictions keep changing because of politics in America.
And finally, he says we ought to have a summit. Well, there are summits being held. Japan is going to have a summit for the donors; $14 billion pledged. And Prime Minister Koizumi is going to call countries to account, to get them to contribute.
And there's going to be an Arab summit, of the neighborhood
And Colin Powell helped set up that summit.
LEHRER: Forty seconds, Senator.
KERRY: The United Nations, Kofi Annan offered help after Baghdad fell. And we never picked him up on that and did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always American-run.
Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries: Great
Australia and the United States. That's not a grand coalition. We can
LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
BUSH: Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now there's 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops.
And I honor their sacrifices. And I don't appreciate it when candidate for president denigrates the contributions of these brave soldiers.
You cannot lead the world if you do not honor the
who are with us. He called them coerced and the bribed. That's not how
you bring people together.