John Kerry: 'George Bush Lite' on Iraq

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Senator
John Forbes Kerry is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
He offers voters very little choice on the single most important
issue the presidential candidates will debate this election season.
Kerry has failed to articulate a clear, compelling plan for how
he plans to win the war in Iraq and protect the US from terrorism.
This inability to make an impression on the minds of American voters
is evidenced by a recent CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll showing
that while the majority of Americans believe sending troops to Iraq
was a mistake, when asked who they trust with the nation’s
foreign policy, the majority picks Bush over Kerry. Not exactly
a winning strategy for a challenger seeking to stand out as a strong,
proven leadership alternative to the “war president.”

Kerry’s
vague generalities about internationalizing the situation in Iraq
and rebuilding old alliances are simply inadequate. He has criticized
the Bush administration while simultaneously promising to keep US
troops in Iraq at least until, what would be, the fourth year of
his first term (2008). Historically, Kerry’s record on defense
issues is very weak. The Democratic Convention, later this month,
is Kerry’s opportunity to establish his identity with the electorate
as something other than “Bush Lite” when it comes to Iraq
and the war on terror. He has a lot of work to do.

Articulating
a vision for the presidential campaign is not much better across
party lines.

President
Bush’s vision for the future of the country, and in particular
for those Americans at risk of life and limb – the 165,000
US soldiers and Marines deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan –
are vaguely summed-up in the president’s request that voters
reelect him so he can make the nation "safer and stronger and
better." It does not really go much beyond that.

I
am certain Karl Rove, his operatives and the party apparatus will
gin something else up in time for the GOP convention in New York.
As the incumbent, the election is Bush’s to lose, so given
the president’s eloquence, maybe the less said the better as
far as Karl and the kids are concerned. Whatever they dream up in
the way of a policy agenda – it hopefully will not entail any
additional drunken sailor spending on budget-busting discretionary
programs further increasing the ballooning deficit. You remember,
the one VP Cheney claims “doesn’t matter.”

Let’s
stick to what the Bush/Cheney team believes is their strong suit:
national security. The Bush Doctrine, as applied to Iraq, consisted
of four elements: 1) The United States should act preemptively to
prevent strikes on U.S. targets; 2) unilateral action (or with a
select coalition) when traditional allies or the United Nations
balk; 3) Iraq was the main battlefield in the global war on terrorism;
and, 4) Iraq’s transformation into a new democracy would transform
the region.

It’s
not looking too good for the Bush Doctrine right now: 1) No WMD;
2) a phony “Coalition of the Willing” that’s collapsing
in slow motion, with cautious, belated “help” from NATO
allies; 3) Both US (9/11 Commission and Senate Intelligence Committee
reports) and UK (Butler Report) reports that detail the intelligence
failures behind the WMD humiliation, and forever explode the Iraq-al
Qaeda cooperation myth; and 4) a sophisticated insurgency (including
international jihadis) that threatens the interim Iraqi government
and US troops, while regional Arab leaders become increasingly disillusioned
with US leadership.

President
Bush promises withdrawal, "As soon as democracy and stability
are achieved." Translation: Never.

Don’t
be too surprised; after all, President Bush is a man of his word:

“The
most important thing for us is to find Osama bin Laden. It’s
our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.”

George W. Bush
President
of the United States
September
13, 2001

Six
months later. . .

“I don’t
know where he is. I have no idea and I really don’t care.
It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”

George W. Bush
President
of the United States
March
13, 2002

So,
it should not come as a shock when it’s pointed out that last
spring the New York Times reported unnamed senior Bush administration
officials as saying a “new relationship with Iraq” would
grant the US permanent access to four bases: at the Baghdad international
airport, at Tallil near Nassiriya in the south, at the H-1 airstrip
in western Iraq, and at the Bashur airfield in the Kurdish north.
After all, democracy and stability have to be achieved, right?

Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld quickly denied the permanent basing report, but
quite frankly, that means nothing. Secretary Rumsfeld has repeatedly
proven he is not to be believed – especially on “sticky”
matters such as: Osama bin Laden, WMD, torture, civilian casualties,
“enemy combatants,” and legal due process.

Senator
Kerry could set himself apart from President Bush by expressly renouncing
the Bush Doctrine and calling for a return to the Powell Doctrine.
For those who dropped the Powell Doctrine down the “memory
hole,” essentially, the Powell Doctrine expresses: 1) that
military action should be used only as a last resort and only when
there is a direct threat to national security by the intended target;
2) the force, when used, should be overwhelming and disproportionate
to the enemy’s force; 3) there must be strong support for the
campaign by the general public; and, 4) and there must be a clear
exit strategy from the conflict in which the military is engaged.

By
calling for a return to the Powell Doctrine, Kerry can offer a previously
accepted, proven US policy alternative to the American people. Adopting
the Powell Doctrine at this point would plausibly allow an acceleration
of our withdrawal from Iraq, based, in part, upon the notion that
the American public was misled by the Bush administration about
WMD, Iraqi collaboration with al Qaeda, and the broader objectives
of Bush’s neocon handlers. This approach would also be consistent
with some of Kerry’s vague language about internationalization.

On
April 9, 1999, Candidate George W. Bush criticized President Clinton’s
Kosovo policies by saying: “Victory means exit strategy, and
it’s important for the president to explain to us what the
exit strategy is.” If only President Bush would live up to
his own words. If only Senator Kerry could come up with an original
idea. This November, American voters are faced with a terribly grim
choice: Bush or Bush Lite.

July
22, 2004

Chris
Farrell [send him
mail
], a former Army intelligence officer, defense contractor,
and educator. He is currently a researcher and public policy analyst
living in Northern Virginia.

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