Note to Senator Kerry: Too little, too late

by Beacon Staff • November 30, 2005

Welcome to the anti-war movement. It is heartwarming to know that public opinion regarding Iraq has shifted so much that you are finally willing to speak out against the war.

Better late than never.

Those of us who have been vocal in opposing this conflict have been waiting for you since 2003.,Dear John Kerry,

Welcome to the anti-war movement. It is heartwarming to know that public opinion regarding Iraq has shifted so much that you are finally willing to speak out against the war.

Better late than never.

Those of us who have been vocal in opposing this conflict have been waiting for you since 2003. We have been hoping that prominent Democrats would stand up and speak out against the war. But most liberals, you included, would only go as far as lamenting Bush's "handling" of the situation, refusing to take an unambiguous stance against our occupation of Iraq.

Over the last month, however, anti-war rhetoric has been surfacing from you and other big name Democrats en masse-just as public opposition to the war has reached unprecedented levels.

On Oct. 26, you gave a fiery speech at Georgetown University where you suggested "withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays." On Nov. 13, your former running mate, Sen. John Edwards (D-SC), wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post calling for a reduced "American presence" in Iraq. Just days later, while speaking to students in the United Arab Emirates, former President Bill Clinton said that invading Iraq was a "big mistake."

The anti-war movement can use all the help it can get, so it is great news that you and your cohorts are now willing to work to curb Bush's maddening foreign policy. I hope, however, that for the sake of clarity you will not mind explaining some things about your takes on Iraq over the past few years.

First question: What took you so long?

Where were you at the onset of this war? It would have been nice if you and your colleagues had joined forces with those opposing the invasion back then. The movement could have used your voice-and, more importantly, your vote-in stopping the war before more than 2,000 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed. I am sure you can recall the unfortunate fact that you and 28 other Senate Democrats voted to give Bush the authority to go to war in 2002.

You have acknowledged this was a mistake in your speech at Georgetown; yet, at the same time, you continued to blame Bush for tricking Congress and the American people.

Your exact words were: "The country and the Congress were misled into war. I regret that we were not given the truth; as I said more than a year ago, knowing what we know now, I would not have gone to war in Iraq."

Senator, you are absolutely right that President Bush was disingenuous when trying to build a case for war. But, with all due respect, that does not excuse your vote.

You defended yourself later in the speech when you said: "The truth is, if the Bush Administration had come to the United States Senate and acknowledged there was no 'slam dunk case' that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, acknowledged that Iraq was not connected to 9/11, there never would have even been a vote to authorize the use of force."

What flawed logic! The role of Congress-as a check to the power of the executive branch-is not to take the president at his word. The burden of proof should fall on those who want to wage war, and the Bush Administration offered none.

Senator Kerry, where was the evidence to justify your vote?

Many people, including 21 other Senate Democrats, were openly skeptical about Bush's assertion that Iraq posed an imminent threat.

Did you not notice this? Did you not have your own doubts? Bush may have lied, but you helped him get away with it.

While your vote in 2002 has hampered your credibility, it was your platform as candidate for president in 2004 that is the most unsettling for those on the left. As the Democratic presidential nominee, you had a chance to really mobilize the anti-war movement going into last year's elections.

Instead, fearing that you would be labeled as 'soft on defense,' you ignored it and constantly came out in support of the ill-fated occupation.

In a speech given in February of 2004 at UCLA, you insisted that continuing the war in Iraq was the right thing to do, saying, "We now have a solemn obligation to complete the mission in [Iraq]."

In fact, your foreign policy platform during the campaign was essentially the same as Bush's except that you claimed you could foster better diplomatic relationships with the rest of the world.

Your problem with Bush was not the fact that he waged an unjust, imperial war, but rather the way in which he waged that unjust, imperial war. While polls in 2004 showed that the nation was largely split on Iraq, it was clear that the ruling political parties were not. By the time you had sealed up the nomination, it had become painfully obvious that, no matter which party won the election, our president would be pro-war in the case of Iraq.

Your support for the war cost you at least one vote-mine-and may have cost you the election.

As media critic Doug Ireland wrote following the 2004 vote, "history will record that John Kerry lost the election on the day he voted the Constitution-shredding blank check for Bush's War in Iraq."

Senator Kerry, those of us opposed to the war are not naive. We see the pattern: When the public takes a stand on an issue, you try to capitalize on it politically by altering your rhetoric, changing your stance and tweaking your image.

For you to jump on the anti-war bandwagon now that it has become politically beneficial to do so looks awfully suspicious.

I hope that you continue to fight against the war-but for the right reasons, not for political gain. And frankly, at this point, it is difficult to trust your sincerity.

You showed no willingness to speak out against on this issue when it counted in 2002. In 2004, you ignored the nation's anti-war voices to increase your chances of winning the presidency. Maybe you will remember that fact in 2008 when you will need the support and the votes of the anti-war movement if you hope to be president.

For you just might find that, come election time, they will be the ones ignoring you.

CC: Bill Clinton; John Edwards; the Democratic Leadership Council; the Democratic Party.