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Statement of Senator John Kerry Regarding President Bush's Announcement on Iraq

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I find myself angered, saddened and dismayed by the situation in which this nation finds itself tonight. As the world's sole superpower in an increasingly hostile and dangerous world, our government's obligation to protect the security of the United States and the law abiding nations of the world could not be more clear, particularly in the aftermath of September 11.

Yet the Administration's handling of the run up to war with Iraq could not possibly have been more inept or self-defeating. President Bush has clumsily and arrogantly squandered the post 9/11 support and goodwill of the entire civilized world in a manner that will make the jobs ahead of us -- both the military defeat and the rebuilding of Iraq -- decidedly more expensive in every sense of that word.

The Administration's indifference to diplomacy and the manner in which it has treated friend and foe alike over the past several months have left this country with vastly reduced influence throughout the world, made impossible the assembly of a broad, multinational effort against Saddam Hussein, and dramatically increased the costs of fulfilling our legitimate security obligations at home and around the world. At home, the Administration has given too short shrift to the needs of homeland security, ignoring the advice of their own experts, doing the job on the fly and on the cheap. To this administration, homeland security is a fine political weapon, but not high enough a priority to force a reassessment of their tax cuts to the rich and the special interests.

That said, Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, truly the personification of evil. He has launched two wars of aggression against his neighbors, perpetrated environmental disaster, purposefully destabilized an entire region of the world, murdered tens of thousands of his own citizens, flouted the will of the United Nations and the world in acquiring weapons of mass destruction, conspired to assassinate the former President of the United States, and provided harbor and support to terrorists bent on destroying us and our friends.

From that perspective, regardless of the Administration's mishandling of so much of this situation, no President can defer the national security decisions of this country to the United Nations or any other multilateral institution or individual country.

Even having botched the diplomacy, it is the duty of any President, in the final analysis, to defend this nation and dispel the security threats - threats both immediate and longer term - against it. Saddam Hussein has brought military action upon himself by refusing for twelve years to comply with the mandates of the United Nations. The brave and capable men and women of our armed forces and those who are with us will quickly, I know, remove him once and for all as a threat to his neighbors, to the world, and to his own people, and I support their doing so.

My strong personal preference would have been for the Administration -- like the Administration of George Bush, Sr. -- to have given diplomacy more time, more commitment, a real chance of success. In my estimation, giving the world thirty additional days for additional real multilateral coalition building -- a real summit, not a five hour flyby with most of the world's powers excluded -- would have been prudent and no impediment to our military situation, an assessment with which our top military brass apparently agree. Unfortunately, that is an option that has been disregarded by President Bush.

In the colloquial, we are where we are. It will take years to repair the needless damage done by this Administration, damage to our international standing and moral leadership, to traditional and time-tested alliances, to our relations with the Arab world, ultimately to ourselves. Let's finish the process we began twelve years ago of disarming Saddam and ridding the world of this menace that. Let's begin to rebuild our sense of national unity. Let's begin the work of building a stronger, safer world, of rebuilding alliances, and staying the course of long term involvement the Middle East in order to reclaim our rightful place of respect in the world order.

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