April 14, 2004 Wednesday
HEADLINE: MEDIA AVAILABILITY WITH SENATOR JOHN KERRY
LOCATION: NEW YORK CITY
SEN. KERRY: (In progress) -- the U.N., a willingness to have the U.N. take over the authority, a share, for the reconstruction of the government and for the reconstruction of the country. And it is very difficult to invite countries to be part of that reconstruction if you are unwilling to even allow them to be part of the reconstruction.
I believe that there is a better way to share the responsibilities for this burden. This is not just a United States goal. Succeeding in Iraq is important to the Arab countries in the region. I noticed that the president finally is going to send Mr. Armitage to talk to them. That should long ago have occurred. That should be a full measure of our approach. It is also important to the European countries what the outcome of Iraq is. And I believe that we should embrace a much more significant effort of outreach, of diplomacy, with the preparedness to have a full U.N. partnership in order to, number one, relieve the burden on American soldiers; number two, relieve the costs to the American taxpayer; and number three, maximize the ability to succeed in our mission.
SEN. KERRY: Yes?
Q (Off mike.)
SEN. KERRY: Well, I think that -- (laughs) -- I think the vast majority of the American people understand that it is important not just to cut and run. And I don't believe in a cut-and-run philosophy. That's what he believes in. I think that would be very damaging to the war on terror. It would be very damaging to the Middle East. It would be very damaging to the longer-term interests of the United States. But he is right. He is absolutely right that if all you do is go down the road that we're stuck on today, the perils are much larger and the perception of American occupation remains a significant obstacle. So I agree with that.
But I don't agree with his conclusion about a difference. My difference is a very significant one. And it has been stated for over a year now, as to how one should have gone to war, how you take a nation to war, how you best set yourself up for success, how you minimize the cost to Americans, how you minimize the risk to our troops, and how you maximize the ability for success. And I think in each case this is more complicated and difficult than it had to be.
Q Senator, specifically what would you do, because the situation is different than it was a year ago and countries don't necessarily want to be involved.
SEN. KERRY: Well, Kelly (sp), it may take a new president, then, to be able to change the atmosphere, in order to be able to accomplish what we need to. I hope not. I hope not for our troops and I hope not for our country. I hope this president can achieve now what could relieve the burden on the American people.
I mean, it's a simple question. Let me ask any of you. Do you think the United States is better off with a lot of people on our side and with other boots on the ground, or are we better off with just American soldiers doing this as an American occupation?
It's a pretty obvious answer.
Say, do you think we're better off with other countries sharing the cost, or are we better off with Americans carrying billions of dollars of cost? Pretty simple answer.
But we're not pursuing the policies that, in effect, answer those questions properly for our country.
Q But Republicans say they're doing that, though. They say they have more than --
SEN. KERRY: The duties of the -- (off mike) --
Q -- (inaudible) -- say that they are playing a little politics with the issue and --
SEN. KERRY: No, I'm not playing any politics with the issue at all. The president-you talk about politics? Why doesn't the president just come out and say, I want the U.N. to be a full partner, and the resolution that we pass will turn authority over to them? That's the argument right now, is whether or not we're prepared to turn the authority over to them, and whether or not they're prepared to come in without the authority. That's the fight. And the question is why the president won't do that. Why is Mr. Brandini (sic) only doing the government sort of transition piece and not the reconstruction and not the full authority for the transformation of the government? Those are the questions here. And I think there are very real differences between us, very real differences. I believe it is possible to reduce the cost and the burden and the risk to American soldiers. And that's the obligation of the commander in chief.
Q Senator, it sounds like you're saying, as the president has, stay the course. I'm wondering where the course ends. Would you be -- (audio break) -- Iraqi government at the end of June?
SEN. KERRY: Let me-let say that I have always said from day one that the goal here, in my judgment, is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that's a full democracy. I can't tell you what it's going to be. But a stable Iraq. And that stability could take several different forms.
Now, I'm not the president today, and therefore I'm not free to negotiate that. But I can guarantee you there are a number of different ways to reduce the pressure on Americans and to increase the participation of other nations. And this administration, step by step, has, frankly, alienated many of those other countries from the very beginning by the way that it ratcheted up our troop presence, to the way that it refused to allow the U.N. to complete its task.
I think the president should have shown more patience. I've talked to troops who have told me that they, you know, went in without adequate water, ammunition, repair parts and other things because of the rush. I don't think you should rush when you're sending young men and women to war.
Q Senator, when you say that we should have a full partnership with the U.N. but we should not cut and run, first, didn't the U.N., in fact, leave earlier, and how does that affect one's confidence in their ability to help? And secondly, did you just say that you're not sure it's a democracy that would happen in Iraq, and not to --
SEN. KERRY: I said that shouldn't be the measurement of when you leave. You leave with stability. You hope that you can continue the process of democratization, obviously, Carl. That's our goal. But with respect to getting American troops out, the measurement is the stability of Iraq.
Now, look. Yes, the U.N. left. The U.N. left because of the lack of security and stability. The question here is, how do you maximize stability and security in Iraq?
I believe that as long as you have what is almost solely an American occupation, 135,000 American troops-and no other country there, with the exception of Great Britain, exceeds a thousand, I believe, somewhere in that vicinity, and many of them are under 500 and many of them are not in combat-so the question is how do you relieve the burden from American troops? I think you've got to have a globalization of the interest in the outcome of Iraq.
If the outcome of Iraq is linked to the American enterprise, to Haliburton, to our reconstruction, to the perception of a sort of "only American" unilateral effort, I think it's far more complicated than if it is a globalized, United Nations-sanctioned, internationally accepted effort. And the minute you have that international acceptance, you begin to reduce some of the capacity of people to focus on the infidel United States and to focus their energies on our occupation alone.
That globalized effort in fact empowers the mission itself, and I think that's important.,
Q Sir, a second ago, you said that the president should have shown more patience. Last night he admitted no mistakes and made no apologies. Do you think he has anything to apologize for or --
SEN. KERRY: That's not for me to judge. That's a judgment the American people will make in the course of an election. That's a judgment he ought to make. It's not my judgment.
SEN. KERRY: Yes?
Q Senator Kerry, you've described the situation as the U.S.'s unilaterally involvement. You talk about the overextension of the troops. Do you think this course is ultimately going to lead to the reinstitution of the draft?
SEN. KERRY: I hope not. I would be against that in the current form. I don't think we need it now, particularly if we did the proper diplomacy.
The overall effort of a president right now ought to be really to try to find ways to reduce the overexposure, in a sense, of America's commitments. A proper approach to the Korean peninsula, for instance, should include the deployment of troops, the unresolved issues of the 1950s and ultimately, hopefully, could result in the reduction of American presence, ultimately. Those are the kinds of things that we ought to be trying to achieve in our foreign policy.
Yes? (Cross talk.) I'll answer everybody, so just take your time.
Q Senator, in the short term, how would you stabilize things in Iraq? Would you send more troops? Because it would seem some of the European nations don't want to get more involved, with all the bloodshed.
SEN. KERRY: That's correct. Well, part of that is because of the-you know, this is a chicken-and-egg situation. Which comes first, the European participation or the stability? And the worse it gets, the harder it gets to get what you need. That's the tragedy of this. That's the tragedy of not having done it up front.
The fact is that we have to do what we have to do to make it stable. I completely agree with that. If the generals and those in charge need more troops, they get more troops. We have to do what we have to do to have stability, and that is the precursor.
My prayer and my hope-and it's not political-is that the president will take advantage of that increased stability to internationalize the presence, so that we can reduce the troop level, ultimately, and reduce the cost to the American taxpayer.
What confounds me-and I think it confounds a lot of people in America-is Arab countries have a very real interest in this outcome. They don't want an unstable, failed Iraq as their neighbor, but they're not bearing cost or risk. Europe has a very real interest in not having an unstable, failed Iraq at its doorstep.
They have problems of terror also. Look at Madrid. Look at Turkey. Why aren't they prepared to accept greater risk? It's because there has not been a sharing of decision-making and a sharing of the choices about reconstruction. And if we reserve that the way we are, we compound the difficulty for our troops and for our country.
Q Senator? Senator?
Q Senator, what would you offer those U.N. nations to get greater involvement?
SEN. KERRY: I-listen, if I were the president of the United States, I can tell you right now I would be personally deeply involved with the leaders of those countries. I would be working with Kofi Annan much more directly as to how we transfer that authority and how we rapidly defuse the sense of American occupation.
But I think this approach of this administration has been consistent and stubborn in the way that it persists in this American occupation and in proceeding down its own road. It has made that mistake from day one and it is costing us money, and I think it's costing us lives.
SEN. KERRY: Yes.
Q Why do you support a greater U.N. role, especially in the involvement of transferring power, when many Iraqis do not trust the United Nations? One reason was pointed out already: they left in 1998. And secondly, the U.N. ran the oil-for-food program, which was a fraud. So why would the Iraqis welcome a U.N. presence?
SEN. KERRY: If the United States of America is as much a part of that as we would be, because we're going to be still holding onto the security component of the mission-remember that I said that the reconstruction effort and the government reconstruction effort are two singular efforts. But the third effort is the security effort, and I would keep that under United States command, but I would share it as I have described. That can give the guarantee of the security necessary to trust that you really have an ongoing effort. That's number one.
Number two, the U.N. has done actually a superb job in a lot of places; East Timor most recently, but invested 10 years of effort in Cambodia, it's been very successful in the Bosnia-Kosovo area though there are some problems now increasing for other reasons. I think that it is the best chance of internationalizing an effort that has to have a global stamp of approval.
Q But why? If the Iraqis don't trust the United Nations --
SEN. KERRY: The Iraqis will if the United States agrees that there is a process in place which is agreeable to us. And trust me, they will go along with that providing there's adequate security and providing that there is a shared decision-making process. Ultimately the goal is to transfer that authority, then, so they make their own decisions, needless to say. But I think we ought to reduce the American unilateralist and particularly the perception-the reality of American occupation.
Q Do you think the president --
Q If you were president right now --
SEN. KERRY: Abe (sp), hold on one second. I'll come to you. I'll come to you in a minute.
Q Do you think President Bush articulated a vision for getting us out of Iraq last night? And related to that, what do you think-what do you think are the chances of achieving any kind of greater international cooperation -- (off mike) -- as he said last night?
SEN. KERRY: No, I do not think the president last night articulated an alternative vision of how to get out of Iraq. I think he persisted in the one road that he has attached himself to.
Now, I've said again and again-I want to repeat this so it's clear-could we be successful going down the unilateral road that we are on today? The answer is yes, we could, but at much lesser odds, at much greater difficulty, at much greater cost and risk to our-lives of our soldiers, at much greater cost in billions of dollars to the American people, and with much less odds of the success of the mission. But we could be and we may be.
But I think the job of a president of the United States, personally-in issues of war and peace, particularly-is to reduce the risk to young men and women of America in uniform, and to reduce the cost to the American taxpayer, and to maximize the capacity for success. And if you're in the oddsmaking business, the odds are better if the United States has a shared presence than if we are operating alone. It is that simple. And the American people are owed a directness and an honesty about how we protect our troops and how we stand up for our interests.
Q Senator, if you were president right now, in view of the apparent disinclination of the major nations to get involved in Iraq, and if the U.N. will --
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Copyright 2004 The Federal News Service, Inc.