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John Kerry on Iraq: a reasoned approach

Katie Boyle | Monday, September 20, 2004

You’ve heard the jokes on both sides. Daddy’s Texas cowboy paints the war on terror in black and white, unable or refusing to acknowledge the complexities of the situation abroad. The bleeding heart liberal equivocates on the issues at stake while babbling on about a few Purple Hearts he may or may not have earned during Vietnam.

I have a suggestion. Forget about President Bush and Sen. John Kerry’s respective military records. I guarantee that you can find many soldiers who have proven more heroic than they. In addition, the legitimacy of Vietnam is still debated today. Bush’s father allegedly pulled strings to place him in the National Guard. Blame him for this opportunism if you will, but many would have done the same. Some also question Bush’s fulfillment of his National Guard duties.

Conversely, Kerry did a shortened tour of duty in Vietnam. Some, however, question his motivation and honors earned. Squabbling over which man was more patriotic over a quarter of a century ago is a waste of time.

More importantly, consider that the blatant manipulation of facts by political candidates could, in layman’s terms, be called lying. I do not consider giving a deliberate false impression to be anything else. I do not claim that the Democratic Party or its candidate has never engaged in this act. I would, however, like to point out the mind-boggling level of stupidity the Republican Party assigns the average voter in this election.

I am astonished that the Republicans have chosen to make Kerry’s military service a key issue this year as they attempt to attack him and fortify their ‘tough on terror’ image. I hear Bush captures rattlesnakes too.


The reason, however, that I am so surprised at the Republican National Committee’s decision to prioritize this issue in conjunction with the war on terror is the relative weakness of its position. Bush’s record aside, Vice President Dick Cheney obtained five deferments during the Vietnam War, and is quoted as saying, “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.” Attorney General John Ashcroft was granted an eyebrow-raising seven deferments.

Given these facts, why would Republicans invite such accusations? Considering the Republican machine’s assault on war veteran Sen. John McCain in the last election, one could surmise that it has the mentality of a rabid dog, attacking anything which agitates it. This comparison, however, is not my answer.

Perhaps Karl Rove decided it was easier to attack Kerry’s past than his policies. Vietnam still captures the attention of many Americans, and Kerry has consistently demonstrated both logic and intelligence in his Senate votes on war and terrorism.

It is true that Kerry’s opinions on war and terror are not simple. Neither is the situation abroad. For this reason, he is correct. One can only surmise that the snide remarks accusing Kerry of flip-flopping on the issues are meant to appeal to the voter who can’t be bothered to read a paragraph following his line of thought. There are many such voters. Hopefully, you aren’t one of them.

Kerry voted for the war in Iraq. He continues to be supportive of this war. He believes, however, that the Bush administration should have recruited allies to aid America after its invasion. Kerry did vote against funding the war. With this decision, he intended to make a public statement regarding the Bush’s handling of the Iraqi situation and his decision to take the country further into debt to fund the war with Iraq instead of repealing tax cuts. Kerry has always maintained that had the bill been in danger of not passing, he would never have endangered our troops in his second vote against it.

In Europe last year, I realized the strength of anti-American sentiment abroad.

I use the phrase ‘anti-American’ hesitantly, as in most cases I was met with incredible politeness and civility. The name “George Bush,” however, was not.

If elected, Kerry will help to raise America’s image from the graveyard of unilateralism. Not only does the simple choice of Kerry make a strong statement to the rest of the world, he will counteract the current egotistical view of our nation the Bush administration perpetuates. Kerry claims he will try to adhere to the advice of the United Nations. Despite Bush’s flat repudiation of weapons of mass destruction, in 2003 at the U.N. General Assembly, the United States was the only nation to vote against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

In an even more telling move, the United States, India and Micronesia were the sole votes against a plan to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Were this technology its reason for preemptively attacking Iraq, one would think such a strategy would be approved.

Fighting the war on terror without revamping America’s image assumes the war on terror can be won with guns and firepower. Without discounting its importance in this effort, if America does not directly counteract the imperialist portrayal it projects even in Western Europe, how will she refute the slander of radical ideologues in the Middle East? Instead, in many cases, the United States has strengthened the perception of an imperious America that lacks respect for other cultures. The sympathy our nation garnered after Sept. 11 is giving way to the increasing popularity of jihad in the Middle East, promulgating support for terrorist attacks.

A decisive victory has never been possible in the war on terror. What America needs is the slow transformation of a worldview. Of course, one cannot rule out the use of aggressive tactics. But the Bush administration’s dependence upon them is only likely to antagonize those who have not yet left America’s side.

When accepting the Democratic nomination, Kerry quoted a former, great President. “I don’t want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side.”

America needs a change in its approach to foreign policy and the war on terror.

That change will come with the election of John Kerry.

Katie Boyle is a senior English, political science and Spanish major. She supports John Kerry. She can be reached at kboyle2@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.