In the midst of all the committee-produced and consultant-shaped verbiage of John Kerry's "major" speech on Iraq Monday, one paragraph stands out as being truly Kerry's own:
"It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger. But it's essential if we want to correct our course and do what's right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. I know this dilemma firsthand. After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent. I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it to those risking their lives to speak truth to power. We still do."
When Kerry returned home to voice his dissent in 1971, his message was clear: "We should be out of Vietnam now." Kerry speaks of today as an analogous moment. This confirms what is in any case evident from the bulk of his speech: Beneath all the phony talk of international summits and making Iraq "the world's responsibility," Kerry's policy would be to get us out of Iraq. That's why Kerry never says we need to win the war in Iraq, or that we can. Instead, he now explicitly says we would be better off with Saddam still in power.
John Kerry views the war in Iraq as unnecessary, as a mistake. When Kerry spoke "truth to power" 33 years ago, he famously asked, "how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Wouldn't that same question govern his actions as president? Kerry says in his speech that he would start the withdrawal of U.S. forces next summer, and would seek to complete it in four years. But would he even wait four years before completing a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq? However long it actually took, a President Kerry would make getting out of Iraq his top priority, thus handing a victory to the terrorists in what Prime Minister Blair called Sunday "the crucible in which the future of global terrorism will be determined."
William Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard.
By William Kristol