Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2004 / 4 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Peter A. Brown

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Even in '91, Saddam cowed Kerry | The best reason to be skeptical that John Kerry has the gumption to defend America's vital interests and allies is not that he has been all over the map about this current war in Iraq.

Although such erratic behavior is unpresidential, Kerry's unwillingness to support military action in 1991 against Saddam Hussein after Iraq had invaded and raped neighboring Kuwait is the best reason to question his judgment.

The lesson of history - Kerry's Senate vote against the first Iraq war that hindsight shows to be a reasonable and necessary conflict - makes his claim that he would be willing to use force ring most hollow.

What a politician says is one thing.

What he does is another.

Kerry may have served honorably in Vietnam a lifetime ago, but that service and the personal courage it demonstrates say nothing about his judgment as a public official.

He spent the Democratic convention imitating Rambo. When the chips were down in 1991, however, Kerry acted more like Bambi.

It may be too early to judge the wisdom of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Americans are divided about this question, which is why this presidential election is a horse race. Were the American people convinced they could trust Kerry with the country, W. would be history.

But there is little doubt President George H.W. Bush made the right call in 1991, leading a worldwide coalition to evict Saddam's troops from Iraq.

Imagine how history would have been different if Kerry had been president then. Saddam's legions would have remained in Kuwait and perhaps marched into Saudi Arabia. The world economy could have been held hostage if Saddam controlled the Saudi oil and retained his ability to foster and support terrorism around the world.

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Kerry's vote on this crucial defense issue in 1991 was consistent with his 20-year Senate record of rarely finding a time when a threat crossed his threshold for the use of American troops.

He voted against giving the first President Bush authority to use force if Saddam did not withdraw from Kuwait by a U.N. deadline.

That the elder Bush did not finish Saddam off at the time is worth criticizing, but even Kerry doesn't have the chutzpah for that, because he never supported the war to begin with.

Kerry's preferred course in 1991 for evicting Iraq from Kuwait?

He wanted to give economic sanctions more time, to persuade Saddam that it would be smart for him to leave Kuwait and return the oil and money he had captured with it.

Kerry apparently thought that Saddam was a reasonable guy who would listen to reason, or he decided the cost of stopping a madman was not worth the benefit.

Either way, Kerry made the wrong call.

Kerry convened a hearing to publicize the notion that standing up to Hussein could mean the deaths of 10,000 deaths American troops. In all, 146 U.S. soldiers were killed in the 1991 Gulf War.

And now Kerry wants us to trust his judgment about when it is worth using American troops?

Kerry wants al-Qaida and the American people to believe that when the going gets tough, he'll be willing to do whatever it takes to fight terrorism.

Please. I can see the bad guys quaking in their boots.

In 1991, as today, he described efforts to fight Saddam as partisan politics.

"It looks to this senator like backing up the president has become the new vital interest. It seems to me we are risking war for pride," he said at the time.

Kerry then read passages from an antiwar novel to his Senate colleagues to justify his position.

That scene probably made for great television coverage in Boston, where his views and values do represent the prevalent thinking. But in much of America - we'll find out exactly how much on Nov. 2 - we often see things differently.

No, Senator, in 1991 the United States was not risking war for pride.

We were standing up to a brutal aggressor. In that conflict, we even had the support of the United Nations and France and Germany, the folks Kerry apparently thinks need to be satisfied before America can act these days.

Stereotypes are often inaccurate. But the one about Massachusetts liberals always finding some reason to oppose using military force is dead-on this time.

Those who think Bush is too quick to use force may have a point.

But, given the millions of foes overseas who would prefer to see the United States as a heap of burning rubble, Americans might want to think about the first Gulf War when they consider giving John Kerry the keys to the Oval Office.

Peter A. Brown is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Comment by clicking here.


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08/31/04: Europeans discovering value of work
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08/10/04: Public interest vs. minority rights
08/10/04: Kerry deserves an A in history, and in his willingness to mimic the mantra of those he has spent an entire political career vilifying
08/03/04: Kerry's challenge: Closing the deal
07/29/04: Note to Prez: Customer's always right
07/20/04: If Kerry doesn't tell, voters should ask
07/14/04: PSST, pass it on, Kerry & Crew no longer think Iraq war was a mistake. Really!
06/29/04: Hostile media, prickly president — a troubling mix
06/22/04: With Kerry's choices, you'd want McCain, too
06/04/04: A debt unpaid to D-Day warriors
05/25/04: America has a bad attitude!
05/20/04: Surprise! A thank you to Bill Clinton
05/06/04: Corrupt U.N.? Shine a light
04/28/04: Kerry not weak on defense — just wrong
04/22/04: No attacks in U.S. since 9-11: Why?
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02/19/04: The question prez, Kerry won't debate
01/21/04: Dems trying oh so hard to keep tired issue alive
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12/23/04: UN proves yet again it's dangerously misguided
11/18/03: U.N. oversight of Internet: Dumb idea
11/11/03: Absent change, GOP trend continues
10/28/03: Soft-on-defense stereotype — no wonder
10/22/03: Bet on Bush and the economy
09/23/03: France's time to decide: Friend or foe
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