Kerry: This Moment in Iraq is a Moment of Truth
April 30, 2004
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of George Bush declaring Mission Accomplished in Iraq, Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry traveled to Westminster College – site of Winston Churchill’s historic Iron Curtain speech – to talk about America’s way forward through an increasingly deteriorating situation in Iraq.
Kerry’s speech, which elaborated on a plan he first called for months ago, discussed the hard truths facing America in Iraq and laid out the steps America has to take to accomplish our objective: a stable Iraq with a representative government secure in its borders.
“What anniversaries give us is the time to reflect—not about where we have been—but about what might be possible—possible for our men and women in the military, the Iraqi people and our allies around the world,” Kerry said. “This anniversary is not a time to shout. It is not a time for blame. It is a time for a new direction in Iraq and for America to work together so that once again this nation leads in a way that brings the world to us and with us in our efforts.”
Kerry began by praising the sacrifice that American men and women have displayed in Iraq, and he offered condolences to the families who have lost loved ones. As American service men and women, the Iraqi people and civilians from countries around the world find themselves living through days of great danger, Kerry said we face a moment of truth.
“This moment in Iraq is a moment of truth,” Kerry said. “Not just for this administration, the country, the Iraqi people, but for the world. This may be our last chance to get this right. We need to put pride aside to build a stable Iraq. We must reclaim our country’s standing in the world by doing what has kept America safe and made it more secure before—leading in a way that brings others to us so that we are respected, not simply feared, around the globe.”
While saying it will not be easy and that events in Iraq have been complicated and jeopardized by mistakes, Kerry said failure is not an option.
“As complicated as Iraq seems, we’ve got three basic options: one, we can continue to do this largely by ourselves and hope more of the same works; two, we can conclude it’s not doable, pull out and hope against hope that the worst doesn’t happen in Iraq; or three, we can get the Iraqi people and the world’s major powers invested with us in building Iraq’s future,” Kerry said.
To move forward, Kerry elaborated on his strategy to win the peace with three points today: one, make Iraq part of NATO’s global mission; two, authorize a High Commissioner for governance and reconstruction; and three, launch a massive effort to build an Iraqi security force.
First, Kerry said that NATO is now a global security organization and creating a stable and secure environment in Iraq must be one of its global missions.
“The US will lead, but we must also listen,” Kerry said. “We must share responsibility and we must share authority. When NATO members have been treated with respect, they have always – always – answered the call of duty. Every member of NATO has a huge stake in whether Iraq survives its trial by fire or is consumed by fire and becomes a breeding ground for terror, intolerance and fear.”
Second, Kerry said an international High Commissioner should be authorized by the UN Security Council to organize the political transition to Iraqi sovereignty and the reconstruction of Iraq in conjunction with the new Iraqi government. Kerry said the Commissioner should be an individual who is highly regarded by the international community and who has the credibility and capacity to talk to all the Iraqi people.
Third, Kerry called for a massive training effort to build an Iraqi security force that can actually provide security for the Iraqi people. He said training must be done in the field, on the job as well as in the classroom.
“Will all this be difficult to achieve? Yes,” Kerry said. “Is there a guarantee of success? No. In light of all the mistakes that have been made, no one can say that success is certain, but I can say that if we do not try this, failure is all too likely.”