- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has achieved something possibly unique in our country’s history. He has managed to oppose two wars while they are fought, undermine U.S. objectives and give aid and comfort to those killing American soldiers and kidnapping American civilians.

In a speech at New York University Monday, Mr. Kerry questioned President Bush’s judgment in ordering American troops to topple Saddam Hussein, saying the president had exchanged a brutal dictator for “chaos.”

While acknowledging “there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq, [and] schools, shops and hospitals have been opened, [and] in parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails,” Mr. Kerry claimed “most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they’re sitting on the fence … instead of siding with us against the insurgents.”

Mr. Kerry is an expert at fence-sitting, having sat on one most of his life. He has taken both sides in the war and tried even in this speech to distinguish between granting George W. Bush authority to wage war and reserving his right to micromanage that war if it doesn’t produce immediate victory.

It wasn’t long after Mr. Kerry returned from Vietnam that he joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He slandered his fellow soldiers, calling them indiscriminate killers and comparing them to Genghis Khan.

Returning prisoners of war said their North Vietnamese captors played excerpts from Mr. Kerry’s congressional testimony in an attempt to break their morale and convince the POWs their country had abandoned them. Sound bites from Mr. Kerry’s NYU speech could be played in certain mosques to persuade the insurgents and other Muslim extremists that all they have to do is step up the killing between now and the U.S. election and victory for them is assured. They have seen America cut and run before. Mr. Kerry’s address may again provide aid and comfort to America’s latest enemy.

Mr. Kerry claimed Mr. Bush has offered “23 different rationales for this war.” Even if that were true, he is still far behind the number of flip-flops committed by Mr. Kerry on the war and a long list of other issues.

Mr. Kerry once again returned to his pledge to seek help in Iraq and against terrorism (as if the two can be separated) from America’s “allies,” despite statements from many European leaders indicating they will not become involved in Iraq no matter who wins the November election.

Mr. Kerry criticized Mr. Bush for “colossal failures of judgment — and judgment is what we look for in a president.” So is decisiveness, and Mr. Kerry fails on both counts. There is nothing in his Senate record, in his pronouncements during this campaign, or in much of his life story to give voters confidence this is a man with strong principles whose judgment and vision can be trusted. Instead, Mr. Kerry’s life has been one of self-promotion and self-indulgence. As with the Vietnam War, he doesn’t talk about victory, or America’s unique place to which free people, and those yearning for freedom, can look.

Terrorism didn’t begin on September 11, 2001. It started earlier than the Beirut barracks attacks in 1983. It began in the hearts of evil men who preached about an angry god intent on wiping out his enemies through violent acts. That disease spread, and whether it found a host in Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, the virus exploded into a worldwide plague. Mr. Kerry’s remarks were not about finding a cure to the plague but about surrendering to it, or taking diplomatic placebos in hopes the disease will go away.

It won’t go away, even if America withdraws from Iraq tomorrow. If we not gone there, terrorism would still be around.

The objective should be victory. It was a word absent from Mr. Kerry’s speech, because it is a concept foreign to a man who has demonstrated his preference — first with Vietnam and now with Iraq — to help America’s enemies in times of crisis far more than helping his own country.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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