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Cheney transcript: Kerry's record on foreign policy is 'our business'

Vice President Dick Cheney
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, March 18, 2004

Following is a transcript of remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday, March 17.

In one of Senator Kerry's recent observations about foreign policy, he informed his listeners that his ideas have gained strong support, at least among unnamed foreigners he's been spending time with. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry said that he has met with foreign leaders, and I quote, " who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that." End quote.

A few days ago in Pennsylvania, a voter asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, "That's none of your business." (Laughter.) But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy. American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election - not unnamed foreign leaders. (Applause.)

Senator Kerry's voting record on national security raises some important questions all by itself. Let's begin with the matter of how Iraq and Saddam Hussein should have been dealt with. Senator Kerry was in the minority of senators who voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991. At the time, he expressed the view that our international coalition consisted of " shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden." Last year, as we prepared to liberate Iraq, he recalled the Persian Gulf coalition a little differently. He said it was a "strong coalition," and a model to be followed.

Six years after the Gulf War, in 1997, Saddam Hussein was still defying the terms of the cease-fire. And as President Bill Clinton considered military action against Iraq, he found a true believer in John Kerry. The Senator from Massachusetts said, quote, "Should the resolve of our allies wane, the United States must not lose its resolve to take action." He further warned that if Saddam Hussein were not held to account for violation of U.N. resolutions, some future conflict would have " greater consequence." In 1998, Senator Kerry indicated his support for regime change, with ground troops if necessary. And, of course, when Congress voted in October of 2002, Senator Kerry voted to authorize military action if Saddam refused to comply with U.N. demands.

A neutral observer, looking at these elements of Senator Kerry's record, would assume that Senator Kerry supported military action against Saddam Hussein. The Senator himself now tells us otherwise. In January he was asked on TV if he was, quote, "one of the anti-war candidates." He replied, "I am." He now says he was voting only to, quote, "threaten the use of force," not actually to use force.



Even if we set aside these inconsistencies and changing rationales, at least this much is clear: Had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, today, in Iraq. In fact, Saddam Hussein would almost certainly still be in control of Kuwait. (Laughter.)

Senator Kerry speaks often about the need for international cooperation, and has vowed to usher in a "golden age of American diplomacy." He is fond of mentioning that some countries did not support America's actions in Iraq. Yet of the many nations that have joined our coalition allies and friends of the United States Senator Kerry speaks with open contempt. Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Poland, and more than 20 other nations have contributed and sacrificed for the freedom of the Iraqi people. Senator Kerry calls these countries, quote, "window dressing." They are, in his words, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

Many questions come to mind, but the first is this: How would Senator Kerry describe Great Britain coerced, or bribed? Or Italy which recently lost 19 citizens, killed by terrorists in Najaf was Italy's contribution just window dressing? If such dismissive terms are the vernacular of the golden age of diplomacy Senator Kerry promises, we are left to wonder which nations would care to join any future coalition. He speaks as if only those who openly oppose America's objectives have a chance of earning his respect. Senator Kerry's characterization of our good allies is ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship, and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom.

Senator Kerry has also had a few things to say about support for our troops now on the ground in Iraq. Among other criticisms, he has asserted that those troops are not receiving the materiel support they need. Just this morning, he again gave the example of body armor, which he said our administration failed to supply. May I remind the Senator that last November, at the President's request, Congress passed an $87 billion supplemental appropriation. This legislation was essential to our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan providing funding for body armor and other vital equipment; hazard pay; health benefits; ammunition; fuel, and spare parts for our military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted no. I note that yesterday, attempting to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry said, quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) It's a true fact. (Laughter.)

On national security, the Senator has shown at least one measure of consistency. Over the years, he has repeatedly voted against weapons systems for the military. He voted against the Apache helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He has also been a reliable vote against military pay increases opposing them no fewer than 12 times.

Many of these very weapons systems have been used by our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are proving to be valuable assets in the war on terror. In his defense, of course, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. Recently he said, and I quote, "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation. As we have seen, however, that approach was tried before, and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from the terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us and are comfortable using that terminology.

I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain, or explain away his votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, the allies who serve with us, and the needs of our military. Whatever the explanation, whatever nuances he might fault us for neglecting, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become Commander-in-Chief in this time of testing for our country. In his years in Washington, Senator Kerry has been one vote of a hundred in the United States Senate and fortunately on matters of national security, he was very often in the minority. But the presidency is an entirely different proposition. The President always casts the deciding vote. And the Senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.

The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004, at least as clear as any since the election of 1984. In more than three years as President, George W. Bush has built a national security record of his own. America has come to know the President after one of the worst days in our history. He saw America through tragedy. He has kept the nation's enemies in desperate flight, and under his leadership, our country has once again led the armies of liberation, freeing 50 million souls from tyranny, and making our nation and the world more secure. (Applause.)

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