...In the days since the debate, that clip and its related Bush spin has been replayed so much and so often by the media that it's likely more Americans have heard it than heard the original debate itself. And of those who heard the debate, by this time most have probably forgotten Senator Kerry's actual words, and only a few may have noticed the impeachable High Crime committed by George Bush to which they pointed.
Published on Monday, October 4, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
"I can thank God at this moment that He has so wonderfully blessed us in our hard struggle for what is our right..."
Adolf Hitler, Speech in Berlin, October 6, 1939
The day after his first debate with John F. Kerry, in a speech before a handpicked and adoring audience, George W. Bush recalled a moment from the evening before.
"One other point I want to make about the debate last night," he said. "Senator Kerry last night said that America has to pass some sort of global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. He wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government."
At that mention of Kerry, Bush was interrupted by loud boos from the audience. Grinning broadly, he continued: "Listen, I'll continue to work with our allies and the international community, but I will never submit America's national security to an international test. The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France." Bush concluded, saying, "The President's job is not to take an international poll."
In the days since the debate, that clip and its related Bush spin has been replayed so much and so often by the media that it's likely more Americans have heard it than heard the original debate itself. And of those who heard the debate, by this time most have probably forgotten Senator Kerry's actual words, and only a few may have noticed the impeachable High Crime committed by George Bush to which they pointed.
It started when the moderator, Jim Lehrer, asked Kerry: "What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?"
Kerry answered, "The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control.
"No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.
"But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
Kerry had made no mention of any sort of a "test" that required the agreement of the world, and no mention of France whatsoever. He simply laid out the very practical, truly American, and intrinsically honest concept that has guided American foreign policy for over 229 years:
The people of a nation must be able to both understand and explain their actions, particularly when they involve war.
Thomas Jefferson understood this principle when he wrote - in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence - that "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they [the colonists] should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
Before listing his bill of particulars against King George III, Jefferson again made the point: "To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."
It's become a long tradition with American presidents, as well it should be. On June 19, 1812, President James Madison laid out to his countrymen and the world his "four major reasons" for declaring the War of 1812.
On July 7, 1863, Abraham Lincoln restated part of his rationale for going to war, saying, "now ... we have a gigantic Rebellion, at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow the principle that all men are created equal."
Woodrow Wilson, in calling Congress together on April 2, 1917 to request their consent to a declaration of war, explicitly said, "While we do these things, these deeply momentous things, let us be very clear, and make very clear to all the world what our motives and our objects are."
Franklin D. Roosevelt's request to Congress for a declaration of war on December 11, 1941, needed only to remind America and the world that we were not the aggressors. Indeed, Roosevelt said, "On the morning of Dec. 11 the Government of Germany, pursuing its course of world conquest, declared war against the United States," and "Italy also has declared war against the United States."
Perhaps the real reason Bush is willing to lie about Kerry's comments is because Bush himself has failed the moral and legal test that has guided nations in times of war since the beginning of civilization. And, in doing so intentionally, Bush committed a crime against both the American people and against the world community.
In giving the President the authority to use force against Iraq - the fateful authorization that Kerry voted for - Congress laid out with absolute clarity the test Bush would have to pass before he could wage war against Iraq.
"In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force," the congressional resolution states, "the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon there after as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that:
"(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, and
"(2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
Bush claimed to have passed the test, submitting over his signature, on March 18, 2003, a letter to Congress in which he wrote,
"Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:
"(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
"(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
Both were clear lies, and he knew it at the time. Bush betrayed our trust, and the trust of the international community.
The UN inspection teams had pointed out that they were encountering no resistance whatsoever to their investigations, and that they were not finding any evidence that weapons of mass destruction had survived since the Gulf War of 1991 or the final 1998 weapons destructions authorized by President Clinton and carried out by Scott Ritter's team (and followed by a final series of American bombing raids on suspect sites).
Now we learn that even the CIA and others among Bush's most senior advisors - at the time he was telling Congress and the world Saddam represented a nuclear threat - were telling him that Iraq was probably not rebuilding its nuclear capacity. As the New York Times reported on October 3, 2004 ("How the White House Embraced Disputed Arms Intelligence" by David Barstow, William J. Broad and Jeff Gerth), "Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to fully disclose the contrary views of America's leading nuclear scientists" about the existence or non-existence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
The UN weapons inspectors - and every other member of the Security Council with the exception of Great Britain - were also expressing doubts about the existence of weapons or the danger Iraq may pose. Bush had to rush to war unilaterally because there was no agreement - even among the normally close members of the Security Council - that oil-rich Iraq represented a threat of any consequence to anybody.
And not only had no evidence come up linking Iraq to 9/11, but, to the contrary, it was becoming increasingly obvious to the world that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden hated each other and had, as the 9/11 Commission concluded, "no operational links" whatsoever to each other.
As former Nixon White House counsel John Dean forcefully pointed out in a discussion on my radio program recently, the written lies submitted to Congress by George W. Bush to justify invading Iraq constitute a crime easily worthy of prosecution and impeachment. "Worse than Watergate," was Dean's shorthand pronouncement, as well as the title of the book he wrote about the incident.
"Bush deliberately violated the very authorization that he sought from Congress," Dean said both on the air and in his book, adding that this "was not merely a serious breach of faith with a trusting Congress, but a statutory and constitutional crime."
Thus it should surprise nobody that Bush would now rush to change the subject, to surround his lies with the fog of rhetoric about "permission from France." If Republicans lose the House or Senate, he may find himself in a criminal docket.
While Kerry didn't mention that the President had committed a High Crime, Bush's advisors knew immediately the danger such a discussion may bring to him. Should Democrats take control of the House or Senate, they could then investigate how Bush's betrayal of our trust has led to the death and maiming of tens of thousands of human beings.
He had to quickly change the topic.
Commentators in the media, noting Bush's distortion of Kerry's words, and how that distortion is now being used so aggressively in Bush campaign ads, glibly quote prizefighter Jack Dempsey's famous line, "The best defense is a good offense."
But the quote more likely on the minds of Bush and his handlers comes from the last leader of a major industrial power who led his nation to war on a pretense based in lies.
"Thus we may explain the fact that since 1918 the men who have held the reins of government adopted an entirely negative attitude towards foreign affairs and the business of the State," noted Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf. This was possible, he said, because at least a third of "the masses of our people, whose sheepish docility corresponds to their want of intelligence...just submit to it because they are too stupid to understand."
Confident that a cowed media won't call him on it, and that with enough fog about "French permission" that the American people won't remember Kerry's actual words or the text of Bush's war letter to Congress, the Bush campaign continues their Big Lie strategy.
On November 2nd, we'll learn which shall prevail in this election year: The "test" of Jefferson - to "let Facts be submitted to a candid world" - or the tactics of a demagogue trying to hide his own High Crimes with spin and Big Lies.