John Kerry, Iraq and My High School Perspective

At the Democratic National Convention, President Bill Clinton perceptively observed, "We can’t kill, jail or occupy all our potential adversaries, so we have to both fight terror and build a world with more partners and fewer terrorists."

For the past three years, the Bush administration has unilaterally tried to kill, jail and occupy many potential adversaries, weakening international coalitions and partnerships in the process and making the war against terrorism harder to win. President Bush led the U.S. into a war of choice against Iraq despite the lack of a connection between the secular Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qaeda – a finding recently confirmed by the 9-11 commission. The United States squandered the global support garnered after 9-11, damaging strategic alliances spanning decades. While the Bush administration pays lip service to the importance of a united and truly international effort to win the war on terrorism and secure the peace, its actions simply alienate our friends and embolden our enemies.

While Sen. John Kerry entrusted the president with the authority to go into Iraq based on flawed intelligence provided by the Bush administration – a Kerry administration would have prosecuted the war much differently. Mr. Kerry would have built a stronger coalition of allies and would not have gone to war without a plan to win the peace.

While the Bush administration prematurely declared victory in Iraq, the country is still plagued by violence, and more and more brave U.S. troops are killed each day. Moreover, while Iraq lacked al-Qaeda ties before the war began, Iraq has now become a recruiting ground for terrorists. Foreign terrorists have infiltrated Iraq and have convinced local insurgents and remnants of the Baath Party to join in a guerrilla war against U.S. troops. Daily bombings, attacks against oil pipelines and widespread unrest have become commonplace. Despite the expert advice from his generals on the number of troops needed to win the war, President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to conduct the war on the cheap. U.S. troops, their families and Iraqi civilians are paying the price.

Domestically, the Bush administration’s fiscal policies have damaged the U.S. economy and mortgaged our future. While Republicans are generally known for their conservative fiscal policies, this administration has run record deficits, and the federal debt has now reached $7 trillion. Tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the wealthy have created a burden and liabilities for the middle class as well as my generation and those still to come. And over 36 million Americans now live in poverty, a sharp increase over the Clinton years. For the first time since the Hoover administration, a president will conclude his term with fewer jobs than when he began.

Perhaps most important, homeland security is astonishingly under-funded, and little is being done to protect exposed ports, borders, railroads and nuclear facilities. Only 5 percent of the 13 million shipping containers coming in to American ports annually are inspected. Instead of cutting taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, President Bush should have allocated more money to protecting all Americans. Sen. Kerry plans to do just that. By rolling back the tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000, Sen. Kerry will be better positioned to cut the deficits, fund homeland security and wage the war on terrorism.

Finally, in its cursory attempts to increase security, the Bush administration has locked up U.S. citizens without charging them or giving them a right to trial. Ironically, President Bush has suspended the basic constitutional rights and the very freedoms we are fighting to maintain. While the post-9-11 world demands increased vigilance and greater scrutiny for all of us, we must never let the war on terror inadvertently turn into a war on freedom.

John Kerry and John Edwards have succeeded in working with our allies abroad and have authored legislation supporting working American families at home. We need a change in direction. We need a change in leadership. America’s security and domestic prosperity depend on it.