ON NOVEMBER 3, we may look back at October 7 as a very good day--even a turning point--for the Bush campaign. This was the day that news reports, one after another, reminded us that we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Most of the accounts I saw included side-by-side comparisons of language from the Duelfer report and prewar claims made by top Bush administration officials. And nowhere did I see even a mention that John Kerry, John Edwards, and even French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin talked about Iraq's WMD with much the same certitude as Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and even Donald Rumsfeld. Daily reporters aren't good at context.
How, then, was this a good day for Bush? Two reasons. First, John Kerry made the dumbest comment of the campaign so far. Second, the Duelfer report reveals Kerry's would-be "allies" as the true coalition of the "coerced and the bribed."
Kerry yesterday claimed that the Bush administration "fictionalized" the threat from Saddam Hussein. That is, they made it up.
The statement violates one of the cardinal rules of politics: when your opponent is having a bad day, get out of the way. Kerry didn't do that. It was, to coin a phrase, a colossal error of judgment.
The notion that Saddam Hussein was an invented threat--not merely an exaggerated one--has been seeping out of the Kerry campaign for weeks. On September 9, Kerry's chief spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, claimed, "there was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war." Soon after, on September 22, Teresa Heinz Kerry declared, "Iraq and terrorism had nothing with one another. Zero."
The claims are preposterous. Leave aside the Bush administration's well-founded claims of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, many of which have been seconded by prominent Democrats such as Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, and Evan Bayh. And leave aside Kerry's own claims that Saddam was a "real threat" and Edwards's assertion that he was "an imminent threat."
Iraq had been on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terror for more than a decade--most of that time under President Bill Clinton. Saddam Hussein boasted openly about funding Palestinian suicide bombers. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, that panel member John Edwards approved, confirmed this state sponsorship. His regime gave safe haven to notorious terrorists Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal, and welcomed home Abdul Rahman Yasin, an Iraqi who admitted on national television in the United States to mixing the chemicals for the first World Trade Center bombing. And the CIA assessed, again according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, that Iraq had actually increased its terrorist plotting against the United States "throughout 2002."
Is this what Kerry meant by fictionalized?
The Duelfer report's revelations about the conduct of our allies before the war is similarly damaging to Kerry. The Massachusetts senator has long argued that if we had only conducted more and better diplomacy we might have persuaded intransigents like France, Germany, Russia, and China to support the war. And one of the key elements of his much-touted "plan" to fix Iraq is that a President Kerry could secure more help from these allies.
The U.N. report reveals these claims as pipe dreams. Those blocking our efforts to disarm Saddam were in many cases the ones doing business with him. According to the report this list may include a former French Interior Minister and aides to French President Jacques Chirac, as well as associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.N. official in charge of the corrupt Oil-for-Food program, Benon Sevan, may have helped himself to the money. The goal of the French and the Russians--they stated it publicly in the late 1990s--was that the sanctions on Saddam Hussein's Iraq be lifted.
Are these the allies who will save the day in Iraq? Are these the nations who might administer John Kerry's "global test?"
Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.