MEMORIAL DAY 2006: BEREN & MCDERMOTT CLASH OVER IRAQ
On Memorial Day (May 29, 2006), Congressman Jim McDermott filled in as guest host for the vacationing Dave Ross on KIRO radio’s “Dave Ross Show.” Prior to taking phone calls from the audience, McDermott repeatedly expressed the view that it would be impossible for our troops to achieve a militarily victory in Iraq. Later, one of the first callers was Republican congressional candidate Steve Beren, and the two candidates very briefly – for just about five minutes – debated about the war in Iraq.
McDermott claimed that the war could not be won militarily, and that President Bush had lied about weapons of mass destruction. Beren argued that the liberation of Iraq was justified as part of the war against terrorism, and noted that there were multiple reasons for the war: Saddam’s involvement with terrorism, regime change, spreading democracy, and the need for a preemptive strategy before Saddam posed an imminent threat. After all, in October 2002, there was bipartisan agreement on spreading democracy and regime change. The congressional resolution authorizing military action stated: “it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”
The following are major excerpts from the transcript of the discussion:
STEVE BEREN: …. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other between now and November, and talking to each other a lot before audiences like this one, and public audiences, between now and November. Congressman, I think you’re wrong in two respects on Iraq, which is the most important issue in our campaign against each other. Number one, you say that we were wrong to go in there in the first place. And number two, that we can’t win it militarily. Of all days to say over and over again how we can’t win it militarily - on Memorial Day! We can only lose it in Washington, D.C. We can only lose it politically…. Saddam Hussein was involved in terrorism….
JIM MCDERMOTT: And [so were] a lot of other countries for that matter. If you want to use that as the standard, that any place that has terrorism we should go into, you would have no end of countries. The American people were led into Iraq by a series of lies. It was really – we were not told the truth and that’s why we should not have gone in. If we could have convinced the whole world as we did in Gulf War One, that would have been a different sort of situation. But in this instance we went in alone, with those people who would go with us. But we couldn’t convince the United Nations to pass a resolution to do it. And in my view going it alone gets you into a terrible mess from which then you have to dig yourself out. We have to dig ourself out of this, and we are continuing to lose people, and we’ve now spent almost 400 billion dollars on this war. My view is there is a time to admit that you are not succeeding as Jack [Murtha] said. We’re just - the number of instances is going up and the cost is going up and there’s no evidence that things are getting better in the general sense for the people in Iraq. For that reason we will not win it militarily. We can’t kill every Iraqi. That would not – we would win, it would be quiet, but we would have done a terrible thing. And we can’t do that if we believe in democracy. We have to let the Iraqis develop their own government.
STEVE BEREN: We and the Iraqis will win. We cannot lose militarily. And the correct standard for the justice of this war is the resolution that the congress passed. The weapons of mass destruction was one thing, but [also] putting democracy in the Middle East. To say that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with terrorism! The whole Middle East, because of the oppression, and because of the lack of democracy there, is a breeding ground for terrorism. We’re striking terrorism at its heart, not just dealing with the symptoms, but by spreading democracy we are putting the antidote to the breeding ground for terrorism…. [President Bush] said we need to bring democracy to Iraq, congress said we need to bring democracy to Iraq…. The congressional resolution said we need to bring democracy to Iraq, and we need to act before … we needed a preemptive strategy – not to wait to make 100% sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but to act preemptively. [You and your] friends in the antiwar section of congress argued against such a preemptive strategy, which is exactly what we need. And on this Memorial Day, that is key - to continue that correct strategy.
JIM MCDERMOTT: Unfortunately, what you’re seeing is what happens when you do not plan and you’re not honest with the American people. The American people will support [you] if they believe that you have been honest. But President Bush has fallen to less than 30% support because the American people have realized he did not tell them the truth, and he led them into the wilderness, and they want out. We’ll probably continue this on the stump, so we ought to move on – we’ve got some other calls here.
STEVE BEREN: Happy Memorial Day [to] all your listeners. And like you, I’ve filed with the Federal Election Commission. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.
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