Mark Kennedy on War & Peace

Republican Representative (MN-6)

Must focus on victory in Iraq, not on retreat

Q: What next in Iraq?

KENNEDY: The real question is: Are we focusing on victory, and making sure that Iraq doesn't become a sanctuary for terrorists to regroup and attack America again? Or are we focusing on how to retreat out of there as fast as we can? We've made mistakes in Iraq and no one likes war. But we need to understand how detrimental it would be to our security if we did not succeed in Iraq. That's why I'm very concerned when I hear Ms. Klobuchar say the answer is diplomacy, and that we ought to negotiate. With who? How are you going to negotiate with al Qaeda? How are you going to negotiate with Iranian-sponsored terrorists?

FITZGERALD: This conflict cannot be solved with military action. The conflict needs the withdrawal of our troops immediately.

KLOBUCHAR: I believe it's time to transition to Iraqi authority and let this government run its own country. The way you do this is not by adding more troops. It's by beginning to bring our troops home, or to redeploy them.

Source: Minnesota 2006 3-way Senate Debate, sponsored by LWV Oct 30, 2006

Listen to military in Iraq, not politicians in Washington

Q: Do you think more troops in Iraq now is the answer?

KENNEDY: We need to listen to the commanders in the field. If they say we need more troops, than I want to make sure they have more troops. We ought not to be listening to Washington politicians. We ought to be listening to what the commanders in the field say is important for victory. I have visited Iraq three times, and I called for the Iraq Study Group [for that purpose].

FITZGERALD: I have not had the opportunity to have a taxpayer-funded junket to Iraq, but I have had the opportunity to talk to military families who have said that this is falling solely on their shoulders. This war is being fought with other people's children, and is being fought with other people's children's money. We have borrowed every single dollar that we have sued to fight this war to the tune of $330 billion so far. That's immoral and irresponsible government.

Source: Minnesota 2006 3-way Senate Debate, sponsored by LWV Oct 30, 2006

Reject "more-of-the-same" in Iraq; favor "adapt-to-win"

"I reject more of the same," said Kennedy at a state Capitol news conference. He's employing the latest incarnation of the GOP's Iraq war policy. "I have always rejected more-of-the-same. I am not for stay-the-course. I am not for cut-and-run. I'm for adapt-to-win," he said.

The now popular "adapt-to-win" language among Republicans is a phrase that the head of the Republican Party promoting late last summer as an alternative to President's Bush's often-repeated "stay the course."

Source: Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio Oct 26, 2006

Wrong on prediction of significant troops home in 2006

Q: You predicted in February 2006, "I fully expect that over the next year there will be a significant number of troops who will be returning home because of success in Iraq." Flat wrong.

KENNEDY: I said in February that we expected troops [to return home]. We have less troops, not as much [less] as I would like; we've run into tougher patches.

Q: Why can't you say you were wrong?

KENNEDY: I was wrong in the significant number, I was right in terms of the fact that there are less troops

Source: 2006 MN Senate debate, on Meet the Press Oct 15, 2006

We were over-optimistic, but making progress in Iraq

Q: You said after your first trip to Iraq in 2003:
"On the whole, the trend [in Iraq] is very positive. Our troops face a collection of terrorists and thugs, of whom there are fewer each day."
That's just dead wrong.

KENNEDY: Were we potentially a bit optimistic? Possibly. And we've seen more challenges than we expected, no question. But if you look at what's happened, we have trained 300,000 Iraqi troops. We have a unity government.

Q: 10 months ago you said "Progress was clear, we're making great strides." Why shouldn't voters in Minnesota say, "Kennedy is wearing rose-colored glasses and saying, `Everything's fine. We're making progress.'"

KENNEDY: I never said everything's fine, but we are making progress.

Q: You said, "It's very positive"?

KENNEDY: Each year I go back to Iraq, I see a government that is further down the path of addressing serious issues. Their military is more fully developed and taking over more and more of the responsibilities for us.

Source: 2006 MN Senate debate, on Meet the Press Oct 15, 2006

Stands by his vote for war in Iraq; no rewinding history

Q: Knowing what you know today, if the CIA came to you and said, "Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction," would you still vote to go into Iraq?

KENNEDY: We acted on the information that we knew at the time.

Q: But knowing what you know today, would you still vote?

KENNEDY: You can't really play TiVo and rewind in the real world, but let me just say this: First of all, I stand by my vote. And second of all, we just got done talking about Korea. We just got done talking about consequences for actions. Seventeen UN resolutions. If we had let one of the top sponsors of terrorists, that was paying thousands of dollars to those families that had suicide bombers, if we had let 17 UN resolutions go by, what chance would we have of North Korea or China paying any attention to the resolution just passed yesterday?

Q: So you'd still go into Iraq?

KENNEDY: I stand by my vote. We can't rewind. We acted on the information we knew at the time and acted correctly.

Source: 2006 MN Senate debate, on Meet the Press Oct 15, 2006

Iraq is a central front in the war on terror

KENNEDY: Ms. Klobuchar says Iraq is a distraction. I think that it is one of the central fronts in the war on terror. She has set out a specific timetable for bringing our troops home that would tell the terrorists when they can take over an oil-rich country as a sanctuary for terrorists. And I believe we ought to be bringing our troops home as soon as we can after we're sure the terrorists can't win.

KLOBUCHAR: I have never been one to say "Bring them all home tomorrow." We have to be responsible about how we bring our troops home.

KENNEDY: She's also come out against a bill funding body armor for our troops that a majority of Democrats join me in supporting. We have no higher priority than to support our troops in time of war, and we have to win this war on terror.

KLOBUCHAR: Of course I support body armor for our troops, I support winning this war on terror by being smart. We need to transition to Iraqi governance.

Source: 2006 MN Senate debate, on Meet the Press Oct 15, 2006

No specific timetable for withdrawal from Iraq

Q: What about a timetable for withdrawal?

KENNEDY: I reject a specific timetable. At every stage along the way, we ought to say, "Is there adjustments we need to be making?' We have been making adjustments. Ms. Klobuchar says the solution is diplomatic and political; but you can't negotiate with people that are ruthless and glory in killing innocent women and children. We need to make sure that terrorists can't win so that we can bring our troops home as quickly as possible.

Q: No matter how long it takes?

KENNEDY: We need to make sure that the terrorists can't win. We cannot let Iraq became a sanctuary for terrorists.

Q: And you believe this war can be won militarily?

KENNEDY: There's no question that we need to also prod the political forces within Iraq, as we have been. But, these are steps that need to be pushed politically, but they can't be done if we're saying, "We're going to pull our troops away."

KLOBUCHAR: This is just more of the same. We need to change course.

Source: 2006 MN Senate debate, on Meet the Press Oct 15, 2006

We must win or terrorism will mushroom

KLOBUCHAR: How come you won't even admit that you were wrong about voting for this war when we are in the situation we're in, when we've spent over $300 billion, when many members of your own party have admitted that this war was not the right direction, that in fact it has fomented terrorism? We now have 16 agencies of President Bush's administration saying that this has added more terrorism in this world?

KENNEDY: Let's talk about what the 16 agencies said. They said that we are clearly activating terrorists in Iraq, having taken the challenge to them. But they also said we have to prevail. If we don't prevail, it will greatly mushroom this threat, let it grow in size, and come to face our future generations. They said that if we, if we lose, that's what will happen; if we win, we will greatly degrade what's happening on the other side.

Source: 2006 MN Senate debate, on Meet the Press Oct 15, 2006

Foment democracy in Iran

We have to take every action possible to keep [getting nuclear weaponry] from happening. That would be a very destabilizing force. They have been a belligerent neighbor. They have set their sights on eliminating Israel. We need to work to foment democracy in Iran. I support funding to encourage that.
Source: MN 2006 Senate debates - MPR interview Mar 2, 2006

Keep military option open for preventing Iran nukes

Q: What about nuclear weapons in Iran?

A: We need to leave all options on the table and do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from moving in the direction of having nuclear weapons.

Q: Would that include military options?

A: We need to keep ALL options on the table

Source: MN 2006 Senate debates - MPR interview Mar 2, 2006

Voted YES on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date.