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Al Gore on the Response to 9/11
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From an Address to the Council on Foreign Relations
February 12, 2002


In the immediate aftermath, I expressed full support for our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. Tonight I reaffirm that support of the President’s conduct of the military campaign in Afghanistan, and I appreciate his candor in telling the American people that this will be a long struggle — for which the nation must be braced and its political leadership united across party lines.

I thought we were told it was going to be a cakewalk?

I also support the President's stated goals in the next phases of the war against terrorism as he laid them out in the State of the Union. What I want to talk about tonight are the fundamental, strategic questions before us as a nation. What are the next steps in the war against terrorism? And beyond immediate next steps, what is the longer-range plan of action? And finally, what should be done to deal with root causes of this threat?

Since the State of the Union, there has been much discussion of whether Iraq, Iran and North Korea truly constitute an "Axis of Evil." As far as I'm concerned, there really is something to be said for occasionally putting diplomacy aside and laying one's cards on the table. There is value in calling evil by its name.

So Gore supported the idea of the Axis of Evil.

Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq.

As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms. But finishing it on our terms means more than a change of regime in Iraq. It means thinking through the consequences of action there on our other vital interests, including the survival in office of Pakistan's leader; avoiding a huge escalation of violence in the Middle East; provision for the security and interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf States; having a workable plan for preventing the disintegration of Iraq into chaos; and sustaining critically important support within the present coalition.

So presumably Gore would have invaded Iraq as well. Is there any other conclusion to draw from these words? One could argue he would have done a better job planning the aftermath, but is there any doubt he would have attempted regime change?

In any case, if you think I'm taking anything out of context, by all means go have a read yourself. I agree with most of what Gore says, and I think revisionism about who supported what is wrong. Iraq is part of the War on Terror. Gore thought that way, and it really shouldn't be a partisan debate.

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