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John Kerry: The Rolling Stone Interview

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Do you think it's directed at the United States?

It is now. Look, there's no negotiating with these guys. They don't hold territory; they don't have a kingdom; they don't have a government; they don't have a guiding philosophy – they just hate. They hate what they are not. And they want everything to be what they are, and they want that kind of control.

They certainly view their struggle as a holy war. Do you think the White House does, as well?

You have to ask the White House. But, certainly, George Bush has described it like that, occasionally.

As a war between two fundamentalisms?

I think you're looking at a war right now against people who attacked the United States of America. And it is appropriate, and was appropriate, for us to invade Afghanistan and to go after Al Qaeda, and I'm glad we did. What I regret is that George Bush didn't do the job. When he had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains, he didn't do what was available to him – which was use the best-trained military in the world to go after bin Laden and kill him or capture him. He turned to Afghan warlords and outsourced the job to them. I think that was a terrible judgment by the president.

What are the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam?

Right now there is one parallel that's very disturbing, and that is the leadership in Washington has not told the truth to the American people. Unless this president begins to change direction, and recognize his mistakes, and get the policy right in Iraq, he could create a whole lot more parallels. But it doesn't have to be. And that's what I'm trying to offer America right now – a realistic way to get our troops home, with honor, by achieving our goals but by sharing the burden and risk.

I am convinced that we can do that, because the rest of the world has a stake in the outcome. A failed Iraq is not in the interests of Arab states, and it's not in the interests of the European states – but they're absent from the kind of effort necessary to prevent that from happening. That's where leadership is going to be necessary.

That's the difference that I intend to make, and that I must make – for the sake of our country. To make ourselves safe in the long term, we're going to have to rebuild relationships and re-establish American credibility. Bush's mistakes don't have to become America's misfortune for the long term, and it's my job to undo his mistakes and turn this into a success.

If you send troops into Iraq, how will you be able to tell them they're not risking their lives for a mistake?

Because I'm going to make it a success, 'cause we're going to win. We're going to do what we need to do to get this job done. And I'm committed to doing that – and I know how to do it. I'll put a foreign-policy team together that talks the truth to the American people.

What do you mean when you say you know how to do it?

I've spent thirty-five years dealing with these kinds of issues. When I came back from fighting in a war, I fought against the war here in America. As a senator, I led the fight to stop Ronald Reagan's illegal war in Central America. I helped expose Oliver North and Manuel Noriega. I've been at this for a long time. You know, I led the initial efforts to change our policy on the Philippines – which ultimately resulted in the elections, and became part of the process that helped get rid of Marcos.

I negotiated personally with the prime minister of Cambodia, to get accountability for the killing fields of the Pol Pot regime. I've negotiated with the Vietnamese to let me and John McCain in and put American forces on the ground to resolve the POW-MIA issue. I've spent twenty years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; I've been chairman of the Narcotics Terrorism Subcommittee. I have five times the experience George Bush does in dealing with these issues, and I know that I can get this done.

What is America's role in the world? What are you going to tell the world about the United States right now?

We are going to live up to American values in our foreign policy. Rather than building a new set of nuclear weapons, like President Bush is, we're going to lead the world in containing nuclear weapons – with a whole new protocol for tracking and dealing with precursor chemicals and with nuclear fissionable materials. We're not going to wait to intervene in places like Liberia or Darfur, where another genocide is taking place.

An America that is not just there for its own goals and ends. We're going to re-engage with our Latin American neighbors in a positive way – unlike this administration. We're going to implement the global AIDS initiative that I wrote four years ago, that this administration is still dawdling with. We're going to offer the moral leadership with respect to environmental catastrophes that are staring us in the face. We're going to go back to the table on global warming. We're going to deal with poverty and disease in the less-developed nations in a more effective way. Those things will help to bring nations to our side. That will make us more effective in the war on terror and make our country safer.

If you're elected, what would be your number-one environmental priority?

Number one is global warming.

How bad do you think that is? How real?

Very serious. The science is real.

Do you have a time frame for dealing with it?

Well, we can't meet the 1990 standards that we set, because we're too far beyond it now. So we're going to have to sit down with our scientists and our businesses and see what's feasible. But I intend to set America on the course of energy independence – hopefully within ten years. And we're going to accelerate our research and development into alternative and renewable fuels.

We're going to greatly encourage the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles. We're not going to mandate them – we're going to offer people choices that make sense economically. So we're going to give a big tax credit for people who purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle.

Al Gore says the era of the internal-combustion engine is ending. Do you see that? And how can we get beyond that?

I wouldn't make that kind of a bold pronouncement. I respect Al Gore's work on that stuff a lot. I mean, we're going to be drilling oil and natural gas for forty or fifty years to come, at least. But I've laid out a very aggressive energy policy. We're going to move rapidly to be independent of Mideast oil and reduce our fossil-fuel base as fast as we can. I'm going to create the incentives that excite the research and development. We're going to create a race for the new sources of energy – whatever they may be.

How do you face the opposition of the oil and auto companies?

Let me tell you something: As gas prices go up, and fuel hits sixty bucks a barrel, I'm going to have a lot of allies. This does not have to be combative and confrontational. I'm going to reach out to the companies and offer them a very significant helping hand in the retooling and transformational costs.

I want American workers working; I want American cars made in America; I want American cars to be able to be sold anywhere in the world. I want to lead the world in these technologies. So I want these companies part of the solution – not the problem. I think we can get there – I really believe that.

How big a priority is that for you?

Huge. Creating jobs is one of the top five priorities of my administration. First of all, make America safe, and deal with nuclear proliferation and the global confrontation. Second, we have to create jobs and be fiscally responsible – so that we're creating the framework for America to be strong at home.

Third, we have to have a system that provides health care for all Americans, and I have a plan to do that. Fourth, we're going to have education that works for everybody – that lifts people up. Ongoing adult education – a system that works. And fifth, we're going to have an environmental policy that leaves this planet to our kids in better shape than we got it from our parents.

That's it – that's the agenda.

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