|GEN. JOHN SHALIKASHVILI|
July 28, 2004
The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who oversaw the military deployment of troops to Bosnia discusses Sen. John Kerry's commitment to national security.
| GEN. JOHN SHALIKASHVILI: Thank
you very much, General Kennedy. It is a great honor to stand here before
you this evening and to experience first hand the enormous energy of "democracy
in action." But I do not stand here as a political figure. Rather,
I am here as an old soldier and a new Democrat. I am a new Democrat because
I believe that John Kerry and John Edwards are the right choice for America's
security -- and the right choice for America.
We live in a dangerous time. Terrorists have attacked us at home and they continue to strike around the world. And the greatest danger before us is that these terrorists will somehow get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. If that were not enough, some nations continue to threaten regional stability while pursuing their nuclear ambitions which threaten all of us. Throughout his campaign John Kerry has shown time and again that he understands these dangers and is fully prepared for the challenges ahead.
He knows that to be truly safe at home we must significantly strengthen the protection of our homeland and that we must not again allow ourselves to be distracted from the relentless pursuit of these terrorists. At this moment thousands upon thousands of our brave troops are deployed in Afghanistan and in Iraq in a protracted and bloody struggle. Still countless other soldiers remain deployed around the world upholding the cause of freedom and representing what is best about America.
John Kerry was the first to warn that these worldwide military deployments are dangerously overstretching our military and particularly our Army. That unless we appreciably increase the size of the Army and restructure it to give it new capabilities needed in the new war against terrorism, we are in real danger of returning to the days of a hollow Army.
And, John Kerry has made it crystal clear that no matter how strong we might be, success in the war on terror or in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and to Iraq will likely elude us unless we bring friends and allies to our side both for the fight and for the long, hard work of reconstruction. We must do this not because we need anyone's approval when we act to protect our security but because we are more effective when friends and allies stand by our side as together we share the burden and the risks. There is no doubt that capable allies and strong alliances are today more important to our security than ever before.
I am no stranger to war. Before I was 10 years old I had lived through the brutal occupation of Poland, the country of my birth, and the total destruction of my hometown during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Years later, like John Kerry and so many other young Americans, I participated in a very different kind of war in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam. And still later, when at the end of Desert Storm Saddam Hussein with unbelievable brutality turned against the Kurds, I was asked to lead an international operation to stop the dying and the misery and to return some 700,000 Kurds to what was left of their villages and their homes.
I know about the horror of war and thus join with others like John Kerry in believing that we must go to war only when all other efforts to resolve the threat to us have been exhausted. And only then, when going to war becomes absolutely necessary, then to go with full resolve and to use force decisively. But we should never go to war without a comprehensive plan for how to secure the peace once military victory has been won.
While I know the dark side of war I also know first-hand about the bright side of America. The America that from its earliest days has been a land of boundless opportunity and a beacon of hope and of liberty around the world. This is the America we cherish and defend and that is the America that John Kerry will lead. From my first days as a private in basic training, I have always been proud to be an American soldier. In my eyes there is no higher title. And for 39 years I had the great privilege to serve in the company of such heroes -- ordinary men and women whose selfless service and courage and love of country befit this extraordinary nation of ours.
In places like Kabul and Kandahar and Fallujah and Tikrit and a thousand others we can hardly pronounce they are writing their own page in the glorious history of American fighting men and women. They fought and bled and too many of them have died. And all they have ever asked in return was that we lead them well, train them for the tasks at hand, equip them properly and give them enough men and material so no matter what they will always have enough of both to get the job done and to protect themselves and their buddies. And the only other thing they ask is that when we send them into harm's way we take care of their families here back home. That is all.
And you and I we are so incredibly blessed that there are men and women such as these who are prepared to lay down their lives for our country. From here in Boston where the first patriots stood up for freedom I ask you as Americans as Democrats as modern day patriots I ask you to stand up for our troops and give them the rousing round of applause that they so richly deserve.
I stand before you this evening because I believe that no one will be more resolute in defending America nor in pursuing terrorists than John Kerry. And that no one will be more skilled in bringing allies back to our side but John Kerry cannot do it alone. You here tonight and all those you represent have to be equally committed to give your total support to John Kerry and John Edwards to keep our Armed Forces the strongest, the best led, the best trained, and the best equipped in the world.
I believe in John Kerry. As a young man he heeded his country's call to service when it needed him. He commanded in combat and did so with bravery and distinction. He knows from experience a commander's responsibility to his troops. He stands with our troops and with their families. And that is why I stand with John Kerry. I thank you all.