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July 21, 2004
During visit to Yorba Linda, ex-secretary of state defends Bush's actions on Iraq

By Amanda Beck

YORBA LINDA – "Every great achievement was somebody's idea before it was realized. But while it was an idea, you needed courage and vision."

It was this call for solidarity that Henry Kissinger issued to 600 spectators Tuesday when he spoke about the war in Iraq and other issues during a stop at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace.

Amid standing ovations from the overflow crowd, Kissinger made his fourth appearance at the landmark named in honor of the man who appointed him the 56th U.S. secretary of state.

Kissinger, 81, took the opportunity to discuss current U.S. foreign policy, including the question of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, how the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed the world, and the prospect of peace in the Middle East.

Above all, Kissinger encouraged his audience to hold fast to the course President George W. Bush has charted in Iraq.

He defended Bush's decision to go to war even in the absence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, saying presidents are always forced to make decisions using imperfect information.

But more important, he said, is that America's broader war on terror is a necessity and a service rendered "not only to ourselves but to all of humanity."

"You could not let a regime like (Iraq), with that capacity and that record, sit there and choose the moment they were going to throw their weight behind this terrorist threat," Kissinger said.

"This is what we should be thinking about in the national (political) debate that we will be having in the next few months.

"We will begin to feel more secure when the countries that we know to be practicing terrorism have learned that it is no longer compatible with their own survival."

He later signed autographs and copies of his books.

Several observers said they were impressed with Kissinger, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1973.

"We always had a kind of awesome feeling about this very brilliant man who was contributing to the (Nixon) administration," said Norm Serra, 79, of Pacific Palisades. "He hasn't lost it at all."

Several attendees laughed in recounting how Kissinger warmed the audience with jokes about the New York Yankees and the paucity of his State Department pension.

It was an amusing aside from the octogenarian, who once made headlines by claiming that "power is the greatest aphrodisiac."

"I was a little surprised," said Vicky Serra, 48, of Mission Viejo. "I had always thought of him as an intellectual, totally. But he seems like a very warm, kind man."

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