On foreign affairs, Kennedy challenged presidential power
His most important vote, he said, was against the Iraq War. But he also had major impact on human rights and other issues.
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“We were being driven much further on a course of isolating Chile than we thought wise,” wrote Henry Kissinger, commenting on Kennedy’s resolution in his memoir, “Year of Upheaval.” Kennedy said that Washington should have respected the decision of the Chilean people to elect Allende, a socialist.Skip to next paragraph
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In 1982, Kennedy joined with Sen. Mark Hatfield (R) of Oregon to propose a Nuclear Freeze Resolution in a bid to block President Reagan’s Star Wars proposal to expand the nuclear arms race into space. Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz complained that the Soviets seemed to be communicating with the Reagan White House via an aide to Senator Kennedy.
“I trusted Kennedy but was apprehensive: I was leery of back-channel communications,” Schultz writes in his memoir, “Turmoil and Triumph.”
In 1984, Kennedy introduced the Anti-Apartheid Act to impose sanctions on the South African government. In a bid to preempt legislation, President Reagan imposed his own sanctions on Sept. 9, 1985 a move seen at the time as a major shift for the conservative president.
THE WAR IN IRAQ
Kennedy often said that the best vote he cast in the US Senate in his 47 years of service was his vote against the war in Iraq.
Kennedy had joined the entire US Congress, with the lone exception of Rep. Barbara Lee (D) of California, to vote to authorize President Bush to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The need to defeat al Qaeda was urgent and undeniable, he said.
But a year later, he broke with President Bush and most congressional Democrat leaders to oppose the use of force in Iraq.
American should not go to war in Iraq “unless all other reasonable alternatives are exhausted,” he said in an address at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on Sept. 27, 2002 a week before the Senate’s war vote.
“Kennedy was proud of his vote on Iraq one of the most important in his career,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a national security analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “He didn’t just vote against the war because he votes against all wars, but because he weighed the evidence on both sides. He thought he had done a very good job of studying the issue and he’s been largely vindicated by events.”
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