Kerry: Don’t Use the Term ‘Slam Dunk’

If it were up to Secretary of State John Kerry, the term “slam dunk” should never be used in the national security arena ever again.

Kerry — appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this weekend — had just said that the United States has evidence that sarin was used by Syrian forces in a chemical attack that killed over 1,000 people outside Damascus. He was asked by host David Gregory if this was a “slam-dunk case” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack.

Here is the full transcript of the exchange (video is above):

DAVID GREGORY: Mr. Secretary, I just want to underline the news you made this morning. This is a sarin gas attack perpetrated by the Assad regime. This is a slam-dunk case that he did it.

JOHN KERRY: We don’t — the words “slam dunk” should be retired from American national security issues. We are saying that the — that the high confidence that the intelligence community has expressed and the case that I laid out the other day is growing stronger by the day. We know where this attack came from. We know exactly where it went. We know what happened exactly afterwards. We know the preparations were being taken before for this attack. We know that people were told to use their gas masks, to prepare for the use of a chemical barrage.

We also know that after it took place they acknowledged that they had done it and were worried about the consequences and whether the U.N. inspectors were going to find out. I think this is a very powerful case, and the President is confident that as that case is presented to the United States Congress and the American people, people will recognize that the world cannot stand aside and allow …

Gregory was clearly alluding to the infamous “slam-dunk” reference reportedly made by former CIA Director George Tenet when asked by President George W. Bush in 2002 if Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. According to Bob Woodward’s book “Plan of Attack,” the exchange went like this:

BUSH: George, how confident are you?

TENET: Don’t worry, it’s a slam-dunk.

Safe to say Kerry and Tenet would prefer a ball being used when referencing a slam dunk.

Marcus Weisgerber
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Marcus Weisgerber

Senior Pentagon Correspondent at Defense News
I write about broad-ranging policy, acquisition and budget issues affecting the US military.
Marcus Weisgerber
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