More headlines: Barack Obama on War & Peace

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FactCheck: Pakistan has lost 1,200 troops fighting Al Qaeda

Obama said that the Bush administration has “coddled” President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan while the Pakistanis “weren’t going after Al Qaeda.”

FACT CHECK: The Pakistani military has lost 1,200 soldiers since 2004 in the war against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the tribal areas and flown more than 100 F-16 missions against tribal fighters, according to Pakistani military officials.

Source: on 2008 first presidential debate-Boston Globe Sep 26, 2008

FactCheck: Kissinger says Iran meet ok; but only lower level

OBAMA: “Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who is one of his advisers, who along with five recent secretaries of state just said we should meet with Iran - guess what? - without preconditions.”

FACT CHECK: Kissinger did call for high-level negot

Source: on 2008 first presidential debate-Boston Globe Sep 26, 2008

Afghanistan needs more troops and resources

Q: Should more US troops be sent to Afghanistan?

We need more troops. The situation is getting worse. We had the highest fatalities among US troops this past year than at any time since 2002. I would send 2 to 3 additional brigades to Afghanistan. Keep in mind that we have 4 times the number of troops in Iraq, where nobody had anything to do with 9/11 before we went in, where, in fact, there was no al Qaeda before we went in. That is a strategic mistake, because every intelligence agency will acknowledge that al Qaeda is the greatest threat against the US, and that the place where we have to deal with these folks is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s not just more troops. We have to #1, press the Afghan government to make certain that they are actually working for their people; #2, we’ve got to deal with a poppy trade that has exploded; #3, we’ve got to deal with Pakistan, because al Qaeda and the Taliban have safe havens in Pakistan. Until we do, Americans at home are not safe.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain Sep 26, 2008

McCain says he’d follow Laden to hell; but not to his cave?

If McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament & judgment to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have. While McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing it would distract us from the real threats we face. I argued for more resources & troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden & his lieutenants. McCain likes to say he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell--but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives. As my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government & even Bush, even Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war. That’s not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping the past.
Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention Aug 27, 2008

Get al Qaeda hiding in hills between Afghanistan & Pakistan

OBAMA: We know right now, according to the National Intelligence Estimate, that al Qaeda is hiding in the hills between Afghanistan & Pakistan. And because we have taken our eye off the ball, they are stronger now than any time since 2001. As president, I want us to fight on the right battlefield, and what that means is getting out Iraq and refocusing our attention on the war that can be one in Afghanistan. And that also will allow us to free up the kinds of resources that will make us safer here at home because we’ll be able to invest in port security, chemical plant security, all the critical issues that have already been discussed.

DODD: I think it’s highly irresponsible to suggest we may be willing unilaterally to invade a nation who we’re trying to get to be more cooperative with us in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

CLINTON: I think it is a very big mistake to telegraph that and to destabilize the Musharraf regime, which is fighting for its life against the Islamic extremists.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Iraq has distracted us from Taliban in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an area where we should be focusing. NATO has made real contributions there. Unfortunately, because of the distraction of Iraq, we have not finished the job in terms of making certain that we are driving back the Taliban, stabilizing the Karzai government, capturing bin Laden and making sure that we’ve rooted out terrorism in that region.
Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC Apr 26, 2007

We are playing to Osama’s plan for winning a war from a cave

The struggle against Islamic-based terrorism will be not simply a military campaign but a battle for public opinion in the Islamic world, among our allies & in the US. Osama bin Laden understands that he cannot defeat the US in a conventional war. What h & his allies can do is inflict enough pain to provoke a reaction of the sort we’ve seen in Iraq--a botched & ill-advised US military incursion into a Muslim country, which in turn spurs on insurgencies based on religious sentiment & nationalist pride, which in turn necessitates a lengthy & difficult US occupation. All of this fans anti-American sentiment among Muslims, & increases the pool of potential terrorist recruits.

That’s the plan for winning a war from a cave, & so far, we are playing to script. To change that script, we’ll need to make sure that any exercise of American military power helps rather than hinders our broader goals: to incapacitate the destructive potential of terrorist networks and win this global battle of ideas.

Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.307 Oct 1, 2006

Al Qaida is stronger than before thanks to the Bush doctrine

Part of the reason that we neglected Afghanistan, part of the reason that we didn’t go after bin Laden as aggressively as we should have is we were distracted by a war of choice. That’s the flaw of the Bush doctrine. It wasn’t that he went after those who attacked America. It was that he went after those who didn’t. As a consequence, we have been bogged down, paid extraordinary--an extraordinary price in blood and treasure, and we have fanned the anti- American sentiment that actually makes it more difficult for us to act in Pakistan. It is absolutely true that we have to, as much as possible, get Pakistan’s agreement before we act. And that’s always going to be the case. But we have to make sure that we do not hesitate to act when it comes to Al Qaida. Because they are currently stronger than they were at any time since 2001, partly because we took our eye off the ball.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Make no mistake: Troops coming home from Iraq by August

We are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government--we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and we will continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.
Source: 2010 State of the Union Address Jan 27, 2010

2004: Not much difference between my position and Bush's

Hillary's campaign's research team discovered a pair of potentially damaging quotes from 2004: "I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don't know," Obama said when asked how he would have voted on authorizing the war had he been in the Senate at the time; and, "there's not much of a difference between my position on Iraq and George Bush's position at this stage."

Told that journalists didn't consider it news, Bill Clinton would wail, "Why not? Why not!" On a conference call with a group of Hillary's bundlers--to which a reporter was conveniently allowed to listen-- "I don't have a problem with anything Barack Obama said on this," Bill Clinton stated. But "to characterize Hillary and Obama's positions on the war as polar opposites is ludicrous. This dichotomy that's been set up to allow him to become the raging hero of the antiwar crowd on the Internet is just factually inaccurate."

Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p. 90-91 Jan 11, 2010

2008: McCain was wrong about WMDs and wrong about Iraq

In the first debate of Sept. 2008, an audience of more than 53 million watched. They saw Obama project an aura of confidence and competence on foreign policy. And they saw him pierce McCain with one poison-tipped sound bite regarding the Republican's record on Iraq: "You said we knew where the WMD were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shiite and Sunni. And you were wrong."
Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.392 Jan 11, 2010

FactCheck: Iraqis have $29B surplus, not $79B

Obama repeated a stale talking point when he said, “We’re spending $10 billion a month in Iraq at a time when the Iraqis have a $79 billion surplus, $79 billion.”

As we’ve pointed out when Obama said it on the campaign trail, when he repeated it at the last debate, and even when Biden mentioned the figure in the vice presidential debate, that number is wrong. The Iraqis actually “have” $29.4 billion in the bank. The Government Accountability Office projected in August that Iraq’s 2008 budget surplus could range anywhere from $38.2 billion to $50.3 billion, depending on oil revenue, price and volume. Then, in early August, the Iraqi legislature passed a $21 billion supplemental spending bill. The supplemental will be completely funded by this year’s surplus, and that means that the Iraqi’s will not have $79 billion in the bank. They could have about $59 billion.

Source: on 2008 second presidential debate Oct 7, 2008

FactCheck: Opposes surge--hasn’t produced political solution

McCAIN: “Senator Obama said the surge could not work, said it would increase sectarian violence, said it was doomed to failure.”

FACT CHECK: Obama said at the time that the increase in roughly 30,000 US troops in Iraq could improve security in “certain neighborhoods” but that it would not solve the long-term political strife between Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups. “I don’t think there’s been any doubt that if we put US troops in that, in the short term, we might see some improvement in certain neighborhoods,“ he said in March 2007. In a September 2007 speech Obama said ”the stated purpose of the surge was to enable Iraq’s leaders to reconcile. Our troops fight and die in the 120-degree heat to give Iraq’s leaders space to agree, but they aren’t filling it.“

Source: on 2008 first presidential debate-Boston Globe Sep 26, 2008

The surge is a tactic to contain 4 years of mismanaged war

McCAIN: Obama said the surge could not work, said it would increase sectarian violence, said it was doomed to failure. He still says that he would oppose the surge.

OBAMA: The violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops. But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war. John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shiite & Sunni. If the question is who is best-equipped to make good decisions about how we use our military, how we make sure that we are prepared & ready for the next conflict, then I think we can take a look at our judgment

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain Sep 26, 2008

FactCheck: Iraq has at most $59B surplus, not $79B surplus

Obama was out of date in saying the Iraqi government has “$79 billion,” when he argued that the US should stop spending money on the war in Iraq. Obama, said, “We are currently spending $10 billion a month in Iraq when they have a $79 billion surplus.”

Source: on 2008 first Presidential debate Sep 26, 2008

FactCheck: Promised 16-month exit; now 16-month reduction

Obama stretched out his schedule for withdrawing troops from Iraq. During the debate, Obama said we could “reduce” the number of combat troops in 16 months. Obama said, “We should end this war responsibly. We should do it in phases. But in 16 months we should be able to reduce our combat troops, provide some relief to military families and our troops and bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda.”

But in Oct. 2007, Obama supported removing all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months, saying, “I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda. And I will launch the diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that are so badly needed. Let there be no doubt: I will end this war.” The quote appears on the campaign’s Web site.

Source: on 2008 first Presidential debate Sep 26, 2008

You don’t defeat a terrorist network by occupying Iraq

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice--but it is not the change we need.
Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention Aug 27, 2008

Situation has improved in Iraq; but it’s still fragile

Q: You recently visited Iraq for the first time since 2006. What was new?

A: Well, there’s no doubt the scary situation’s improved. And it was very encouraging to see that markets are reopening; that in places like Anbar Province you have seen a complete reversal in terms of the attitude of Sunni tribesmen towards American forces there. That I think is a terrific momentum builder. And we’ve gotta keep on making sure that we’re making progress on those fronts. What hadn’t changed was there’s stil enormous suspicion between the Sunni and the Shii’a. And until that gets resolved and the central government is able to bring in Sunnis and give them confidence that their voices are heard; that their interests are met; that their constituencies are benefiting from oil revenues; and other steps that the government may be taking to improve economic opportunity--I think you’re still gonna have a fragile situation there.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric Jul 22, 2008

Surge reduced violence; but distracts us from long-term goal

Q: Before the surge there were 80 to 100 US casualties a month. But you say, even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. Why?

A: What I was referring to is the need for a strategy that actually concludes our involvement in Iraq and moves Iraqis to take responsibility for the country.

Q: But didn’t the surge help do that?

A: What happens if we continue to put $10 billion to $12 billion a month into Iraq, if we are willing to send as many troops as we can muster continually into Iraq? There’s no doubt that that’s gonna have an impact. But it doesn’t meet our long-term strategic goal, which is to make the American people safer over the long term. We’re distracting from our efforts in Afghanistan, from going after Osama bin Laden.

Q: All that may be true. But do you not give the surge any credit for reducing violence in Iraq?

A: There is no doubt that the extraordinary work of our US forces has contributed to a lessening of the violence.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric Jul 22, 2008

$10 billion a month spent in Iraq should be spent in the US

If people tell you that we cannot afford to invest in education or health care or fighting poverty, you just remind them that we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. And if we can spend that much money in Iraq, we can spend some of that money right here in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in big cities and small towns in every corner of this country.
Source: McCain-Obama speeches at 99th NAACP Convention Jul 12, 2008

President sets Iraq mission; Generals then implement tactics

Q: Will you vote to confirm Gen. David Petraeus in his nomination to be the head of Central Command?

A: Yes. I think Petraeus has done a good tactical job in Iraq.

Q: If Gen Patraeus says your plan to get out of Iraq is a mistake, will you replace him?

A: I will listen to General Petraeus given the experience that he has accumulated over the last several years. But it would be my job as commander in chief to set the mission, to make the strategic decisions in light of the problems that we’re having in Afghanistan & Pakistan.

Q: So would you replace him or would you just say, “I’m the commander in chief, follow my order?”

A: What I will do is say, “We have a new mission. It is my strategic assessment that we have to provide a time table to the Iraqi government. I want you to tell me how best to execute this new assignment, and I am happy to listen to the tactical considerations and any ideas you have, but what I will not do is to continue to let the Iraqi government off the hook.”

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: presidential series Apr 27, 2008

President sets Iraq mission; give generals a new mission

Q: You have said “we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most.” No matter what the military commanders say?

A: The commander in chief sets the mission. That’s not the role of the generals. The president’s approach lately has been to say, well, I’m just taking cues from General Petraeus. Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And unfortunately we have had a bad mission. Once I’ve given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberatel in an orderly fashion out of Iraq, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration. And I have to look at not just the situation in Iraq, but the fact that we continue to see al Qaeda getting stronger in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, we continue to see anti-American sentiment fanned all cross the Middle East, and we are overstretched in a way that we do not have a strategic reserve at this point.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008

$2.7 billion each week of Iraq spending is unsustainable

Q: You were opposed to the surge from the beginning. Were you wrong?

A: It is indisputable that we’ve seen violence reduced in Iraq. That’s a credit to our brave men and women in uniform. The 1st Cavalry of Fort Hood played an enormous role in pushing back al Qaeda out of Baghdad. We honor their service. But this is a tactical victory imposed upon a huge strategic blunder. When we’re having a debate with McCain, it is going to be much easier for the candidate who was opposed to the concept of invading Iraq in the first place to have a debate about the wisdom of that decision than having to argue about the tactics subsequent to the decision. Not only have we been diverted from Afghanistan, we’ve been diverted from Latin America. We contribute our entire foreign aid to Latin America is $2.7 billion, approximately what we spend in Iraq in a week. It is any surprise, then, that you’ve seen people like Hugo Chavez and countries like China move into the void, because we’ve been neglectful of that.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

FactCheck: Overstated displaced Iraqis; actually 4.2 million

Obama stretched the facts when he said there are “two-and-a-half million displaced people inside of Iraq and several million more outside of Iraq.” The Red Cross put the figure of those displaced inside the country at 2.3 million as of Sept. 2007, and lowered its estimate to 2.2 million as the security situation improved and some people have returned home. As for displaced Iraqis outside the nation’s borders, according to a recent report from the UN, that figure is around 2 million.
Source: on 2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview Feb 11, 2008

The Iraq war has undermined our security

We have spent billions of dollars, lost thousands of lives. Thousands more have been maimed and injured as a consequence and are going to have difficulty putting their lives back together again. This has undermined our security. In the meantime, Afghanistan has slid into more chaos than existed before we went into Iraq.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Iraq is distracting us from a host of global threats

It is important for us to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I will end this war. We will not have a permanent occupation and permanent bases in Iraq. When McCain suggests that we might be there 100 years, that indicates a profound lack of understanding that we’ve got a whole host of global threats out there, including Iraq, but we’ve got a big problem right now in Afghanistan. Pakistan is of great concern. We are neglecting our foreign policy with respect to Latin America. China is strengthening. If we neglect our economy by spending $200 billion every year in this war that has not made us more safe, that is undermining our long-term security. It is important for us to set a date. Because if we are going to send a signal t the Iraqis that we are serious, and prompt the Shia, Sunni, & Kurds to actually come together & negotiate, they have to have clarity about how serious we are. It can’t be muddy or fuzzy. They’ve got to know that we are serious about this process.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

We have set the bar so low in Iraq

Q: There has been some stability in parts of Iraq where there was turmoil before and that any quick, overly quick withdrawal could undermine all of that and all of that progress would be for naught. The number of US casualties has gone down. What do you say?

A: I welcome the progress. This notion that Democrats don’t want to see progress in Iraq is ridiculous. I have to hug mothers in rope lines during town hall meetings as they weep over their fallen sons and daughters. I want to get our troops home safely, and I want us as a country to have this mission completed honorably. But the notion that somehow we have succeeded as a consequence of the recent reductions in violence means that we have set the bar so low it’s buried in the sand at this point. We went from intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government to spikes and horrific levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. Now, two years later, we’re back to intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

The surge is not working toward enduring peace

Tonight Pres. Bush said that the surge in Iraq is working, when we know that’s just not true. Yes, our valiant soldiers have helped reduce the violence. But let there be no doubt--the Iraqi government has failed to seize the moment to reach compromises necessary for an enduring peace. That was what we were told the surge was all about. So the only way we’re finally going to pressure the Iraqis to reconcile and take responsibility for their future is to immediately begin a responsible withdrawal.
Source: Response to 2008 State of the Union address Jan 28, 2008

Iraq takes our eye off al Qaeda & Afghanistan

We need to begin this withdrawal [from Iraq] immediately is because this war has not made us safer. I opposed this war from the start in part because I was concerned that it would take our eye off al Qaeda and distract us from finishing the job in Afghanistan. Sadly, that’s what happened. It’s time to heed our military commanders by increasing our commitment to Afghanistan, and it’s time to protect the American people by taking the fight to al Qaeda.
Source: Response to 2008 State of the Union address Jan 28, 2008

$2 trillion and the loss of life in Iraq are not sustainable

I want to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, but I want to make sure that we get all our combat troops out as quickly as we can safely. Now, the estimates are maybe that’s two brigades per month. At that pace it would be some time in 2009 that we had our combat troops out, depending on whether Bush follows through on his commitment to draw down from the surge. We don’t know that yet. We are spending $9 billion to $10 billion every month. That’s money that could be going in South Carolina to lay broadband lines in rural communities, to put kids back to school. When McCain says we’ll be there for 50 or 60 or 100 years, it is not just the loss of life, which is obviously the most tragic aspect of it, it’s also the fact that financially it is unsustainable. We will have spent $2 trillion at least, it’s estimated, by the time this whole thing is over. That’s enough to have rebuilt every road, bridge, hospital, school in the US, and still have money left over.
Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate Jan 21, 2008

Get our troops out by the end of 2009

I have put forward a plan that will get our troops out by the end of 2009. We already saw today reports that the Iraqi minister suggests that we’re going to be in there at least until 2018, a decade-long commitment. Currently, we are spending $9 to $10 billion a month. The notion is that we are going to sustain that at the same time as we’re neglecting what we see happening in Afghanistan right now, where you have a luxury hotel in Kabul blown up by militants and the situation continues to worsen.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

2002: Iraq will require US occupation of undetermined length

Q: [to Clinton]: The same week that you voted for the 2002 resolution on the use of military force against Iraq, Sen. Obama said: “I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the US, or to his neighbors. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale, without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.“ Who had the better judgment at tha time?

CLINTON: In Sen. Obama’s recent book, he clearly says he thought that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, and that he still coveted nuclear weapons. By the summer of 2004, Sen. Obama said he wasn’t sure how he would have voted.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series Jan 13, 2008

FactCheck: No, violence in Iraq is LOWER than 2 years ago

Obama vastly understated the improvement in the security situation in Iraq when he said, “We saw a spike in the violence, the surge reduced that violence, and we now are, two years later, back where we started two years ago.” There was indeed a spike in the violence in Iraq during the last two years that has been receding as of late. Most recently, nearly all statistical indicators show that violence is sharply lower than it was two years ago, according to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index.
Source: on 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic debate Jan 5, 2008

Surge strategy has made a difference in Iraq but failed

Q: Is Petraeus correct when he says that the troop increase is bringing security to Iraq?

A: There is no doubt that because we put American troops in Iraq, more American troops in Iraq, that they are doing a magnificent job. They are making a difference in certain neighborhoods. But the overall strategy is failed because we have not seen any change in behavior among Iraq’s political leaders. That is the essence of what we should be trying to do in Iraq. That’s why I’m going to bring this war to a close. That’s why we can get our combat troops out within 16 months and have to initiate the kind of regional diplomacy, not just talking to our friends, but talking to our enemies, like Iran and Syria, to try to stabilize the situation there. This year, we saw the highest casualty rates for American troops in Iraq since this war started. The same is true in Afghanistan. If we have seen a lowering violence rate, that’s only compared to earlier this year. We’re back to where we started back in 2006.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada Nov 15, 2007

Introduced bill to redeploy troops in May 2007; it failed

Obama introduced a bill to begin troop redeployment in May of 2007 (it failed, as he must have known it would), but he has been critical of Rep. John Murtha’s calls for a quick withdrawal. Again, that strategy: tacking slightly to the left while attackin the Left to make his position seem centrist. He was an early critic of the Iraq invasion, and in the most recent vote to cut off funding for the war he voted yes, but only at the last minute and without comment, following Hillary’s lead.]
Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p. 73 Nov 11, 2007

Clinton has not been consistent on the Iraq War

Q: Was Sen. Clinton’s answer to the opposition of the Iraq war question consistent, in your view?

A: I don’t think it’s consistent with the Iran resolution, for example, which specifically stated that we should structure our forces in Iraq with an eye toward blunting Iranian influence. It is yet another rationale for what we’re doing in Iraq, & that’s a mistake. We’ve got to focus on diplomacy. The president has to lead that diplomacy, which is why I’ve said I would convene a meeting of Muslim leaders upon taking office because I think we have to send a strong signal that we are willing to listen and not just talk, and certainly not just dictate or engage in military action. But the real key for the next president is someone who has the credibility of not having been one of the co-authors of this engagement in Iraq. I am in a strong position to be able to say I thought this was a bad idea in the first place. We now have to fix it. We have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University Oct 30, 2007

2002: I don’t oppose all war; I do oppose dumb war

On October 26, 2002, Obama said: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A war based not on reason but on passion.“

In 2002, when Obama opposed war with Iraq, he knew he would run for the Senate in 2004 and this stand might cost him the election. No other major Democratic candidate for president opposed the war before it happened.

Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 43-44 Oct 30, 2007

Surge has not succeeded because it ignores political issues

Q: What’s your assessment of the Gen. Petraeus testimony on Iraq?

A: Well, after hearing two days of testimony, let’s be clear on exactly what they said. That after putting an additional 30,000 troops in, far longer & more troops than the president had initially said, we have gone from a horrendous situation of violence in Iraq to the same intolerable levels of violence that we had back in June of 2006. So, essentially, after all this we’re back where we were 15 months ago. And what has not happened is any movement with respect to the sort of political accommodations among the various factions, the Shia, the Sunni, and Kurds that were the rationale for surge and that ultimately is going to be what stabilizes Iraq. So, I think it is fair to say that the president has simply tried to gain another six months to continue on the same course that he’s been on for several years now. It is a course that will not succeed. It is a course that is exacting an enormous toll on the American people & our troops.

Source: Huffington Post Mash-Up: 2007 Democratic on-line debate Sep 13, 2007

Tell people the truth: quickest is 1-2 brigades per month

RICHARDSON: With all due respect to Sen. Obama & Sen. Clinton, what I heard tonight is that even in their second terms, they will not get the troops out. Therefore, the war will not end.

OBAMA: It is important to tell the American people the truth. Military commanders indicate that they can safely get combat troops out at the pace of one to two brigades a month. That is the quickest pace that we can do it safely. I have said I will begin immediately and we will do it as rapidly as we can.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College Sep 6, 2007

No good options in Iraq--just bad options & worse options

Q: If you get us out of Iraq and somehow al Qaeda takes over anyway, what will you do then?

A: Well, look, if we had followed my judgment originally, we wouldn’t have been in Iraq. We’re here now. And we’ve got no good options. We got bad options and worse options. The only way we’re going to stabilize Iraq and make sure that al Qaeda does not take over in the long term is to begin a phased redeployment so that we don’t have anti-American sentiment as a focal point for al Qaeda in Iraq. We can still have troops in the region, outside of Iraq, that can help on counterterrorism activities, and we’ve got to make sure that they don’t establish long-term bases there. But right now, the bases are in Afghanistan and in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan; that’s where we’ve got to focus.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in

Q: How do we pull out now, without opening Iraq up for Iran and Syria?

A: Look, I opposed this war from the start. Because I anticipated that we would be creating the kind of sectarian violence that we’ve seen and that it would distract us from the war on terror. At this point, I think we can be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. But we have to send a clear message to the Iraqi government as well as to the surrounding neighbors that there is no military solution to the problems that we face in Iraq. So we have to begin a phased withdrawal; have our combat troops out by March 31st of next year; and initiate the kind of diplomatic surge that is necessary in these surrounding regions to make sure that everybody is carrying their weight. And that is what I will do on day one, as president of the United States, if we have not done it in the intervening months.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC Jul 23, 2007

Troops not dying in vain; but we need plans for success

Q: [to Gravel]: Were the deaths of Vietnam in vain?

GRAVEL: Our soldiers died in Vietnam in vain. In Iraq, there’s only one thing worse than a soldier dying in vain; it’s more soldiers dying in vain.

Q: Are the troops in Iraq dying in vain?

OBAMA: I never think that troops who do their mission for their country, are dying in vain. But what I do think is that the civilian leadership and the commander in chief has a responsibility to make sure that they have the plans that are going to allow our troops to succeed in their mission.

EDWARDS: I don’t think any of our troops die in vain when they go and do the duty that’s been given to them by the commander in chief. No, I don’t think they died in vain. But I think the question is: What is going to be done to stop this war? What we need to do is turn up the heat on George Bush and hold him responsible and make this president change course.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC Jul 23, 2007

Increase ground forces in Iraq to decrease troop rotations

Q: What would you consider to be a “mission complete” status in Iraq?

A: One of the enormous difficulties of this war has been the strain it’s placed on our men and women in uniform. We have seen our Army and our Reserves and our National Guard all being stretched to a breaking point. That’s one of the reasons why I proposed that we’re going to have to increase the size of our ground forces, so we can stop the sort of rotations that we’ve been placing them on, which have been putting enormous strai not only on the soldiers themselves, but also their families. But we are one signature away or 16 votes away from ending this war. Now, if the president is not going to sign the bill that has been sent to him, then what we have to do is gather up 16 votes in order to override his veto. We can’t expect that we can continue to impose a military solution on what is essentially a political problem, and that’s what we have to organize around.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC Apr 26, 2007

Begin withdrawal May 1 2007; finish by March 31 2008

Since January, I have put forward a very specific plan that is designed to create the last best hope to pressure the Sunni and the Shia to reach political accommodation. That’s to let the Iraqi government know that America is not going to be there indefinitely. So, what my plan says is that on May 1st of this year, we need to begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq, with the goal of removing all combat troops by March 31st of next year. And we’ve got 54 sponsors so far on the bill. We’re gonna keep on pushing that agenda.

The withdrawal has to begin soon. It’s time to end this war. It’s time to refocus our efforts on the wider struggle against terror, and it’s time for us to work much more aggressively diplomatically both inside Iraq and regionally if we’re gonna see the kind of stability in Iraq that all of us hope for.

Source: Virtual Town Hall on Iraq, sponsored by Apr 10, 2007

Open dialogue with both Syria and Iran

Q: How would you include Syria and Iran in the effort toward establishing a stable, responsible, and non-hostile government in Iraq?

A: We have to realize that the entire Middle East has a huge stake in the outcome of Iraq, and that we have to engage neighboring countries in finding a solution. Now, I believe that includes opening dialogue both Syria and Iran. We know these countries want us to fail. I’m under no illusions there, but I also know that neither Syria nor Iran want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, and terrorism, and refugees and violence, since those could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region, including within their own countries. So, even as we remain steadfast in our opposition to their support of terrorism, even as we continue to put pressure on Iran to stand down on its nuclear ambitions, it’s absolutely critical that we talk to the Syrians and the Iranians about playing a more constructive role in Iraq.

Source: Virtual Town Hall on Iraq, sponsored by Apr 10, 2007

Saddam is a tyrant but not a national security threat

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. The world, and the Iraqi people would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p.143 Mar 27, 2007

Withdraw gradually and keep some troops in Iraq region

We must end this war in Iraq. I opposed this war from the beginning--in part because I believed that if we gave this President the open-ended authority to invade Iraq, we would end up with the open-ended occupation we find ourselves in today.

We shouldn’t be sending more troops to Iraq, we should be bringing them home. It’s time to find an end to this war. That’s why I have a plan that will begin withdrawing our troops from Iraq on May 1st of this year, with the goal of removing all of our combat forces from the country by March of 2008.

We have to make sure we’re not as careless getting out of this war as we were getting in, and that’s why this withdrawal would be gradual, and would keep some US troops in the region to prevent a wider war and go after Al Qaeda and other terrorists.

But above all, it’s a plan that recognizes a fact that just about everyone in the world understands except the White House--there is no military solution to this war.

Source: 2007 IAFF Presidential Forum in Washington DC Mar 14, 2007

Longtime critic of Iraq war

The Illinois senator is a longtime critic of the war, elected to the Senate after the conflict began. In a recent speech, Obama called for a “gradual and substantial” reduction of US forces.
Source: People’s Daily (China), “Contenders views on the war” Nov 23, 2006

The surge reduced violence, but at enormous cost

The bar of success has become so low that we’ve lost perspective on what should be our long-term national interests. It was a mistake to go in from the start, and that’s why I opposed this war from the start. It has cost us upwards of $1 trillion. It may get close to $2 trillion. We have lost young men and women on the battlefield, and we have not made ourself safer as a consequence. I had no doubt, and I said when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence. We started in 2006 with intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. We saw a spike in the violence. The surge reduced that violence, and we now are, two years later, back where we started two years ago. We have gone full circle at enormous cost to the American people.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Begin a phased redeployment to send a clear signal

What we have to do is to begin a phased redeployment to send a clear signal to the Iraqi government that we are not going to be there in perpetuity. We should be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I welcome the reductions of violence that have taken place, although I would point out that much of that violence has been reduced because there was an agreement with tribes in Anbar province. Sunni tribes, who started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, the Americans may be leaving soon. We should start negotiating now. That’s how you change behavior. That’s why I will send a clear signal to the Iraqi government. They will have ample time to actually pass an oil law, which they’ve been talking about now for years. We can’t continue to ignore the enormous strains that this has placed on the American taxpayer, as well as the anti-American sentiment that it is fanning, and the neglect that’s happening in Afghanistan as a consequence.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Initial military was extraordinarily successful in Iraq

Q: What has been the biggest success in Iraq?

A: The initial military was extraordinarily successful in moving into Iraq, and it exceeded all expectations, even those of us who expected the military to be successful were stunned and impressed by how efficient our military and our brave fighting forces were in executing it. But missing 380 tons of explosives being used on roadside bombs is an enormous error, particularly when the Bush administration had been warned by the Atomic Energy Commission. Keyes has suggested that somehow I’m naive to question how we’ve gone about this war in Iraq. It strikes me that the Bush administration has been naive throughout. It was naive to think that we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq. It’s been naive in thinking that somehow this would actually diminish recruitment for terrorism. In fact, it’s accelerated it. It’s been naive with respect to how difficult it’s gonna be to secure the peace, and our troops and our taxpayers are suffering from those errors.

Source: IL Senate Debate Oct 26, 2004

Iraq War has made US less safe from terrorism

KEYES: What probability was there that there was going to be a biological or nuclear attack against the US [from Iraq]? Bush acted to reduce that probability to zero.

OBAMA: There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. This war has made us less safe because it betrayed a set of international rules that were in place to protect us, that could have helped us defeat terrorism. Mr. Keyes implied that by fighting this war in Iraq we have reduced the probability of a terrorist attack to zero. That cannot be the case when we have nuclear fuel lying around in the former Soviet Union. We still have ports that are insecure. We have nuclear and chemical plants that are still insecure. The notion that we have eliminated the terrorist threat while Osama bin Laden roams free in the hills of Afghanistan is simply not the case.

KEYES: We have reduced the probability of an attack from Saddam Hussein to zero.

Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes Oct 21, 2004

Saddam has no connections to Al Qaeda nor to 9/11

Q: Is the Iraq War the right war at the right time?

OBAMA: There was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. This war has made us less safe. Osama bin Laden roams free in the hills of Afghanistan.

KEYES: The breathtaking naivete of the assertion that there is no connection between Al Qaeda & Saddam Hussein when Saddam was providing payments to the families of Hamas suicide bombers who had ties to Al Qaeda. I worked on the National Security Council staff. Maybe that’s why I understand the situation a little better than Barack Obama. Those ties are real and we cannot afford to let them operate.

OBAMA: I don’t think that Mr. Keyes knowledge of the situation is better than Donald Rumsfeld’s or the other experts who have confirmed that there was no connection between those who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11 and Iraq. This was an ideologically driven war. But now we do have a hotbed of terrorism to fight in Iraq.

Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes Oct 21, 2004

We must make sure that Iraq is stable having gone in there

Q: You’re in favor of keeping troops in Iraq. How long?

A: The War on Terror has to be vigorously fought. Where we part company is how to fight it, because Afghanistan in fact was not a preemptive war, it was a war launched directly against those who were responsible for 9/11. Iraq was a preemptive war based on faulty evidence-and I say that not in hindsight, or Monday-morning quarterbacking. Six months before the war was launched, I questioned the evidence that would lead to us being there. Now, us having gone in there, we have a deep national security interest in making certain that Iraq is stable. If not, not only are we going to have a humanitarian crisis, we are also going to have a huge national security problem on our hands-because, ironically, it has become a hotbed of terrorists as a consequence, in part, of our incursion there. In terms of timetable, I’m not somebody who can say with certainty that a year from now or six months from now we’re going to be able to pull down troops.

Source: IL Senate Debate, Illinois Radio Network Oct 12, 2004

Advance the training speed and get the reconstruction moving

    We have to do three things in Iraq.
  1. We have to advance the speed with which we are training Iraqi troops and security forces so that they can stabilize the country, and that’s going to require our help.
  2. But it’s also going to require the help of the international community, which is why we have to internationalize this process. I’m under no illusions that the Germans and the French are going to be sending troops in any time soon, but we can get them to put more resources into the training and infrastructure required to secure the Iraqi borders and the Iraqi streets.
  3. Finally, it’s important that we get our reconstruction moving. The reconstruction process that has taken place has been completely inept. And that’s not simply my estimation, that’s the estimation of the two ranking Republican Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who issued a blistering attack on the Bush administration. Highly unusual and it indicates how badly botched this job has been.
Source: IL Senate Debate, Illinois Radio Network Oct 12, 2004

Set a new tone to internationalize the Iraqi reconstruction

Many families have got reservists, National Guardsmen, the sons, daughters, uncles, and aunts of people who are in Iraq for 18 months. They don’t see an exit strategy. They’re deeply troubled about how we got into the war. Kerry is going to have to offer the ability for his administration to be able to set a new tone, re-establish the kinds of relationships with our allies that allow us to internationalize the reconstruction process, make sure that Iraq succeeds and allow our troops eventually to get out
Source: Meet The Press, NBC News, 2004 interview with Tim Russert Jul 25, 2004

International voice in Iraq in exchange for debt forgiveness

[We should] confront the challenge of returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people. We must leave behind a government that has enough legitimacy and political support from all three factions-the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia-to survive on its own. The best path to that is through free and fair elections and a constitution that preserves minority rights. For these elections to take place next year, as scheduled, there must be sufficient security in the country and, therefore, we must maintain a strong military presence while encouraging the interim government to hold elections as soon as possible. We must also encourage international involvement in this process by giving them a meaningful voice and role in Iraqi affairs and fair access to multi-billion dollar reconstruction contracts. In return, they must forgive Saddam’s multi-billion dollar debts to their countries and help pay the reconstruction costs.
Source: Press Release, “Renewal of American Leadership ” Jul 12, 2004

Bush cracked down on some terrorists’ financial networks

Bush has cracked down on some of the terrorists’ financial networks; I think that is important. They have unfortunately not strengthened our alliances with other countries, and one of the most important things that we’re going to have to do to be successful in rooting out these networks is to make sure that we have the cooperation of other nations. That is not something that we’ve done, and the effort in Iraq has greatly weakened our efforts there.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College Jun 3, 2007

Other candidates on War & Peace: Barack Obama on other issues:
Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
GOP Candidates:
Gov.Mitt Romney(MA)
Rep.Paul Ryan(WI)
Third Party Candidates:
Mayor Rocky Anderson(J)
Roseanne Barr(PF)
Rep.Virgil Goode(C)
Gov.Gary Johnson(L)
Jill Stein(G)
Andre Barnett(Ref.)

GOP Withdrawals:
Rep.Michele Bachmann(MN)
Herman Cain(GA)
Rep.Newt Gingrich(GA)
Gov.Sarah Palin(AK)
Rep.Ron Paul(TX)
Gov.Tim Pawlenty(MN)
Gov.Rick Perry(TX)
Gov.Buddy Roemer(LA)
Sen.Rick Santorum(PA)
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