Barack Obama on War & Peace

Democratic incumbent President; IL Senator (2004-2008)

We organized world community to agree that Assad has to go

Q: It's been more than a year since you told Assad he had to go. Since then 30,000 Syrians have died. Should we reassess our policy?

OBAMA: What we've done is organize the international community, saying Assad has to go. We've mobilized sanctions against that government. We have made sure that they are isolated. We have provided humanitarian assistance, and we are helping the opposition organize. But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future. Everything we're doing, we're doing in consultation with our partners, including Israel and Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this. Now, what we're seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking, and that's why we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the opposition. I am confident that Assad's days are numbered, but we also have to recognize that for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step.

ROMNEY: Syria is a humanitarian disaster.

Source: Third Obama-Romney 2012 Presidential debate , Oct 22, 2012

Barack Obama on Afghan War

We had forgotten why we went into Afghanistan

OBAMA: When I came into office, we were still bogged down in Iraq, and Afghanistan had been drifting for a decade. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on Afghanistan. And we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place. Part of what had happened is we'd forgotten why we'd gone. We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths. And so we decimated al-Qaida's core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We then started to build up Afghan forces. And we're now in a position where we can transition out, because there's no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.

ROMNEY: Inside Pakistan you have a large group of Pashtuns that are Taliban, that they're going to come rushing back into Afghanistan when we go.

Source: Third Obama-Romney 2012 Presidential debate , Oct 22, 2012

End our longest war: out of Afghanistan in 2014

Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And we have. We've blunted the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over.

A new tower rises above the New York skyline, Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Source: 2012 Democratic National Convention speech , Sep 6, 2012

All but one advisor cautioned against Osama bin Laden strike

Biden dished up some of the confidential details of how the decision was made to go after Bin Laden in Pakistan. Obama had to make the toughest call of his presidency based on the moon. Would there be too much moonlight that night for the brazen secret operation--the kind that went wrong and marred Jimmy Carter's presidency?

"The president, he went around the table with all the senior people, and he said, 'What is your opinion?' " Biden recounted. "Leon Panetta said go. Everyone else said, 49-51. He got to me. And I said, 'I didn't know we had so many economists around the table.'

Biden is so eager to show how bold and cool Obama was in that teeth-rattling moment that he relishes admitting he gave cautious advice that was ignored. "He knew what was at stake," Biden said. "Not just the lives of those brave warriors, but literally the presidency. And he pulled the trigger." The vice president concluded triumphantly: "This guy doesn't lead from behind. He just leads."

Source: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist , Jan 31, 2012

Make sure Afghanistan is never again a source of attack

Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From this position of strength, we've begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. 10,000 of our troops have come home. 23,000 more will leave by the end of this summer. This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.
Source: 2012 State of the Union speech , Jan 24, 2012

FactCheck: Taliban may control countryside after US leaves

Obama said in the State of the Union, "The Taliban's momentum has been broken."

THE FACTS: Obama is more sanguine about progress in Afghanistan than his own intelligence apparatus. The latest National Intelligence Estimate warns that the Taliban will grow stronger, and stall until US troops leave, while continuing to fight for more territory. The assessment says the Afghan government hasn't been able to establish credibility, and predicts the Taliban and warlords will largely control the countryside.

Source: Fox News FactCheck on 2012 State of the Union speech , Jan 24, 2012

2009: Command is a solemn responsibility; war has no glory

Obama had angered Republicans and military leaders by sometimes appearing to treat the war less like an ongoing reality than an exercise in critical thought. In the fall of 2009, governing with typical deliberateness, Obama had spent more than three months contemplating whether or not to send more service members into Afghanistan. He had assembled 25 religious leaders to converse with him about the morality of war. He had read "Lessons in Disaster," a book about the Vietnam War. He had flown in the middle of the night to Dover Air Force Base to greet the flag-draped coffins of eighteen Americans killed in action.

When he finally made his decision in Dec. 2009, announcing he would swell the war with thirty thousand more troops in hopes of winning and then withdrawing quickly, he had spoken primarily of the "solemn responsibility" of being commander in chief. "He was very clear we were not going to beat our chests and we were not going to treat war as a glorious endeavor to be celebrated."

Source: Ten Letters, by Eli Saslow, p. 68-69 , Oct 11, 2011

Afghan war: moral imperative against determined enemy

He spoke about combat with a new conviction. He described the war in the exact terms he once asked his speechwriters to avoid: It was a moral imperative--a glorious endeavor to be celebrated. "If I thought for a minute that America's vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order you all home right now. "There's going to be setbacks. We face a determined enemy. But we also know this: America does not quit once it starts something. You don't quit.

"Al Qaeda and the violent extremists who you're fighting against want to destroy. But all of you want to build, and that is something essential about America. They're got no respect for human life. You see dignity in every human being. They want to drive races and regions and religions apart. You want to bring people together and see the world move forward together. They offer fear. You offer hope."

By the time Obama finished his 20-minute speech, the troops' polite applause had turned to stomps and whistles.

Source: Ten Letters, by Eli Saslow, p. 70-71 , Oct 11, 2011

We've taken the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, until July

As we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we're disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies.

We've also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.

Source: 2011 State of the Union speech , Jan 26, 2011

OpEd: Relying heavily on drones causes civilian casualties

On Iraq, Obama has frequently been praised for his "principled opposition" to the war. In reality, his opposition has been entirely unprincipled throughout. The war, he said, was a "strategic blunder."

Obama's "vision" was to shift forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. Obama strongly endorsed the Bush administration policy of attacking suspected al-Qaeda leaders in countries Washington has not (yet) invaded. Presumably, Obama also accepts the more expansive Bush doctrine that the US not only has the right to invade countries as it chooses (unless it is a "blunder," too costly to us), but also to attack others that Washington claims were supporting resistance to its aggression. In particular, Obama is relying more heavily than Bush on the raids by drones that have killed many civilians in Pakistan. Drones have killed about 14 alleged terrorists and 700 civilians--a hit rate of 2%.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai's first message to President-elect Obama: "End US airstrikes that risk civilian casualties."

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.234-242 , Jun 1, 2010

OpEd: Conservatives happy Obama is staying in Afghanistan

Obama doesn't keep his campaign promises. Conservatives don't always go out of their way to point this out--after all, they're happy that Obama has decided to stay in Afghanistan. But that doesn't matter. The fact is, this president was elected on a platform of peace and jobs--and he's given us anything but.

That kind of reversal gets liberals and even moderates who supported Obama very angry. They feel fooled.

Here's a basic axiom for when a politician changes his mind and alters his positions: The only people who believe he's really changed are those who used to agree with him and now are angry that he's flipped. The folks who used to disagree with him don't really buy that he's come around to their point of view. He loses them both.

So Obama won't gain any new friends by fighting in Afghanistan. The hawks still consider him too weak and unwilling to stand up for American interests And the doves are upset that he went back on his word.

Source: Take Back America, by Dick Morris, p.261 , Apr 13, 2010

Troops will begin to exit Afghanistan in July 2011

In Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops, and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans--men and women alike. We're joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am absolutely confident we will succeed.
Source: 2010 State of the Union Address , Jan 27, 2010

Evil does exist in the world; sometimes war is justified

I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek, in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations--acting individually or in concert--will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.

Source: Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway , Dec 10, 2009

More aid to Pakistan; but pursue bin Laden over their border

Q: Should the US respect Pakistani sovereignty and not pursue al Qaeda terrorists who maintain bases there?

OBAMA: We have a difficult situation in Pakistan. I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a bad judgment going into Iraq, when we hadn’t finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.

We have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can’t coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars and then he’s making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants. We’re going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.

And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act & we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against John McCain , Oct 7, 2008

Unwise war in Iraq distracted us from catching Bin Laden

Q: What do you see as the lessons of Iraq?

A: I think the first question is whether we should have gone into the war in the first place. Six years ago, I opposed this war because I said that not only did we not know how much it was going to cost, what our exit strategy might be, how it would affect our relationships around the world, & whether our intelligence was sound, but also because we hadn’t caught bin Laden. We hadn’t put al Qaeda to rest, & as a consequence, I thought that it was going to be a distraction. I wish I had been wrong. We’ve spent over $600 billion so far. We have lost over 4,000 lives. We have seen 30,000 wounded, and al Qaeda is stronger now than at any time since 2001. We are still spending $10 billion a month at a time when we are in great distress here at home. The lesson is we should never hesitate to use military force, & I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely. We did not use our military wisely in Iraq

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

Military surge in Afghanistan to eliminate the Taliban

Q: The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating as the Taliban continues to reconstitute itself. Would you, as president, be willing to have a military surge in Afghanistan in order to, once and for all, eliminate the Taliban?

A: Yes. I think that’s what we need. I think we need more troops there, I think we need to do a better job of reconstruction there. I think we have to be focused on Afghanistan. It is one of the reasons that I was opposed to the war in Iraq in the first place. We now know that al-Qaeda is stronger than any time since 2001. They are growing in capability. That is something that we’ve got to address. And we’re also going to have to address the situation in Pakistan, where we now have, in the federated areas, al-Qaeda and the Taliban setting up bases there. We now have a new government in Pakistan. We have an opportunity to initiate a new relationship, so that we can get better cooperation to hunt down al-Qaeda and make sure that that does not become a safe haven for them.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , May 4, 2008

Al Qaida is based in northwest Pakistan; strike if needed

Q: You said back in August you would go into western Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence to go after it, whether or not the Pakistani government agreed. Do you stand by that?

A: I absolutely do stand by it. We should do everything in our power to push and cooperate with the Pakistani government in taking on Al Qaida, which is now based in northwest Pakistan. And what we know from our national intelligence estimates is that Al Qaida is stronger now than at any time since 2001. And so, back in August, I said we should work with the Pakistani government, first of all to encourage democracy in Pakistan so you’ve got a legitimate government, and secondly that we have to press them to do more to take on Al Qaida in their territory; and if they could not or would not do so, and we had actionable intelligence, then I would strike. The two heads of the 9/11 Commission a few months later wrote an editorial saying the exact same thing. I think it’s indisputable that that should be our course.

Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate , Jan 6, 2008

Deal with al Qaeda on Pakistan border, but not with nukes

Q: [to Clinton]: You criticized Sen. Obama for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against Al Qaida in Pakistan, yet you said the same against Bush’s use of tactical nuclear weapons in Iran, saying: “I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table.” What’s the difference there?

CLINTON: I was asked specifically about the Bush-Cheney administration’s policy to drum up support for military action against Iran. Combine that with their continuing effort to try to get “bunker-buster” nuclear bombs that could penetrate into the earth to go after deeply buried nuclear sites. This was not a hypothetical, this was a brushback against this administration which has been reckless and provocative.

Q: Do you accept that distinction?

OBAMA: There was no difference. It is not hypothetical that Al Qaida has established base camps in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan. No military expert would advise that we use nuclear weapons to deal with them, but we do have to deal with that problem.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on “This Week” , Aug 19, 2007

Military action in Pakistan if we have actionable intel

Q: [to Dodd]: If we have actionable intelligence on al Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden, [within Pakistan], and President Musharraf cannot act, then we should. Now, I think that’s just common sense. For us to authorize [military action in Iraq] where the people who attacked 3,000 Americans were not present--which you authorized--and then to suggest that somehow we should not focus on the folks that did attack 3,000 Americans, [al Qaeda in Pakistan, makes no sense].

DODD: It was a mistake to suggest somehow that going in unilaterally here into Pakistan was somehow in our interest. That is dangerous. And I don’t retreat from that at all.

OBAMA: I did not say that we would immediately go in unilaterally. What I said was that we have to work with Musharraf, because the biggest threat to American security right now are in the northwest provinces of Pakistan and that we should continue to give him military aid contingent on him doing something about that.

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

FactCheck: Yes, Obama said invade Pakistan to get al Qaeda

Sen. Obama rewrote history when he defended his controversial remarks about invading Pakistan if necessary to eliminate al Qaeda, saying, “I did not say that we would immediately go in unilaterally. What I said was that we have to work with [Pakistan’s President Pervez] Musharraf.”

That’s not exactly what he said. Obama is referring to an Aug. 1 policy address, in which he made no direct mention of working with Musharraf. Instead, he said he would “take out” al Qaeda if Musharraf failed to act.

Obama (Aug. 1):
I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum , Aug 7, 2007

Focus on battle in Afghanistan and root out al Qaeda

One of the things that I think is critical, as the next president, is to make absolutely certain that we not only phase out the Iraq but we also focus on the critical battle that we have in Afghanistan and root out al Qaeda. If we do not do that, then we’re going to potentially see another attack here in the US.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

We did the right thing in Afghanistan

I have always thought that we did the right thing in Afghanistan. My only concern with respect to Afghanistan was that we diverted our attention from Afghanistan in terms of moving into Iraq and I think we could have done a better job of stabilizing that country than we have in providing assistance to the Afghani people.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p. 5 , Mar 27, 2007

Barack Obama on Iraq War

Green Party OpEd: We are not out of Iraq

Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee for President, says of Pres. Obama's withdrawal from Iraq, "We are not out of Iraq--we should be out of Iraq and we are not," referring to the US Armed Forces move into nearby Kuwait as Obama's promised exit from Iraq. Dr. Stein disagrees with many of Obama's international policies; our OnTheIssues book details both their stances, side-by-side, on issues like: This book details the issue stances of the presidential nominees from the four leading parties: Democratic, Republican, Green, and Libertarian.
Source: Paperback: Obama-Romney-Stein-Johnson On The Issues , Aug 11, 2012

OpEd: Calling Iraq "a dumb war" left open "smarter war"

In 2002, Obama spoke at a demonstration in Chicago against the war. Congress was preparing to vote on whether to authorize the use of force. Obama went out of his way to emphasize that he was not a pacifist. His characterization of Iraq as a "dumb war" clearly left open the possibility of a "smarter" war. In this sense, he was not giving the demonstrators what they expected to hear. "I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances," Obama declared. He mentioned the Civil War, WWII and finally, the Bush administration's action against al-Qaeda after 9/11. "I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again," Obama said.

Obama's speech set him apart from the elite Democrats. To be sure, there had been a series of caveats about other wars, but these would be either overlooked or dismissed as necessary hedging. Obama had actually taken a clear, forthright and unequivocal position against the war in Iraq--before it occurred, not afterward.

Source: The Obamians, by James Mann, p. 63-64 , Jun 14, 2012

Iraq was a rash war, based on politics, not on reason

Even the prominent Democrats lagged well behind the party's rank and file. Party activists & peace groups had been strongly against the Iraq War much earlier, and so had some local politicians. One of them was a state senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

In the fall of 2002, Obama was beginning to lay the groundwork for a campaign for the US Senate. Obama's speech [to an anti-war demonstration] proved to be a critical step in launching him to the Senate & then to the presidency. What he said would be recalled and recited again and again during his battle for the Democratic nomination in 2008. He called Bush's intervention in Iraq "a dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason, but on passions, not on principle, but on politics. I know that an invasion of Iraq, without a clear rationale and 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 of al-Qaeda."

Source: The Obamians, by James Mann, p. 63-64 , Jun 14, 2012

2008 trump card: opposition to Iraq War showed experience

When early in the campaign Obama began advocating a more aggressive stance toward Pakistan, Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd chided Obama for his inexperience in foreign policy.

In response, Obama pulled out his trump card: his early opposition to the Iraq War that his opponents had voted to authorize. He recited: "I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me for making sure that we are on the right battlefield and not the wrong battlefield in the war against terrorism." Obama said. The audience cheered.

Years later, an Obama aide said he felt this was a turning point in winning the Democratic nomination. Obama not only deflected the attacks on his inexperience in foreign policy, but turned that inexperience into a virtue. His words reinforced the campaign's larger message that Obama was a young, energetic outsider who was not tied to the Democrats of the past.

Source: The Obamians, by James Mann, p. 87 , Jun 14, 2012

For first time in 9 years, no Americans are fighting in Iraq

For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda's top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.

These achievements are a testament to the courage and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Source: 2012 State of the Union speech , Jan 24, 2012

OpEd: Real Change? Still in Iraq; and now in Libya

Many independents who voted for Obama wanted real change. They were sick of Bush, sick of the war in Iraq, and sick of the poor state of the economy.

Instead of being an anti-war President, Obama has not removed troops from Iraq; has escalated the war in Afghanistan; and has involved the US in a civil war in Libya. Domestically, the unemployment situation is still high, the economy is in a questionable "recovery", and the dollar keeps losing value, and spending and the national debt gets worse.

Source: Why She Will Win, by Ron Paul Jones, p. 16 , Jun 8, 2011

Iraq: 100,000 troops have left; let's finish the job

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America's commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end.
Source: 2011 State of the Union speech , Jan 25, 2011

2002: Opposed war while all other candidates supported it

In Oct. 2002, as the debate over Iraq intensified in Washington, Hillary Clinton, McCain, Kerry and many others were preparing to support a congressional resolution giving Bush a blank check to go to war in Iraq. Before an anti-Iraq war rally in Chicago, Obama decided to speak out against the war, though he was warned to choose his words carefully. Whatever he said could affect his political future. For that reason, he used a prepared speech:

"I don't oppose all wars. After Sept. 11, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance. I don't oppose all wars. All I know is that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. 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 arm-chair warriors to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

Source: The Battle for America 2008, by Balz & Johnson, p. 21 , Aug 4, 2009

I will only send our troops into harm’s way when necessary

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home. I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.
Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention , Aug 27, 2008

2002 anti-war speech was not popular opinion at that time

Obama took a bold step. On 2 October 2002, before a few hundred demonstrators gathered at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago, He spoke out unequivocally against the invasion of Iraq. "I don't oppose all wars." Obama said, "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 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." It was a hard speech to give, he said later. "I was about to announce for the United States Senate and the politics were hard to read then. Bush is at sixty-five percent [approval]. You didn't know whether this thing was gonna play out like the first Gulf War, and you know, suddenly everybody's coming back to cheering." Perhaps as a result, he said, "That's the speech I am most proud of."
Source: Obama for Beginners, by Bob Neer, p. 36-37 , Apr 1, 2008

Humanitarian aid now for displaced Iraqis

Q: Will you use every tool in our country’s arsenal to prevent civil war in Iraq after troops are pulled out?

A: If we are doing this right, if we have a phased redeployment where we’re as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, then there’ not reason why we shouldn’t be able to prevent the wholesale slaughter some people have suggested might occur. And part of that means we are engaging in the diplomatic efforts that are required within Iraq, among friends, like Egypt, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but also enemies like Iran and Syria. They have to have buy-in into that process. We have to have humanitarian aid now. We also have two-and-a-half million displaced people inside of Iraq and several million more outside of Iraq. We should be ramping up assistance to them right now. But I always reserve the right, in conjunction with a broader international effort, to prevent genocide or any wholesale slaughter than might happen inside of Iraq or anyplace else.

Source: 2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview , Feb 11, 2008

End the war, and end the mindset that got us into war

We’ve got to be very clear about what our mission is. We would make sure that our embassies & our civilians are protected; that we’ve got to care for Iraqi civilians, including the four million displaced already. We already have a humanitarian crisis, an we have not taken those responsibilities seriously. We need a strike force that can take out potential terrorist bases that get set up in Iraq.

But the one important thing is that we not get mission creep, and we not start suggesting that we should hav troops in Iraq to blunt Iranian influence. If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government installed in the first place. We shouldn’t have invaded in the first place. It was part of the reason that it was such a profound strategic error for us to go into this war.

I will offer a clear contrast as somebody who never supported this war. I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.

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

The Iraq war was conceptually flawed from the start

It is much easier for us to have the argument, when we have a nominee who says, I always thought this was a bad idea, this was a bad strategy. It was not just a problem of execution. They screwed up the execution of it in all sorts of ways. Even McCain has acknowledged that. Can we make an argument that this was a conceptually flawed mission, from the start? We need better judgment when we decide to send our young men and women into war, that we are making absolutely certain that it is because there is an imminent threat, that American interests are going to be protected, that we have a plan to succeed and to exit, that we are going to train our troops properly and equip them properly and put them on proper rotations and treat them properly when they come home. That is an argument we are going to have an easier time making if they can’t turn around and say: But hold on a second; you supported this. That’s part of the reason why I would be the strongest nominee on this argument of national security.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday , Jan 31, 2008

Title of Iraq war authorization bill stated its intent

The legislation, the authorization had the title, “An Authorization to Use US Military Force in Iraq.” Everybody, the day after that vote was taken, understood this was a vote potentially to go to war. Clinton has claimed that she’s got the experience on day one. And part of the argument that I’m making in this campaign is that, it is important to be right on day one. The judgment that I’ve presented on this issue, and some other issues is relevant to how we’re going to make decisions in the future. It’s not a function just of looking backwards, it’s a function of looking forwards and how are we going to be making a series of decisions in a very dangerous world. The terrorist threat is real. And precisely because it’s real--and we’ve got finite resources. We don’t have the capacity to just send our troops in anywhere we decide, without good intelligence, without a clear rationale. That’s the kind of leadership that we need from the next president of the US. That’s what I intend to provide.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday , Jan 31, 2008

No permanent bases in Iraq

My first job as president is going to be to call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff to responsibly, carefully, but deliberately start to phase out our involvement there and to make sure that we are putting the onus on the Iraqi government to come together and do what they need to do to arrive at peace. I have been very specific in saying that we will not have permanent bases there. I will end the war as we understand it in combat missions. But that we are going to have to protect our embassy. We’re going to have to protect our civilians. We’re engaged in humanitarian activity there. We are going to have to have some presence that allows us to strike if Al Qaida is creating bases inside of Iraq. So I cannot guarantee that we’re not going to have a strategic interest that I have to carry out as commander-in-chief to maintain some troop presence there, but it is not going to be engaged in a war and it will not be this sort of permanent bases and permanent military occupation that Bush seems to be intent on.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas , Jan 15, 2008

Congress decides deployment level & duration, not president

Q: Can the president disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops--either by capping the number of troops, or by setting minimum home-stays between deployments?

A: No, the President does not have that power. To date, several Congresses have imposed limitations on the number of US troops deployed in a given situation. As President, I will not assert a constitutional authority to deploy troops in a manner contrary to an express limit imposed by Congress and adopted into law.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power , Dec 20, 2007

Leave troops for protection of Americans & counterterrorism

The first thing I will do is initiate a phased redeployment. Military personnel indicate we can get one brigade to two brigades out per month. I would immediately begin that process. We would get combat troops out of Iraq. The only troops that would remain would be those that have to protect US bases and US civilians, as well as to engage in counterterrorism activities in Iraq.
Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 26, 2007

Hopes to remove all troops from Iraq by 2013, but no pledge

Q: Gen. Petraeus and Pres. Bush indicated that in January 2009, there will be 100,000 troops in Iraq. What do you do?

A: I hope and will work diligently in the Senate to bring an end to this war before I take office. And it is very important at this stage, understanding how badly the president’s strategy has failed, that we not vote for funding without some timetable for this war. If there are still large troop presences in when I take office, then

Q: Will you pledge that by January 2013, the end of your first term, there will be no US troops in Iraq?

A: I think it’s hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don’t know what contingency will be out there. I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don’t want to make promises, not knowing what the situation’s going to be three or four years out.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 26, 2007

We live in a more dangerous world because of Bush’s actions

We live in a more dangerous world, partly as a consequence of Bush’s actions, primarily because of this war in Iraq that should have never been authorized or waged. What we’ve seen is a distraction from the battles that deal with al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We have created an entire new recruitment network in Iraq, that we’re seeing them send folks to Lebanon and Jordan and other areas of the region.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Case for war was weak, but people voted their best judgment

Q: Do you think someone who authorized the use of force to go to war in Iraq should be president? A: I don’t think it’s a disqualifier. I think that people were making their best judgments at the time. When I looked at the issue, what I saw was a weak ca
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

War in Iraq is “dumb” but troops still need equipment

Q: You have called this war in Iraq “dumb.” How do you square that position with those who have sacrificed so much? And why have you voted for appropriations for it in the past?

A: I am proud that I opposed this war from the start, because I thought that it would lead to the disastrous conditions that we’ve seen on the ground in Iraq. What I’ve also said is if we’re going to send hundreds of thousands of our young men and women there, then they have the equipment that they need to make sure that they come home safely. I’m proud of the fact that I put forward a plan in January that mirrors what Congress ultimately adopted. And it says there’s no military solution to this. We’ve got to have a political solution, begin a phased withdrawal, and make certain that we’ve got benchmarks in place so that the Iraqi people can make a determination about how they want to move forward.

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

Open-ended Iraq occupation must end: no military solution

Q: What is the best and fastest way to get out of Iraq?

A: I opposed this war from the start. In part because I believed that if we gave open-ended authority to invade Iraq in 2002, we would have an open-ended occupation of the sort that we have right now. And I have stated clearly and unequivocally that that open-ended occupation has to end. The idea that the situation in Iraq is improving is simply not credible, and it’s not reflective of the facts on the ground. The hard truth is, there’s no military solution to this war. Our troops have done all that they have been asked and more, but no amount of American soldiers are gonna solve the political differences that lie in the heart of the sectarian conflict. Extending the surge is just going to put more men and women in the crossfire of a civil war.

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

Iraq 2002: ill-conceived venture; 2007: waste of resources

Obama [delivered] early speeches against the war in Iraq. The looming invasion, he said in 2002, was an ill-conceived venture that would “require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” Obama’s speeches lifted him to statewide prominence and paved the way for his march to the Senate. [In 2007, Obama] renewed his call for the redeployment of American troops in Iraq. “We can’t waste our most precious resource--our young men and women.”
Source: Hopes and Dreams, by Steve Dougherty, p. 19-20 , Feb 15, 2007

Saddam did not own and was not providing WMD to terrorists

It’s simply not true that Saddam was providing weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. This incursion into Iraq has resulted in a situation in which terrorist recruits are up. It’s been acknowledged, now, by the Pentagon, that the insurgents active in Iraq are far higher. Terrorist attacks worldwide are the highest in 20 years. The notion that somehow we’re less vulnerable in the US as a consequence of spending 200 billion dollars and sacrificing thousands of lives is simply not borne out by the facts
Source: IL Senate Debate , Oct 26, 2004

Invading Iraq was a bad strategic blunder

If a driver of a car, your car, drives it into a ditch, there are only so many ways to pull it out. And so, Kerry is going to be doing many similar things to what Bush is doing in terms of making sure that we do the best we can in Iraq. That doesn’t mean we don’t fire the driver, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t examine carefully what lead us to be in this ditch in the first place. It was a bad strategic blunder-and that’s not simply my estimation. That’s the estimation of a number of Republicans.
Source: IL Senate Debate, Illinois Radio Network , Oct 12, 2004

Democratizing Iraq will be more difficult than Afghanistan

Q: Afghanistan has just conducted the first elections in its 5,000-year history. They appear to have gone very well-at least, up to this point. Is that not a hopeful sign for Iraq, and for the elections that we may be seeing there in January?

A: It is an absolutely hopeful sign for the people of Afghanistan. As I have stated unequivocally, I have always thought that we did the right thing in Afghanistan. My only concerns with respect to Afghanistan was that we diverted our attention from Afghanistan in terms of moving into Iraq, and I think would could have done a better job of stabilizing that country than we have in providing assistance to the Afghani people. All of us should be rooting for the Afghani people & making sure that we are providing them the support to make things happen. With respect to Iraq, it’s going to be a tougher play. I don’t think any of us should be rooting for failure in Iraq at this point. This is no longer Bush’s war, this is our war, and we all have a stake in it.

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

Never fudge numbers or shade the truth about war

I thought of families I’d met struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were reservists. We have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war & secure the peace.
Source: Keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention , Jul 29, 2004

Iraq war was sincere but misguided, ideologically driven

The war in Iraq was an ideologically driven war. I think Bush was sincere and is sincere about his desire to maintain a strong America, but there was a single-mindedness to this process that has led our country into a very difficult position. It’s a consequence of that single-mindedness that we did not create the kind of international framework that would have allowed success once we decided to go in. I think that this administration is sincere but I think it’s misguided.
Source: Meet The Press, NBC News, 2004 interview with Tim Russert , Jul 25, 2004

Not opposed to all wars, but opposed to the war in Iraq

Obama has been very forthright in his opposition to the war. He spoke in an anti-war rally in October 2002. Very well attended, very large rally, and he said some powerful words that were strongly against the war. I think he gained a lot of supporters from that particular speech. He was so clear in his opposition and yet not in any way negative. He didn’t use the traditional kind of code words that people who oppose the war were using. He did it in a way that attracted people who normally would be gung ho for military action . He said he wasn’t against all wars and he went against much of what was being said on the podium, but he did it in such a considerate and intelligent way that even those who wanted more raw meat were satisfied with his speech. In fact, most were captivated by the way he presented himself.
Source: Salim Muwakkil and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now , Jul 15, 2004

Barack Obama on Trouble Spots

I will stand with Israel if they are attacked

Q: Would you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the US? Wouldn't that deter Iran?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I've made that clear throughout my presidency.

Q: So you're saying we've already made that declaration?

OBAMA: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history. But to the issue of Iran, as long as I'm president of the US, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security and it's threat to Israel's national security.

ROMNEY: When I'm president of the United States, we will stand with Israel. And if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily.

Source: Third Obama-Romney 2012 Presidential debate , Oct 22, 2012

Key to Iranian sanctions was world's involvement

ROMNEY: Crippling sanctions [against Iran] are something I'd called for five years ago. I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts. We need to increase pressure time and time again on Iran.

OBAMA: The work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking; it's meticulous. We started from the day we got into office. And the reason it was so important--and this is a testament to how we've restored American credibility and strength around the world--is we had to make sure that all the countries participated, even countries like Russia and China, because if it's just us that are imposing sanctions, we've had sanctions in place for a long time. It's because we got everybody to agree that Iran is seeing so much pressure. And we've got to maintain that pressure. And we're going to make sure that if they do not meet the demands of the international community, then we are going to take all options necessary to make sure they don't have a nuclear weapon.

Source: Third Obama-Romney 2012 Presidential debate , Oct 22, 2012

Supported "Iron Dome" defense shield for Israel

ROMNEY: The reason I call it an "apology tour" is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations, and they noticed that you skipped Israel.

OBAMA: When I went to Israel as a candidate, I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable. And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms, and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles. So that's how I've used my travels when I travel to Israel and when I travel to the region.

Source: Third Obama-Romney 2012 Presidential debate , Oct 22, 2012

Libyan people appreciate that America liberated them

Q: [After the release of a movie preview perceived as mocking Muhammad], we have seen anti-American protests by thousands of Muslims in many countries. Why weren't our embassies better prepared with more security on September 11?

A: We mourn the loss of the Americans who were killed in Benghazi. But that's not representative of the attitudes of the Libyan people towards America, because they understand because of the incredible work that our diplomats did as well as our men and women in uniform, we liberated that country from a dictator who had terrorized them for 40 years. We've seen this in the past, where there is an offensive video or cartoon directed at the prophet Muhammad. And this is used as an excuse to carry out inexcusable violent acts. We told the [Libyan & other] leaders, that although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it's not representative of America's views, but we will not tolerate violence, and we will bring those who carried out these events to justice.

Source: Obama-Romney interviews by Univision Noticias (Spanish News) , Sep 19, 2012

Syrian use of chemical weapon is "red line" for intervention

Obama has declared the threat of chemical or biological warfare in Syria a "red line" for the US, outlining for the first time the point at which his administration could feel forced to intervene militarily in the Arab country's increasingly messy conflict. It is widely thought that Syria possesses extensive chemical and biological weapon stockpiles, and it has threatened to use them if the country comes under foreign attack.

"That's an issue that doesn't just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel," Obama said. "We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people."

The president said: "We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region, that that's a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons." Obama reiterated his call for Assad to step down.

Source: Associated Press in Newsday , Aug 21, 2012

Expanded CIA drone program for "targeted killings"

In the first year of his administration, Obama beefed up the military campaign against al-Qaeda by stepping up the use of unmanned drones in Pakistan. The increase became particularly noticeable in late 2009, after the administration's long internal review of the war in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration referred to these drone attacks as "targeted killing," rather than "assassinations." The euphemism was of legal significance. In the 1970s, President Ford issued an executive order that banned assassinations. The administration's formal reasoning for why its overseas killings did not constitute assassination went like this: Congress had authorized the use of force against al-Qaeda. Therefore, America was at war, and under the law of war, America had the right to defend itself "by targeting persons such as high-level al-Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks." Since the laws of war permitted targeted killing, therefore the practice wasn't illegal, and "does not constitute assassination."

Source: The Obamians, by James Mann, p.217 , Jun 14, 2012

Take no options off the table if Iran develops nukes

We will safeguard America's own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
Source: 2012 State of the Union speech , Jan 24, 2012

Intervene in Libya for humanitarian reasons

Obama does have some political cover for Afghanistan and Iraq because the US was already involved in those countries when he became President. But Libya is entirely Obama's war.

Michele Bachmann's position on Libya distinctly contrasts with Obama's position. Bachmann is against American involvement in the civil war in Libya. Her view is that no one really knows who the rebels in Libya are, nor how they intend to change Libya. She further explains that there are terrorist groups assisting the rebels. Obama's position is that the US must be involved in Libya for "humanitarian" reasons. As the Libya situation drags on, people will realize that if NATO and the U.S. had never intervened in Libya, the civil war would have been over in a few weeks. The rebels would have been driven out long ago, and thousands of deaths would have been prevented. Americans will demand that Obama answer "Why Libya?" just like they demanded that Bush answer "Why Iraq?"

Source: Why She Will Win, by Ron Paul Jones, p. 24 , Jun 8, 2011

Supports Arab Peace Initiative (two states) with exceptions

The Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas meetings in May 2009 have been widely interpreted as a turning point in US Middle East policy.

The consensus calls for a Palestinian state to be established in united Gaza and the West bank after Israel's withdrawal. The Arab Peace Initiative adds that the Arab states should then normalize relations with Israel. The initiative was later adopted by the Organization of Islamic States, including Iran.

Obama has praised the initiative and called on the Arab states to proceed to normalize relations with Israel, scrupulously evading the core of the proposal: reiteration of the international consensus. His studied omission can only be understood as [the same] US rejectionist stand that has blocked a diplomatic settlement since the 1970s, with rare and temporary exceptions. There are no signs that Obama is willing even to consider the Arab Peace Initiative. That was underscored in Obama's much heralded address to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, 2009.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.177-178 , Jun 1, 2010

Continued Israeli settlements in West Bank are illegitimate

In his June 4, 2009 address to the Muslim world in Cairo, Obama once again echoed Bush's "vision" of two states, without saying what he means by the phrase "Palestine state." His intentions are clarified by his one explicit criticism of Israel: "The US does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. "That is, Israel should live up to Phase I of the 2003 Road Map, rejected at once by Israel with tacit US support, as noted--through the truth is that Obama has ruled out even steps of the Bush I variety to withdraw from participation in these crimes.

The operative words are "legitimacy" & "continued." By omission, Obama indicates that he accepts Bush's vision: the vast existing settlement and infrastructure projects are "legitimate," thus ensuring that the phrase "Palestinian state" means "fried chicken."

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.188-191 , Jun 1, 2010

OpEd: 2008: Denounced Mumbai attacks, but not Gaza attacks

On Israel-Palestine, rumors began circulating that Obama might depart from the US rejectionism that has blocked a political settlement for over thirty years. The record, however, never provided any basis for taking rumors seriously.

Before the primaries, I reviewed Obama's formal positions at the time. They gave no reason for any expectations beyond enthusiastic support for Israeli crimes. Particularly revealing was his reaction to Israel's sharply accelerated assault on Gaza, opening its violation of the cease-fire on Nov. 4, 2008, as voters were going to the polls to elect Obama, then breaking out in full fury on Dec. 27 after rejection of Hamas initiatives to reinstate the cease-fire. To these crimes Obama's response was silence-- unlike, say, the late November terrorist attack in Mumbai, which he was quick to denounce, along with the "hateful ideology" that lay behind it. In the case of Gaza, his staff hid behind the mantra that "there is one president at a time."

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.233 , Jun 1, 2010

Prevent Iran from attacking Israel, but keep military option

Q: If Iran attacks Israel, would you be willing to commit US troops in defense of Israel? Or would you wait on approval from the UN Security Council?

McCAIN: We obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council. Both Russia and China would probably pose significant obstacles.

OBAMA: We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. And so it’s unacceptable. And I will do everything that’s required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table. And it is important that we don’t provide veto power to the UN or anyone else in acting in our interests. It is important, though, for us to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent the scenario where we’ve got to make those kinds of choices.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against John McCain , Oct 7, 2008

2002: I don't oppose all war; I am opposed to dumb war

Belatedly, the people noticed the fakery [about the Iraq War]. But how much sooner they might have noticed the fakery had there been braver leadership on the Democratic side.

Among the bravest was Obama, in a risky speech delivered at an antiwar rally in Chicago in Oct. 2002, when he was a political unknown: "I don't oppose all wars," he began. "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, Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and 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 on the median income--to distract us from the corporate scandals."

That was less than a year after 9/11. Not bad for a post-partisan. Not bad for connecting the dots. Not bad for prescience and courage.

Source: Obama`s Challenge, by Robert Kuttner, p. 71 , Aug 25, 2008

Engaging in tough diplomacy with Iran is a sign of strength

Q: There is skepticism in Israel about you because they’re concerned about your previously stated notion of having talks with Iranian leaders, that somehow that signals to them that you won’t be tough enough to Iran. What’s your response to that?

A: Well, I’m encouraged to see, for example, the Bush administration send an outstanding diplomat, [Undersecretary of State William] Burns, to participate in discussions with Iran. This is what I’ve been talking about for the last year and a half. You know, engaging in tough diplomacy is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. So far the Iranians have not accepted the kinds of talks that we need to deal with in terms of suspending their enrichment program. But the fact that we’ve tried to talk to them then strengthens our hand in the international community when we wanna get Russia or China to help apply the tough sanctions that are gonna be required to make Iranians know that we mean business.

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

Iran is biggest strategic beneficiary of invasion of Iraq

Q: The administration is drawing up some plans for potential airstrikes in Iran at different missile weapons factories or special force compounds because they have evidence that the Iranians are helping some of their supporters within Iraq to kill US troops. If it could be demonstrated that was a fact, would you be in support of such limited attacks in Iran?

A: Well, let me not speculate yet. I want to take a look at the kind of evidence that the administration is putting forward, & what these plans are exactly. As commander in chief, I don’t take military options off the table and I think it’s appropriate for us to plan for a whole host of contingencies. But let’s look at the larger picture. Iran has been the biggest strategic beneficiary of our invasion of Iraq, they are stronger because of our decision to go in; and what we have to do is figure out how are we going to recalibrate our strategic position in the region. I think that starts with pulling our combat troops out of Iraq.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , May 4, 2008

Take no options off the table if Iran attacks Israel

Q: Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option that poses a threat to Israel. Should it be US policy to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the US?

OBAMA: Our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians. I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons, &that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.

Q: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?

OBAMA: It is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we would consider unacceptable, and the US would take appropriate action.

Q: Sen. Clinton, would you?

CLINTON: We should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the US, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.

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

Two-state solution: Israel & Palestine side-by-side in peace

Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 50-55 , Feb 2, 2008

No action against Iran without Congressional authorization

Q: In what circumstances would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress?

A: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.”

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power , Dec 20, 2007

Iran: Bush does not let facts get in the way of ideology

Q: Do you agree with the president’s assessment that Iran still poses a threat?

A: It is absolutely clear that Pres. Bush continues to not let facts get in the way of his ideology. And that’s been the problem with the administration’s foreign policy generally. It is important for the president to lead diplomatic efforts, to try to offer to Iran the prospect of joining the World Trade Organization, potential normalized relations over time, in exchange for changes in behavior.

Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate , Dec 13, 2007

Meet directly for diplomacy with the leadership in Iran

Q: In March you voted for a Senate resolution that said: “The Secretary of State should designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.” But you contend that the language in the Sep. 26 2007 resolution is ‘saber-rattling’, because it said it is the “critical national interest of the US” to stop Iran from creating a Hezbollah-like force in Iraq.

A: Look, there’s a broader issue at stake here, and that is how do we approach Iran? I have said, unlike Senator Clinton, that I would meet directly with the leadership in Iran. I believe that we have not exhausted the diplomatic efforts that could be required to resolve some of these problems--them developing nuclear weapons, them supporting terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. That does not mean that we take other options off the table, but it means that we move forward aggressively with a dialogue with them about not only the sticks that we’re willing to apply, but also the carrots.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Nov 11, 2007

Committed to Iran not having nuclear weapons

Q: Would you pledge that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while you are president?

A: We are committed to Iran not having nuclear weapons. We have been governed by fear for the last 6 years. Bush has used the fear of terrorism to launch a war that should have never been authorized. We are seeing the same pattern now. It is very important for us to draw a clear line and say, “We are not going to be governed by fear. We will take threats seriously and take action to make sure that the US is secure.”

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

Iran military resolution sends the region a wrong signal

That is a continuation of the kinds of foreign policy that rejects diplomacy and sees military action as the only tool available to us to influence the region. What we should be doing is reaching out aggressively to our allies, talking to our enemies and focusing on those areas where we do not accept their actions, whether it be terrorism or developing nuclear weapons, and talking to Iran directly about the potential carrots that we can provide in terms of them being involved in the World Trade Organization, or beginning to look at the possibilities of diplomatic relations being normalized. We have not made those serious attempts. This kind of resolution does not send the right signal to the region. It doesn’t send the right signal to our allie or our enemies. As a consequence, over the long term, it weakens our capacity to influence Iran. There may come a point where those measures have been exhausted & Iran is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon, where we have to consider other options
Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University , Oct 30, 2007

Iran with nuclear weapons is a profound security threat

KUCINICH: You previously said that all options are on the table with respect to Iran. That means you’re setting the stage for another war. We’re in Iraq for oil. We’re looking at attacking Iran for oil.

OBAMA: I think it would be a profound mistake for us to initiate a war with Iran. But, have no doubt, Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region. They’re in the process of developing it. And I don’t think that’s disputed by any expert. They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism, of Hezbollah and Hamas.

KUCINICH: It is disputed.

OBAMA: There is no contradiction between us taking seriously the need, as you do, to want to strengthen our alliances around the world--but I think it is important for us to also recognize that if we have nuclear proliferators around the world that potentially can place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists, that is a profound security threat for America and one that we have to take seriously.

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

Terrorists are in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran

OBAMA: The Bush administration could not find a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda. WMD are not found in Iraq. And so, it is absolutely true that we have a network of terrorists, but it takes a huge leap of logic to suddenly suggest that that means that we invade Iraq. Saudi Arabia has a whole bunch of terrorists, so have Syria and Iran, and all across the globe. To mount full-scale invasions as a consequence is a bad strategy. It makes more sense for us to focus on those terrorists who are active to try to roll them up where we have evidence that in fact these countries are being used as staging grounds that would potentially cause us eminent harm, and then we go in. The US has to reserve all military options in facing such an imminent threat- but we have to do it wisely.

KEYES: That’s the fallacy, because you did make an argument just then from the wisdom of hindsight, based on conclusions reached now which were not in Bush’s hands several months ago when he had to make this decision.

Source: [Xref Obama] IL Senate Debate, Illinois Radio Network , Oct 12, 2004

Problems with current Israeli policy

Obama will speak before a Jewish audience and talk about his problems with Israeli policy in a way that inspires trust, rather than the kind of disagreement that you often find when that happens.
Source: Salim Muwakkil and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now , Jul 15, 2004

Engage North Korea in 6-party talks

[We should] address the threat posed by North Korea. By refusing to negotiate with North Korea for three and half years, experts believe that North Korea may now be close to having six to eight nuclear weapons. We must immediately insist on complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea’s nuclear capability, engage in Six-Party bilateral talks, and facilitate a reform agenda that is broader than denuclearization to address humanitarian concerns.
Source: Press Release, “Renewal of American Leadership ” , Jul 12, 2004

Use moral authority to work towards Middle East peace

[The US should] use American moral authority and credibility to help achieve Middle East peace. Our first and immutable commitment must be to the security of Israel, our only true ally in the Middle East and the only democracy. We must be consistent and we must include the EU and the Arab States in pressing for reforms within the Palestinian community.
Source: Press Release, “Renewal of American Leadership ” , Jul 12, 2004

Barack Obama on Voting Record

Voted to fund war until 2006; now wants no blank check

Q: Some involved in the anti-movement have said that in 2004, 2005, 2006 Barack Obama voted to fund the war; that you were not a leader in trying to stop the war until you ran for president and had a sense of the anti-war fervor in the Democratic base. Where was the leadership?

A: I disagree with that. Throughout I was a constant critic. It is true that my preference would not be to end this war simply by cutting off funding. My preference would be for the president to recognize that we needed to change course, and that was what I continually pushed for. At the point where we realized the president was not willing to change course, I put forward a very clear timetable for when we should remove our troops. And, when that was vetoed, I then suggested that the only way to negotiate a different direction in Iraq is by not giving Bush a blank check when it comes to funding.

Q: You have changed now in your support of cutting off funding.

A: But I haven’t changed in my opposition to the war.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Nov 11, 2007

Late to vote against war is not late to oppose war

EDWARDS: Obama voted late for the timetable for withdrawl; a lack of leadership.

OBAMA: I opposed this war from the start. So Edwards is about 4-1/2 years late on leadership on this issue. It’s important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this. It is not easy to vote for cutting off funding because the fact is there are troops on the ground. All of us exercise our best judgment, just as we exercised our best judgment to authorize or not authorize this war.

Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Spending on the Cold War relics should be for the veterans

Keep in mind that there is a difference between the Pentagon budget and the size of the military. So it may be that, for example, there are weapon systems that are outmoded relics of the Cold War; but what I want to make certain of is, is that our troops are not going on these repeated tours, lengthy tours, that we are providing them with all the support they need when they’re on the ground. And we can’t do that currently. When they come home we are treating them with the dignity and honor that they deserve. Whether you were for the war or against the war, we can all agree to, and the Bush administration has not done that because they tried to do it on the cheap. Folks who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, folks who have disability payments that are due are not getting the kinds of services they deserve. I have some specific plans to address that.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Would have voted no to authorize the President to go to war

I would have voted not to authorize the president to go to war given the facts as I saw them at that time. But, as I said, I wasn’t there and what is absolutely clear as we move forward is that if we don’t have a change in tone & a change in administration, I think we’re going to have trouble making sure that our troops are secure and that we succeed in Iraq.
Source: Meet The Press, NBC News, 2004 interview with Tim Russert , Jul 25, 2004

Voted YES on redeploying US troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

Begins the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq within 120 days of enactment of this joint resolution with the goal of redeploying by March 31, 2008, all US combat forces from Iraq, except for a limited number essential for protecting US and coalition personnel and infrastructure, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations. Such redeployment shall be implemented as part of a diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community in order to bring stability to Iraq.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.

Reference: US Policy in Iraq Resolution; Bill S.J.Res.9 ; vote number 2007-075 on Mar 15, 2007

Voted NO on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007.

Voting YEA on this amendment would establish a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Voting NAY would keep the current situation without a timetable. The amendment states:
  1. The President shall redeploy, commencing in 2006, US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007, leaving only the minimal number of forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces and conducting specialized counterterrorism operations.
  2. The President should maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence to prosecute the war on terror and protect regional security interests.
  3. Within 30 days, the administration shall submit to Congress a report that sets forth the strategy for the redeployment of US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007.
Reference: Kerry Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act; Bill S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766 ; vote number 2006-181 on Jun 22, 2006

Voted YES on investigating contract awards in Iraq & Afghanistan.

To establish a special committee of the Senate to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts to conduct activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and to fight the war on terrorism. Voting YES would: create Senate special committee to investigate war contracts, taking into consideration: bidding, methods of contracting, subcontracting, oversight procedures, allegations of wasteful practices, accountability and lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reference: Committee to Investigate War Contracts; Bill S Amdt 2476 to S 1042 ; vote number 2005-316 on Nov 10, 2005

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)
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Jan 22, 2013