Barack Obama on War & Peace

Junior Senator (IL); President-Elect

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: FactCheck.org on 2008 second presidential debate Oct 7, 2008

Barack Obama on Iraq War

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: FactCheck.org on 2008 first presidential debate-Boston Globe Sep 26, 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

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: FactCheck.org 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: FactCheck.org 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

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

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

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

$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

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

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: FactCheck.org 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

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

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

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

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: FactCheck.org on 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic debate Jan 5, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Jul 25, 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 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

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

Barack Obama on Trouble Spots

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

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

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: FactCheck.org 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: FactCheck.org 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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:
IL Gubernatorial:
Pat Quinn
IL Senatorial:
Richard Durbin
Roland Burris

Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
AK:Begich (D)
CO:Udall (D)
ID:Risch (R)
MN:Franken (D)
NC:Hagan (D)
NE:Johanns (R)
NH:Shaheen (D)
NM:Udall (D)
OR:Merkley (D)
VA:Warner (D)

Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:

DE:Kaufman (D)
CO:Bennet (D)
IL:Burris (D)
NY:Gillibrand (D)

Announced retirement as of 2010:
DE:Kaufman (D)
FL:Martinez (R)
KS:Brownback (R)
MO:Bond (R)
OH:Voinovich (R)

Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
AK:Murkowski (R)
AL:Shelby (R)
AR:Lincoln (D)
AZ:McCain (R)
CA:Boxer (D)
CT:Dodd (D)
GA:Isakson (R)
HI:Inouye (D)
IA:Grassley (R)
ID:Crapo (R)
IN:Bayh (D)
KY:Bunning (R)
LA:Vitter (R)
MD:Mikulski (D)
NC:Burr (R)
ND:Dorgan (D)
NH:Gregg (R)
NV:Reid (D)
NY:Schumer (D)
OK:Coburn (R)
OR:Wyden (D)
PA:Specter (R)
SC:DeMint (R)
SD:Thune (R)
UT:Bennett (R)
VT:Leahy (D)
WA:Murray (D)
WI:Feingold (D)
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