While pundits are busy analyzing the Democrats’ potential 2008 contest between New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, they’ve failed to address Obama’s credentials as a “pure” progressive and the genuine anti-war candidate.
Obama, widely viewed as the party’s rising star, has spoken openly against the Iraq War since its inception, beginning with an October 2002 speech he gave alongside Jesse Jackson. At the time, Obama suggested the war was a ploy to distract voters from domestic issues impacting minorities.
Standing in Chicago’s Federal Plaza, Obama declared, “What I am opposed to is the attempt by potential hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty state, a drop in the medium income—to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone thorough the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I am opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war, a war based not on reason, but on passion, not on principle, but on politics.”
Obama went on to explain that “I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undermined cost, with undetermined consequence of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequence. I know that an invasion of Iraq without 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 arm of al Qaeda.”
Obama wrote in “The Audacity of Hope” that although he believed Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, coveted nuclear arms, scoffed at UN resolutions and butchered his own people, he sensed “the threat Saddam posed was not imminent” and “the Administration’s rationales for war were flimsy and ideologically driven.”
In November 2003, he told the Chicago Sun-Times that had he been in the Senate, he would have voted against the President’s $87.5 billion supplemental appropriations package for Iraq and Afghanistan. “I think it enables the Bush administration to continue on a flawed policy without being accountable to the American people or to the troops who are making sacrifices,” he said.
Obama’s opposition to the war carries through today in his support for Sen. Carl Levin’s (D.-Mich.) call for a redeployment of U.S. troops, four to six months after enactment.
While Obama was making anti-war speeches in Chicago, Hillary declared on the Senate floor that Saddam “has given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members … if left unchecked Saddam Hussein will increase his capability to wage biological and chemical warfare and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons … this much is undisputed.” This was in her floor speech before casting a vote in favor of the Iraq War Resolution that authorized the President to use force in Iraq.
In 2003, even Clinton tried to take credit for progress being made in Iraq. The Washington Times has her on the record saying that all the intelligence from the Clinton Administration checked out with what the Bush Administration had found. She said she’d be happy to deliver a “thank you note” from President Bush to her husband for the work he did. We now know most of the intelligence was botched by Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet—a Clinton Administration appointee who later served for Bush. Tenet made the famous “slam-dunk” case to Bush, chronicled by Bob Woodward in “Plan of Attack.”
Hillary significantly moderated her war position in November 2005. She issued an open statement to her constituents saying that her vote to authorize war in Iraq was based on “public and private assurances” she received from Bush that he would operate through the United Nations. This is false. The Iraq War Resolution was a document that allowed the United States to go to war unilaterally with Iraq. She voted for it. Whatever “private assurances” she received from Bush, she has yet to reveal.
(It’s important to take note that in this same speech, Hillary also criticized the United Nations because it “often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates.”)
Hillary was against withdrawal in early 2005, saying it would “give a green light to the insurgents and the terrorists, that if they just wait us out they can basically have the country.”
Today, she is supporting redeployment, just like Obama.
Hillary most recently asked U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid and Ambassador David Satterfield during a November 15 Armed Services Committee hearing about creating a partition for Sunnis, Shites and Kurds. Clinton asked for any arguments in favor of doing so. Neither man could give her one.
Abizaid said, “I believe it [partitioning] would devolve into an area where al Qaeda would have safe haven, where they would export their terror to the surrounding countries. I believe that the Shiia state would be decidedly subject to the domination of Iraq—of Iran—excuse me—and that that would not be good for the region. It would start to move the region into Sunni-Shiia tensions that the region hasn’t seen for a long time.
Satterfield, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, told her, “Partition in Iraq could only be achieved at an expense of human suffering and bloodshed and forced dislocation that would be both profound and wholly unacceptable, I believe, to the American people.”