Saturday, February 23, 2008
Senator Obama makes a big deal about how his early opposition to the war in Iraq is proof positive of his judgment and readiness to be President – in sharp contrast to Senator Clinton who, at the same time, voted to endorse the use of military force. Never missing an opportunity to remind us of this point, Senator Obama made the following statement during Thursday’s Democratic debate in Austin:
But [being Commander-in-Chief] also means using our military wisely. And on what I believe was the single most important foreign policy decision of this generation, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, I believe I showed the judgment of a commander-in-chief. And I think that Senator Clinton was wrong in her judgment on that.
Let’s overlook the excessively dramatic and technically meaningless reference to the “single most important foreign policy decision of this generation.” (Precisely what generation would that be, and are those people done making history?) Forget about the fact that he didn’t demonstrate his judgment back then by voting for anything. What he “showed” us was a speech of perhaps two typewritten pages. Let’s focus instead upon the meat of the decision to which the Senator is referring.
On October 2, 2002, now US Senator, then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama delivered a brief speech entitled “Against Going to War with Iraq.” The speech was presented at an anti-Iraq war rally in Chicago. It was short, and to the point. My apologies for including such an extensive quote, but I want both to do the Senator justice as well as make my point with his own words.
I don’t oppose all wars. …[What I oppose is a] dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
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. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.
He’s a bad buy. 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, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, 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.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that 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 arm of al-Qaeda.
I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
As always, his oratory is impressive, but is it meaningful? It’s prophetic, to say the least, but was it wise, or lucky? Is it indicative of responsible judgment befitting a President of the United States, or does it just sound good?
Eight days later, on October 10, 2002, Senator Clinton stood on the floor of the US Senate and delivered her speech in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 45, “A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.” It was a much longer speech which described the history of events which led to the resolution, and which explained the basis for her support. “Today,” she began, “we are asked whether to give the President of the United States authority to use force in Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons and his nuclear program.” As it turned out, this Senate resolution was tabled in favor of House Joint Resolution 114 (“Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq”). HJ Resolution 114 passed the House 296-133, and the Senate 77-23 on October 11, 2002, with Senator Clinton voting, “Yes.” This was the vote she refuses to admit was a mistake. I don’t think it was, nor do I believe that State Senator Obama, had he been US Senator Obama at the time, would have voted differently. To believe otherwise is to suggest that Senator Obama lacks the maturity and judgment to be President.
It’s all about the famously non-existent “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” The point is, they weren’t known to be non-existent at the time. Take another look the second paragraph in my excerpt from Senator Obama’s speech. In his own words, he acknowledges these weapons, believing, as did Senator Clinton, that they were real. The difference is that, just a few words later in the same speech, he asserts “But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States.” On that basis, all attempts to negotiate having failed, Senator Obama believed then and still argues that the use of military force to protect the United States against these weapons, via their direct use and/or dissemination among those elsewhere who would use them against us, is “dumb” and unwarranted.
How is it that State Senator Obama had better information about Iraq and other people threatening our country than the majority of US Senators and Representatives who supported HJ Resolution 114? Or was he just winging it? In the absence of information unknown to either of them at the time, the fact that he didn’t agree with Senator Clinton doesn’t make him right, it makes him dangerously, recklessly presumptuous, and offers proof of his lack of preparedness and poor judgment.
Don’t trust my opinion? Of course not, what do I know? Why should you? So ask yourself. To everyone of you who might read this, especially those of you considering voting for Senator Obama in the upcoming primaries in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, if you believed as did Senators Obama and Clinton that there were weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear, in the hands of, or being developed by the likes of Saddam Hussein, how would you have voted? Do you really want to nominate a candidate for President who would have voted differently? A candidate who would have voted not to use military force as a last resort, but who would have chosen instead to hope for the best until Saddam Hussein “falls into the dustbin of history”?
Don’t like this line of questioning? Get used to it. I’m fairly certain it’s Chapter 1 in John McCain’s campaign strategy notebook, the one with the cover title: “How to Defeat Barack Obama in the Fall.”
Did things turn out pretty much the way Senator Obama predicted? Absolutely, but what happened after HJ Resolution 114 was passed, the way our current President abused and botched the limited authority given to him by Congress, isn’t the issue. It’s hindsight.
Focus on the speeches by Senator Obama on October 2, 2002, and by Senator Clinton, just 8 days later. Forget about the excitement of the rallies, and the passion of your favorite candidate’s rhetoric. It’s just you. Ask yourself, given that both candidates, as well as everyone else, believed in the existence of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a despot which Senator Obama himself described as a “brutal,” “ruthless man,” how would you have voted? Do you really want to risk the country, the lives of your family and friends, not to mention your own, on a candidate for President who would have voted differently?