Sunday, March 2, 2008
This will be brief, and without parking problems. All quoted materials are from Illinois State Senator Obama himself from the landmark (his notion, not mine) speech delivered before an anti-war rally on October 2, 2002. For your benefit, I will listen carefully, and report readings on the WordFeeder “Applause-ometer” in response to the Senator’s comments. The excerpts are extensive to be fair to the Senator, and so that you don’t think I’m editing his remarks to make my point.
“Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.”
Well, that’s a relief. Heaven forbid we should elect a President who is opposed to war under all circumstances. Note to Senator Obama: This notion of “war,” as opposed to the “use of military force,” needs definition. In your head, as President, are we really “at war” whenever we use our military? Maybe we’ll work on that together in another article.
Polite applause, but then he’s just warming up, and it was probably cold that October day in Chicago. Hard to hear clapping from people wearing gloves. Back to the speech.
“I don’t oppose all wars.”
Okay, we get it. You’re in favor of some wars, not others.
“After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”
And yet, he made no attempt to enlist? Much more, much louder applause. People in the audience are taking off their gloves. He’s cashing the “we’re still pissed off about the attack on September 11” chip. Trite, but effective.
“[For those of you who don’t remember me having said this 30 seconds ago,] I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or 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 Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”
Applause continues to build as the anti-war audience gets into his speech, and is becoming desperate to keep warm.
I particularly like the reference to “arm-chair, weekend warriors,” but thought, for a moment, that he might be talking about himself. Besides, if you’re going to offer advice from the sidelines, which is the right and duty of all Americans, might as well be comfortable.
“That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”
Well said! Wild applause, but now he calms the crowd, reserving their energy for the big finish, preparing them for the harsh reality of the current situation, as we all believed it to be at the time. What skill. What talent. To borrow from Jerry Seinfeld, he is the master of his domain.
“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…”
Hold on, I think I’m going to be sick.
“…to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.”
The audience is quiet with shock and awe.
“Coveted” nuclear capacity. Wow. Can that man turn a phrase, or what? I can almost see Saddam drooling over the potential for nuclear weapons, like the rest of us (men) pretending to ignore the cover of the SI swimsuit issue in the checkout line at the grocery store.
“He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.”
The crowd’s confused. Up to this point, they could have been listing to a speech by John McCain. They agree, but it is, after all, an anti-war rally. They’re damned if they applaud, damned if they don’t.
“But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, …”
Wait a minute. How does he know that? No, he doesn’t know that. This is his opinion.
“…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.”
Individual members of the crowd shout out their approval. What a relief. This Saddam person is nothing to worry about. History will take care of him.
This is change alright. The plan seems to be to wait for Saddam to evaporate, with State Senator Obama’s personal assurance that we will all be okay in the meantime, that Saddam will not use his weapons against us, or share them with others who would.
“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.”
There is strangely little applause, in deference to Senator Obama, mostly because the crowd is frozen and has lost the ability to move their arms. Frostbite is becoming a real potential, but fortunately everyone in the audience has medical insurance.
Is this guy (State Senator Obama) psychic? In retrospect, he was right on the money, but was it the right argument to have made at the time? Was it gifted foresight, superior judgment, or just a re-hash of the then justified opposition to the war in Viet Nam 40 years ago, without rhyme or good reason?
“I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
And the crowd goes wild?
Hey, com’on. He just acknowledged the brutality of a ruthless anti-American dictator who has weapons of mass destruction, which everyone believed at the time, but has reassured us that we’ll all be okay if we just wait for the “dustbin of history” to do its job, that the use of military force, as a last resort, to protect these United States is “dumb.”
This is your future President of the United States making the “I opposed this war from the start” speech he keeps talking about. Why aren’t you on your feet, wild with applause and cheering?