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Tilting at Windmills

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February 1, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA ON THE WAR....One more note about yesterday's Democratic debate. I haven't watched every speech Barack Obama has given, so maybe I've missed this in the past, but it struck me that last night, for the first time, he edged closer to making the real case for why his 2002 opposition to the Iraq war is important. He's previously argued that this is an example of his superior judgment, but on Thursday he went a bit further:

I was opposed to Iraq from the start. And that — and I say that not just to look backwards but also to look forwards, because I think what the next president has to show is the kind of judgment that will ensure that we are using our military power wisely.

This is the right idea, but it strikes me that Obama really needs to make this argument more explicit. The last time a U.S. president faced an unexpected crisis, he panicked and pushed us into a disastrous and unneeded war. Senator Clinton went along with him. We can't afford for that to happen again. The next time terrorism tests a president, we need someone in the White House who won't panic, someone who has the confidence and judgment to keep from being pushed into bluster and bombs as their first option, etc. etc.

For obvious reasons I'll leave the speechwriting to someone else. But you get the idea. Obama always sidles right up to the edge of this argument, but he never seems to be quite willing to make it explicitly. But if judgment is his key selling point, he needs to make it clear that he thinks Hillary's judgment will — somehow, someday — lead us into unnecessary military adventures in the future. Ditto for whoever wins the Republican nomination. I know it seems like this is the obvious implication of what he normally says, but sometimes implication isn't enough. He needs to come right out and say it.

Kevin Drum 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (86)

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"The last time our president faced an unexpected crisis, he panicked and pushed us into a disastrous and unneeded war."

'fraid not. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and neocons aplenty had Iraq in their sights from day 1 of the Bush administration. They were 'ready on day 1' alright. Nobody panicked but instead put in motiona long-planned neocon plot to attack Iraq, control ME oil, protect Israel, and install permanent bases.

Posted by: nepeta on February 1, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think he does the same thing with the health care differences between them. He says that no one will go without health care, but that's just not true. Many people will choose to go without. He needs to make a case that this is their right in a free country. No one should be forced to buy health insurance, but it should be made available to all who want it.

Posted by: Adam Herman on February 1, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kevin, welcome back. I believe Obama started to, when he made his "right on day one" quip. I have heard him make "innuendo" to this idea, though, but I do think it is out there in the consciousness. However, my belief is that with many people watching these two individuals possibly for the first time, his point drove home. It also helped that this issue was in the second half of the debate, and would resonate more with the audience. However, you're right, it would be beneficial if he made more time to hone in on the judgement message, as that is a stark contrast between the two: she chose to vote for, in my opinion, political reasons, and he spoke out against it.

As an aside, I don't know why she stated that she chose to take the word of a Bush administration official, that wasn't a strong part of her argument, and made her look naive.

Posted by: Boorring on February 1, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to explicitly point out if McCain is elected not only will we be in Iraq for many more years but other wars will be started. Not maybe, will be.

Posted by: steve duncan on February 1, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Here is how I calculate it. Bush took us to war. Clinton as well as the majority of congress permitted it with the Iraq resolution. When she says she expected that inspectors would be put back in Iraq, she is right. Most of us did. Its so clear to everyone now in retrospect, but it wasnt so clear at the time. Powell (respected at the time) and Tony Blair (supremely respected at the time) both said inspectors going back in were the goal. Many believed Blair and said he made the best case for war even as they said Bush wasnt making the case as well.

On the other hand I do not think for one second that had Hillary been President at that time and place that SHE would have instigated such a war. it just would not have been what she would be looking to do. She would have focused on Afghanistan, I am certain.

So bottom line, if the future is what we are talking about, is that neither Obama nor Clinton would have done Iraq on their own, or would do something similar in the future, but Clinton, being in the senate and being asked by her president to vote, voted to enable what she plausibly was told by RESPECTED people of the time was a plan to use the stick of war to induce compliance by Hussein.

I think if this primary election turns around nothing other than who voted for the Iraq resolution, we are making a big mistake. McCain is going to make this a campaign about surrender, and security, and terrorism and many Americans will listen. Who voted for what when is not going to be a factor for those other than the single issue ponies out there. I thought Clinton made a strong case that she has the creds to take on McCain. I am very concerned that Obama will have trouble with this in the fall. If McCain is saying Clinton, the most moderate, wants to surrender, what line will they tag Obama with?

Posted by: Jammer on February 1, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I just don't see how Obama could credibly make the case that Hillary herself would as President "panic" and rush into war.

If Obama wants to make the case that Hillary should have had the political courage to have stood up to Bush, let him do so. But the notion that Hillary herself, left to her devices, would have chosen to go to war with Iraq under the precise conditions that Bush did is absurd on its face.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 1, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Finally kevin comes around. THIS is exactly what all of the rest of us were saying in 2001. I have old emails from then: terrorism thrives on exposure and reaction. bush gave Osama bin laden EXACTLY what he wanted...he played into his hands, and made the US weaker as a result. and the American electorate in 2004 bought the whole thing. The issue is education. but we all know republicans thrive in an undereducated environment. Look at europe in the 1970s: Germany did NOT respsond to the terrorists who were trying to undermine the western government. They stood their ground, and accepted that civilians would die, but that their Constitution (equivalent) would survive,. Bush has broken his oath to defend the Constitution. he ought to be imprisoned after a fair trial

Posted by: Chris on February 1, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

How about this:

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.

That's also from Obama last night.

Posted by: Mark Kleiman on February 1, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Drum, You must have missed this quote from Obama:

"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.[emphasis added]"

Via Ezra Klein via Atrios.

Posted by: Boronx on February 1, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

he last time our president faced an unexpected crisis, he panicked and pushed us into a disastrous and unneeded war.

The Dems really need to make the case that Republicans foreign policy is based on the simple fact that Republicans are afraid.

Especially effective as a line of attack because denial ("no, I'm not afraid") just reinforces the story.

Posted by: Oberon on February 1, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

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.

And what does that even mean, concretely, stripped of its rhetoric?

That's about as helpful as "I'm not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."

The problem for all these formulations is that in the end they have to be cast into principles guiding specific policy choices regarding war -- such as those circumstances, if any, under which a pre-emptive war might be called for. If Obama can't get any more explicit on this point, or refuses to delineate potential differences with Hillary on that score, what's left but flowery rhetorical differences?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 1, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that Obama's campaign is wary of coming too close to pointing out the similarities between Sen. Clinton and President Bush, fearing this would hurt Obama by appearing "too negative."

The CNN panel last night actually opened this path for him a couple of times, and each time Obama chose not to take it. Clinton, asked if her 2002 vote was a mistake, dodged the question, saying that it was a "sincere vote." A pretty Bushian answer, that -- Bush, of course, has also imbibed the imperative of modern campaign tradecraft that only weak, losing candidates ever admit mistakes. The Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton question was another opportunity for Obama, who insists he is the candidate of change but often seems to expect that voters will figure this out for themselves without his having to tell them why.

Obama maintained a decorous silence on both occasions, satisfying the requirements of cool and avoiding any charge that he was victimizing Clinton by "going negative" -- but also leaving some good points on the table. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think that is something he can afford to do in this race.

Obama is still the lesser-known candidate among Democratic primary voters. He is the male candidate, a disadvantage this year because more women than men vote in Democratic primaries and a lot of them started identifying with Hillary Clinton back when she was America's most famous wronged woman.

Finally, Obama is a black candidate. Look, there is no getting around this -- being a black candidate is an advantage in those states where blacks are the majority of black Democratic voters, and is not a disadvantage in states that don't have many black voters. But it is a disadvantage everywhere else, not only among white Democratic voters but among Hispanics as well. Other things being equal, a non-trivial number of Democratic primary voters will, including those who would vote for a black Democrat over a Republican, will vote for a white Democrat over a black Democrat. Obama had opportunities last night not to let other things remain equal, and he didn't take them.

Posted by: Zathras on February 1, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

He can make the case but the bottom line is since he has been in the Senate he has supported every thing Bush has wanted. Like Hillary; may be more so.

She let it pass but all she had to do was mention his 2004 quote and all of his votes since then.

End of daylight.

Posted by: Daryl on February 1, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Jammer --

I just made the same argument in another thread but, to precise, no. Blair was not "supremely respected" by anyone but the neonconservatives, certainly not by me, and Powell was being looked at with increasing suspicion by saner minds as well, if you cared to look. Though some of us vainly hoped that those two might restrain Bush at some point, giving a loaded gun to an angry five year old because you think he has responsible minder who may or much more likely may not be able to restrain him, is an idiotic idea. I'm sick of these excuses.

Posted by: Bob on February 1, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

what the hell are you talking about Kevin? Bush didn't panic, they saw their opportunity and took it - it may have been unwise and cynical, depending on one's political bent, but it sure as hell wasn't panic. And how can Obama argue that he's well equipped to make the big decisions involving force against McCain whose military connections stretch back generations? Obama doesn't have a leg to stand on when it comes to foreign policy and will attempt to hide behind this 'better judgment' charade for as long as possible. When it comes to foreign policy a vote for Obama is a vote for crossing your fingers and hoping he doesn't fuck up too badly when shit inevitably hits fan. You Obama people are living in a fantasy world if you think this 'better judgment' ruse has merit or deserves credence - which is not to suggest that he can't sell it to voters since voters will buy it seems just about anything - but if you think it has value beyond that you are delusional. If elected Obama will have his Bay of Pigs moment - what happens to him after that who the hell knows and you're simply fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

Posted by: up on February 1, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Daryl --

You can definitely argue that Obama has been too timid in getting us out of Iraq. However, one of the best arguments against going in was that, once you started the war, you'd be left with a number of impossibly horrid options -- which is exactly where we are today.

I'm not defending Obama's votes, but I honestly don't know what the best way out is right now and I don't think anyone else does. Bush and those who listened to Bush drove us off the cliff, and now liberals are being asked to figure out how to magically make the car fly back onto the cliff. I understand his timidity on this point. Anything we do is going to suck, really suck. This is not Obama's fault. It's the fault of Bush and his enablers which sadly includes Hillary.

Posted by: Daryl on February 1, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I see the mindset that got us into war being a mindset that ostensibly uses 'national security interests' as a cover for 'the great game,' i.e., a decision to do whatever it takes to control remaining oil reserves. Since that can't be said publicly, some other excuse is substituted as the national security threat, in the case of Iraq, WMD. Although N. Korea already has a few nuclear weapons, it has no oil, hence the ability to rely on diplomacy. Obama would have a hard time actually saying this to the American people and hence has to talk about 'mindset' in general terms.

Posted by: nepeta on February 1, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

People are making too big a deal about Obama speaking out against the Iraq War Resolution and Hillary voting for it in 2002. First off, Obama at the time was not a U.S. Senator and so his decision to oppose didn't require the political risk of angering a large state-wide constituency. Remember, in the fall of 2002, the majority of Americans would have been in favor of attacking Iraq if Saddam was known to be harboring large caches of WMD. There is no question whatsoever about that. Also remember that most people at the time, citizens and politicians, DID think that Saddam had WMD. Lastly, remember that the War Resolution authorized war on Iraq only if Saddam did not cooperate with intrusive weapons inspections, and so there was a clear pathway under the Resolution for a peaceful outcome.

The people who condemn the War Resolution vote now with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight are basically saying that it was obvious that Bush was going to war in Iraq no matter what the weapons inspections revealed. That is just not true. It was clear he preferred war, but he was taking the steps to give Saddam a chance to prove he had no WMD, and no one outside the small group of neocons within the Bush Administration knew for sure that Bush had no intention of sparing Iraq.

The most Hillary can be faulted for is that she didn't have good enough inside information about Bush's corrupt neocon braintrust's intentions, and taking Bush at his word. I doubt most people in 2002 realized what a dishonest criminal Bush was going to turn out to be, including Barack Obama. So even though Obama made the right call, the wisdom of his decision was very dependent on Bush turning out to be the huge liar that he really was. If in fact, Bush had called off the war plans when it became clear that the weapons inspections revealed no WMD in Iraq, all those who had given Bush the leverage to get tough with Saddam would have looked very smart, and people like Obama would now be viewed as typical wimpy Democrats who are too afraid to even consider the use of force.

Posted by: Bob C on February 1, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

What is the "mindset"? For Hillary, it's that she has to show she has bigger testicles than the boys, so she has to be bellicose and eager to use force. I think it's a lot more likely that she would nuke Iran than McCain, who doesn't have to prove he's "tough."

Posted by: Yazoo on February 1, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Daryl,

I agree with what you say. It is not going to be easy to leave Iraq honorably unless the Iraqis come to some equitable governing solution. From what I've been reading recently about Iraq, all hell will break loose when we leave. So even in leaving we'll be as guilty of the ensuing havoc as the havoc engendered when we went in. The next president will have a very hard time weighing all the bad alternatives.

Posted by: nepeta on February 1, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

The problem for all these formulations is that in the end they have to be cast into principles guiding specific policy choices regarding war -- such as those circumstances, if any, under which a pre-emptive war might be called for. If Obama can't get any more explicit on this point, or refuses to delineate potential differences with Hillary on that score, what's left but flowery rhetorical differences?
Posted by: frankly0

I disagree. In my opinion the problem with your assertion is that you mistake a correlation for a cause. The policy doesn't need to be made explicit to cover every possible contingency or enemy; that would be wasted effort. Just as a good soldier strives for adaptability on the battlefield to guide his or her survival in unanticipated situations, so a good leader needs good judgement to make the right decisions. All the policy papers in the world aren't going to help a leader who doesn't make good decisions. Or as Moltke (a contemporary of Clausewitz) put it (albeit a bit clunkily):

    No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength. Only the layman sees in the course of a campaign a consistent execution of a pre-conceived and highly detailed original concept pursued consistently to the end.

Sh*t happens. To see how someone will work under pressure I look to see what they've done previously.

Posted by: cyntax on February 1, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Bob C -- what a load of hooey. I was in the employ of the government in 2002 and EVERYONE knew we were going to war. It's total BS for Hillary to claim otherwise. There was never any dbout what the 2002 vote was. To say otherwise is beyond spin, it's an absolute stone-cold lie.

Posted by: Traven on February 1, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I don't find your putative Obama argument convincing. It's far too speculative: way too many "if's," as many I might say, as the ticking timebomb scenario.

On the other hand, most voters in this country have cottage cheese for brains.

For myself, I don't think Clinton has suscinctly explained her vote either. She's said that she was worried about making the president look weak, but I think it would be more accurate to say she was trying to protect the President's bargaining position. (Remember this was before most people realized what a douchebag Dubya is.) Had the Senate denied the vote to Bush, the President would have been hard pressed to pressure Sadaam into anything, knowing that no military action would be taken. (That's why, for instance, in times of conflict, we always say we're "keeping all options on the table," not because we're going nuclear, but because we want the other side to think we might.) It further explains her vote to not require a second authorization from the Senate, after inspections, and why she sought PRIVATE assurances from the White House that the object was to get the inspections done.

[Sigh] As I said, though, there's the cottage-cheese-for-brains crew and explaining complex thought or bargaining positions to them is an exercise in futility. Time for bourbon. And God Bless America.

Posted by: gloria on February 1, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The people who condemn the War Resolution vote now with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight are basically saying that it was obvious that Bush was going to war in Iraq no matter what the weapons inspections revealed.

It was fairly obvious. It was also obvious, no matter what anyone thought of Bush's intentions, that Congress could have passed a more limiting resolution.

Posted by: Boronx on February 1, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Gloria, there's a middle ground between giving the president everything and cutting off all his options.

Also, if your scenario is Clinton's honest view of the situation, she showed bad judgement in deciding that applying more pressure to Saddam was more important than reining in Bush.

Posted by: Boronx on February 1, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

But if judgment is his key selling point, he needs to make it clear that he thinks Hillary's judgment will — somehow, someday — lead us into unnecessary military adventures in the future. -Kevin

Hillary's "judgement" in this case, along with Edwards's and Kerry's, and the others that voted for the AUMF, was a judgement based on personal political expediency and Obama knows that. They all knew full well Bush was going to war and was going to get his war no matter what. The issue of "judgement" here is not whether Hillary, et al, would start a stupid war in the future-they simply enabled someone else with bad judgement to start one. There is a difference. Also, I don't think panic had much to do with the Iraq war-it was vengeance, pure and simple. If Obama wants to clarify his differences with Hillary vis a vis Iraq and war, he needs to talk to us about how he would take the high road and not bow to political expediency.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 1, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Y'know, that's one of your better posts. I apologize for calling you "Crazy-Ass Uncle Kevin" all week.

Posted by: Cazart on February 1, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

No. The George Bush team (i.e., Neo-cons) didn't panic and then decided to invade Iraq. Iraq was always in their sights from at least 1992 on. (The New American Century folks)

Similarly,Hillary Clinton didn't suddenly panic and want to invade Iraq--it was a wish all along on the part of the pro-war, Democratic Leadership Council (DLC),America rules the waves, AIPAC, wing of the Democratic party. After the McGovern defeat the Dems didn't want to appear weak on Defense--hence both Clintons support of the Iraq war. She will reap what she sowed when Obama becomes the Dem nominee.

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on February 1, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Your assumption about obama is based on a) no one would/could learn from the Iraq mistake and 2) Obama would know how to respond if the Sears tower and John Hancock Bldg were hit by jet aircraft and 3) in 2003, when Gallup indicated 75% of the USA didnt believe sending troops to Iraq was wrong (as in they support the decision), Obama would look them all straight in the eye and say, "nope, not doin' it."

Posted by: dcrolg on February 1, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's style is to let voters connect the dots themselves. Hillary is in a tough spot here-I think most primary voters (myself included) saw the AUMF as a de facto declaration of war-having spent a year beating the drums for war, building up resources in theater, did anyone really think he was going to bring everyone back home if the inspectors came up empty? I didn't. I don't think she was naive, as Wolf suggested, but I think there was also an element (on the part of many Dems), to want to appear strong on terror. Many who gave serious accounts of the 'grave' threat posed by Saddam (including HRC, if I recall correctly), didn't even read the intelligence reports prior to the vote.

I also disagree that Obama's statement was consequence-free. He clearly had plans to run for the Senate-if Iraq had been like Desert Storm, and we found WMD's, Obama would be painted as a naive milquetoast, and he'd still be in the state senate.


Posted by: Chris on February 1, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm already not backing Obama for other various reasons, but the reservation for me about his war vote is, we have to ask ourselves how we can be able to know this was not just another example of pandering-- rather than great judgment-- that just happened to be right.

Obama is not a guy who's keyed into the big players in the system through his personal or family connetcions. He's literally not a Kennedy. So how can a guy like him get big, if he wants to be a big man? it may be he decided that since he couldn't really be status quo, his best bet was to play to the liberal base and hope they come out on top eventually. I'm not saying it's totally calculating, or that he doesn't have any good values. But a vote like Obama's Iraq war vote could be explained by his thinking the thing stood a fair chance of turning out bad, and just wanting to vote for the more liberal position to get more approval from his base supporters.

It's always possible that even assholse Republicans could identify the need for, and want to bring us into, a legitimate war that is in the nation's best interest to fight. People keep trying to shame Hillary into a self-inflicted downward spiral over the Iraq war vote, but the fact is, many people thought the president could be onto something at that time, and most voters still feel like it was reasonable, hearing what we heard at the time, to support the war then.

That's why they have never turned as hard against people who voted for the war as some voices on the left blogosphere have (and never will, at least not to the point of rejecting anyone who voted for the war solely or even mostly on that basis).

Posted by: Swan on February 1, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mohammed Cohen over in the AsiaTimes makes a prediction about how McCain will play this is the general
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JA31Ak01.html
Basically he has already used the simplistic victory versus the whiteflag of surrender frame against Romney. Since low information content voters outnumber high information content voters this simplistic framing (Americans like winners, and hate quitters) might be effective in the general, despite the fact that 2/3rds of voters hate the war. We have got to come up with an effective counter strategy early on.

Posted by: bigTom on February 1, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I would like Sen. Obama to explain what using our military power wisely means. It is a meaningless platitude. Standing military power like the US maintains is almost never used wisely and almost always used foolishly.

Posted by: Brojo on February 1, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

cyntax,

The flaw in your argument is this: in the end, you need some way of fleshing out rhetorical claims like "we need to change the mindset about war" into something that it is more or less concrete, otherwise it is simply empty air that is consistent with ANY particular policy decision. If it doesn't in any way bind you, you've effectively said nothing.

What I'm looking for, and what the American people deserve is some accounting from Obama of what he might possibly mean by those rather oracular utterances, some way in which he is bound to one potential set of concrete decisions rather than another. Short of that, it's just ear candy.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 1, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

What I'm looking for, and what the American people deserve is some accounting from Obama of what he might possibly mean by those rather oracular utterances, some way in which he is bound to one potential set of concrete decisions rather than another. Short of that, it's just ear candy.
Posted by: frankly0

Hmm... I don't really see it that way. Maybe I just don't understand what level of grainularity you'd like to see in terms of policies and proposals. I mean why "bind" yourself to one particular approach, ever? What happens if that approach doesn't work? You'd have to come up with a different approach, right? Maybe you could give an example of the kind of grainularity you think is needed.

Posted by: cyntax on February 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

I think Obama's comment is smug and rather arrogant. Many of us were against the Iraq War from the beginning and for many reasons, not the least of which war is immoral. But the way he states it makes it look as though he possessed some superior knowledge. He was not there. He was not a Senator. He did not have the info (lies as it were) but somehow he just knew so much more than Hillary. It's never been anything but a bogus
issue. If you are going to judge Hillary on her Senate record then hold Obama to the same review. His and Hillary's are nearly identical re: the War with the exception that Hillary has been taking it to Bush about withdrawal plans and permanent Iraq bases. Obama has so much as indicated his support of Hillary's efforts. His efforts re: the War have been this bogus issue and an opinion-that's all.

Posted by: fillphil on February 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama wants to change the mindset that took us to war, then how can he justify his vote for Condoleeza Rice. I mean, I get the votes on the funding bills . . . kind of. But one of his very first votes in his first week in the Senate, he voted to elevate Condoleeza Rice to Secretary of State -- who was in the vanguard of establishing the "mindset" of this horrible war.

My husband tells me that his opposition to the war was trumped by the idea that a president is entitled to pick his cabinet. But I don't understand this. If he was, in fact, an unwavering opponent of the war, why would he give the president such deference. And no, the president wouldn't have nominated a peacenik, but he might have nominated someone who wasn't so thorougly implicated in an illegal war. And then, he voted to re-authorize the Patriot Act.

I'm afraid that as an Illinois resident, when I want opposition to the war, I rely on Dick Durbin, not Obama.

I've always thought his "unwavering opposition" to the war was an amazing exaggeration based entirely on words rather than deeds, and a reflection that he was a politics-as-usual, go along to get along kind of guy. In any event, his voting record -- rather than his lofty prose -- certainly doesn't tell us how he's going to challenge the mindset.

(And don't bother telling me about HRC -- I'm a broken-hearted Edwards supporter.)

Posted by: Anna on February 1, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's actually a more realistic guess that Obama was just pandering than that he somehow has stellar, abnormal insight none of the rest of us have into an area that is beyond his expertise.

Posted by: Swan on February 1, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

That is, if you have to tea-leaf read and wonder why Barack voted against the war, it's more likely that he was just out to please people than that he's just incredibly wise and somehow knew for certain Saddam didn't have the weapons, wouldn't give WMD to Al Qaeda, and the occupation would be a total disaster.

Posted by: Swan on February 1, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama wants to change the mindset that took us to war, then how can he justify his vote for Condoleeza Rice. I mean, I get the votes on the funding bills . . . kind of. But one of his very first votes in his first week in the Senate, he voted to elevate Condoleeza Rice to Secretary of State -- who was in the vanguard of establishing the "mindset" of this horrible war.

I've been unable to stand Rice since she started talking smack about the military way back in 2000, but opposing her nomination as Sec State seemed pointless to me. It's one thing to oppose nominations for such positions as Attorney General, SCOTUS, Director of FBI, etc., but the Secretary of State has no power in this Admin so...

Posted by: cyntax on February 1, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Traven--what job in the government did you have in 2002 that allowed you and everyone else to know for sure that Bush was going to ignore the weapons inspectors' findings and invade Iraq no matter what they found? Frankly, I don't believe anyone below a Cabinet level job who makes such an outlandish claim of "inside baseball" knowledge. We all like to think we "know" but most of us clearly don't.

There's a little bit true in what most everyone above has said, but the bottom line is that if the weapons inspectors didn't find any WMD, Bush was going to have to lie to the world. And that is what he did, and it took a another year or so before it became clear 1) what a liar he was, and 2) how unbelievably ill-equipped he was to be be making decisions about war and peace. It is easy to see now what a catastrophically bad leader Bush was, but in 2002, very few people understood it. And I've not seen any quotes from 2002 where Obama explains that he knew Bush was a liar and an incompetent.

Posted by: Bob C on February 1, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the problem. Obama supposedly has different vision and judgment but has done nothing differently than Clinton with respect to the war during his time in the Senate. He promises leadership on this issue but has shown none whatsoever despite his supposedly superior judgment. If he goes too far out on that limb, someone is going to start looking at exactly what he has and has not done in the Senate.

Posted by: Mary on February 1, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

One more time, Bob C -- the only unknown in 2002 was whether, and what kind, of WMD the Iraquis had, though it seemed clear to many of us that he was in way too well-constructed a box to actually use them, even if he'd had them.

Bush's behavior, however, was all too easy to read. He clearly had no interest in providing Saddam any kind of face-saving way out and therefore proved his utter lack of interest in avoiding a war. If that weren't evidence enough, Bush's most ardent supporters were all arguing for the war to start immediatley -- not in the event of an uncooperative Saddam who refused to allow inspectors, but in any event at all. They were against involving the UN and pretty much against anything and everything that might impede the carnage by a day or two. They wanted war. Period.

These pundits were all very close to the President and Dick Cheney and were clearly reflecting their feeelings, and it was beyond obvious that they had the President's ear. This was all very knowable merely by reading op-eds. So, please, stop with this garbage that it required some kind of magic crystal ball to know where Bush was headed.

I've never seen a leader telegraph his intent so clearly. The signs were there for anyone who cared to see them.

Posted by: Bob on February 1, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I've been unable to stand Rice since she started talking smack about the military way back in 2000, but opposing her nomination as Sec State seemed pointless to me. It's one thing to oppose nominations for such positions as Attorney General, SCOTUS, Director of FBI, etc., but the Secretary of State has no power in this Admin so...

I'm not denying the vote against Rice would have been symbolic, but a vote for her was pretty symbolic too. But it's a pretty important symbol, given that he was supposed to be against the war. And again, Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold voted against her.

I'm amazed at how Obama supporters can put this aside so easily.

Posted by: Anna on February 1, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK
The people who condemn the War Resolution vote now with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight are basically saying that it was obvious that Bush was going to war in Iraq no matter what the weapons inspections revealed.

Yes, and many of us who condemn the vote now were saying that before the debate on the vote, back when Bush was talking about how he could go to war without needing any okay from Congress, and during the debate once it started. And were, as it turns out, proven right.

I don't think its a lot to ask that a prospective President either demonstrate as much ability to read the intentions of world leaders as a significant minority of the US public demonstrated in 2003 with less information than the candidate had at that time. Failing that, I think its a fairly low bar to expect that the candidate be able to admit that a failure in that regard was an error and at least argue that they've learned from it.

Failing even that, I don't see how voters can believe that a candidate has the judgement to make decisions which will require acting based on the perceived intentions of potentially hostile world leaders, about whom they may have less information than they had available to them about Bush when they misread him prior that Iraq War resolution.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 1, 2008 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bob and cmdicely--it's still 20-20 hindsight. When you people claim you knew that Bush was going to attack Saddam no matter what, you are not being honest with yourself--you are only claiming after the fact that since your instincts were correct, we all should have listened to you. But you did not know in October, 2002, that Saddam had no WMD. Some people in the intelligence agencies knew this, but it was not common knowledge by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, you turned out to be right about Bush, but you had no hard proof in 2002 that he would not listen to the UN weapons inspectors, and that in fact he was a war criminal who intended to attack Iraq come hell or high water. If you do have such proof--tell us what it was.

Of course Bush sounded like he was going to attack no matter what, but what about the idea that he had intelligence that he wasn't sharing with the world? You had no way of knowing that Bush was only pretending to know more about Iraq's WMD than he really did. It was not obvious to the world in 2002 that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice were all lying when they were making strong declarative statements about Iraq's WMD all during the fall and winter of 2002-2003. Can you tell me now that the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl Sunday? Of course not, but on Monday it will be obvious to all. That's what you people are doing whether you want to admit it or not---Monday morning quarterbacking.

Posted by: Bob C on February 1, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

"it's still 20-20 hindsight. When you people claim you knew that Bush was going to attack Saddam no matter what, you are not being honest with yourself--you are only claiming after the fact that since your instincts were correct, we all should have listened to you."

No, it's common sense. If you are about to be overcome by smoke, do you wait for proof that there's a fire? No. It's a more-than-reasonable assumption.

This whole sad story was begun with the following statement from Andy Card in the summer of 2002:

"We will begin marketing the war in the fall."

What the hell else do you need to hear?

Posted by: cazart on February 1, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

P.S. Giants 23, Pats 21. Missed Gostkowski field goal at the buzzer.

Posted by: cazart on February 1, 2008 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

What's your proof cazart? "Common sense" is your opinion, not proof.

Posted by: Bob C on February 1, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

When you people claim you knew that Bush was going to attack Saddam no matter what, you are not being honest with yourself--you are only claiming after the fact that since your instincts were correct, we all should have listened to you. But you did not know in October, 2002, that Saddam had no WMD.

WRT Bush's intentions, you're right. We didn't know, and you don't know that the Earth won't fall into the Sun tomorrow.

Your WMD argument is a straw man. By October it was clear that there wasn't any good evidence for Saddam's WMD. Anyone that was fooled by Andy Card's September sales pitch wasn't looking at the facts.

Posted by: Boronx on February 1, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx--what's your evidence that "By October it was clear that there wasn't any good evidence for Saddam's WMD." Andy Card's statements are not evidence. In the fall of 2002 no one knew for sure that Bush and his neoncon advisers were lying to everyone. Show me the evidence and I'll agree with you. I've read all the books on this, I despise Bush/Cheney, and I'm a strong liberal, but I did not hear or see convincing public arguments in the fall of 2002 that Saddam's WMD were a scam. Produce the evidence please. Self assured statements are not evidence.

Posted by: Bob Carmody on February 1, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx--what's your evidence that "By October it was clear that there wasn't any good evidence for Saddam's WMD.

but I did not hear or see convincing public arguments in the fall of 2002 that Saddam's WMD were a scam

Again with the same straw man. The lack of evidence that Saddam's WMDs were *not* a scam is self evident. This was made all the more obvious by the Bush administration trotting out evidence known to be worthless (curveball, aluminum tubes etc) as proof.

His willingness to make a false case and disinterest in making a real case was also one clue that Bush really wanted to go to war, if the numerous leaks and intelligence estimates to that effect weren't enough to convince you.

Posted by: Boronx on February 1, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Another thing Obama said that adds a lot of credibility for me is that he didn't know how we would keep the Shiites and the Sunnis from killing each other. He said that back in 2002 when maybe 10 people in the US had even heard of the Shiites and Sunnis. The fact that he is broadly travelled, has lived and was schooled in Indonesia gives him invaluable insight and experience. Would that our current President had some of this.

Posted by: Sharon on February 1, 2008 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention reports of Cheney frequently visiting CIA analysts with his influential arm-twisting. Not to mention that you could read online the British intelligence interview of Saddam's son-in-law, who said WMD programs had been discontinued in 2001, and was later killed by Saddam for this admission. Plus, a ton more info if you were willing to spend the time researching and totally ignoring the propaganda being spread by MSM.

Posted by: nepeta on February 1, 2008 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not denying the vote against Rice would have been symbolic, but a vote for her was pretty symbolic too. But it's a pretty important symbol, given that he was supposed to be against the war. And again, Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold voted against her.
I'm amazed at how Obama supporters can put this aside so easily.
Posted by: Anna

Well, I think you went to the heart of the issue when you said its symbolic. You and I have different opinions on the importance of this symbolism, that's all.

Posted by: cyntax on February 1, 2008 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Standing military power like the US maintains is almost never used wisely and almost always used foolishly.

I'm with you, Brojo. Have you read Chalmers Johnson too?

Posted by: Sharon on February 1, 2008 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sharon,

I've read Johnson's two books, "Blowback" and "Sorrows of Empire." I still have the third to read. In my opinion, they are the 'must read' books necessary to really understand US military power and imperialistic motivations.

Posted by: nepeta on February 1, 2008 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Sharon, Just wondering... Are you the Sharon who is pro-Clinton?

Posted by: nepeta on February 1, 2008 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Napeta, I've read all 3 Johnson books. I am pro-Clinton Sharon. I'm also pro-Obama Sharon. I'm soooo conflicted. I personally identify with Clinton...almost the same age...years of struggle against sexism, etc. I like her solid credentials on the economy but hate her pandering on Iraq and feel sure she will do nothing to roll back imperial overreach. In Obama I see the possibility for transformation, bringing the next generation into public service, etc. I fear he is more style than substance at this point, at this level of responsibility with the huge backlog of damage movement conservatism has wrought since its emergence with Reagan. All that said, I finally settled on Edwards. When he asked, "What difference does it make whether we have a Republican corporatist or a Democratic corporatist?" that really resonated with me. Have you read The Corporation? But then Wednesday I was invited to an Edwards appearance in New Orleans, and you know the rest. I guess on the upside, we Democrats have an embarrassment of riches.

Posted by: Sharon on February 2, 2008 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

I think I just found the quote of the day on Taylor Marsh's site. Take heed, it takes sides in no uncertain terms, but there's plenty of sense in what this woman (I presume WMCB is a woman) has to say. Here it is:

Okay, I am bringing this forward from the tail end of the last thread, because I hate to waste a good rant when y'all had left the room already.

...

... Of course, I'd like to take on some of these online jerks for myself, who are so brave behind their keyboards. I guarantee they would not dare get up in my face in person. I raised two babies dirt-poor on foodstamps, went back to college in my 30's (thanks to the Clinton years economic boom and expanded grant programs) and have seen more of life and hard times then these wussies can imagine. Nobody handed shit to me, I fought tooth and nail for every bit of respect I ever got in my life.

I would wipe the floor with these people in person. I ain't never backed down from anybody in my life, and I sure as hell wouldn't start with some piss-ant progressive wannabe opining to me all about how we need us some hope and changiness. No, you fool, we need to get down to business and get the fecking country outta the ditch. We don't need a pretty prancing sparkly pony for that, we need a goddamn hard-working mule who can PULL all the day long.

These prissy whiny keyboard zealots better hope they never get the chance to get up in my grill with their crap, because I will flat go to town on their ass. Huh.

WMCB | 02.01.2008 - 8:02 pm | #

Posted by: Sharon on February 2, 2008 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Sharon,

I'm also exactly (I think) Hillary's age, therefore close to your age. Thanks for your description of where you are with the candidates. I've been for Kucinich (always), Richardson and Edwards at various points in the pre-primary season. Finally I settled on Obama after hearing his interview with the Reno Gazette. I listened to it twice all the way through (it lasts about 50 minutes). I had the same questions as you about style over substance but that interview gave me confidence about the substance. If you want to get even more confused, perhaps you should give it a listen. I liked what Edwards had to say a great deal, I just didn't quite believe that any administration would be able to really succeed in fighting the vested interests that he targeted. That's really a David and Goliath battle and I hope someone can do it someday. I think the MSM (a corporation after all) made Edwards disappear. Pretty scary, really, what they did to him. I hope he ends up in a new Dem administration to keep pestering the life out of the military-industrial-corporate complex.

Posted by: nepeta on February 2, 2008 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Napeta,

I'll try to find the Reno Gazette audio. Thanks. My worry about Obama is that he really hasn't been vetted. The media are in a swoon. The entertainment industry (very influential) is in a swoon. My children's friends are in a swoon. By nature, I'm a cockeyed optimist so promises of hope and reconciliation push all my buttons. Plus, I identify with Obama as a conflict avoider like myself. (Some of you will scoff, I know.) That's not been a good thing for me and wouldn't be good for the country. I'm doing my best not to get swept away.

The money quote for me in the WMCB comment I posted above is:

No, you fool, we need to get down to business and get the fecking country outta the ditch. We don't need a pretty prancing sparkly pony for that, we need a goddamn hard-working mule who can PULL all the day long.

When HRC talks about her 35 years of experience (many ignorant know-it-alls sneer, but she was a progressive activist and politically far more sophisticated than Bill when they met), she's not blowing smoke. No one who's ever seen pictures of her with her thick glasses, kinky unstyled hair and frumpy clothes would ever accuse her of having more style than substance. She's a hard-working mule, and like WMCB she's "fought tooth and nail for every bit of respect [she] ever got in [her] life."

No Quarter has some very good pro and con arguments.

I've followed your comments very closely for the last few weeks. You approach this decision with seriousness and thoughtfulness and ask some great questions. I'm missing Donald from Hawaii tonight. He's been a great help too.

This ongoing conversation we're able to have now across the nation is wonderful and I imagine it's similar to the kinds of dialogs our ancestors had at the founding when the country was very small and literate people were fanatical letter writers. I believe this is how we will reclaim our country and keep democracy alive.

Posted by: Sharon on February 2, 2008 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks that Hillary, as the first ever female POTUS would squander that historic opportunity pursuing senseless wars of choice is stupid...

Posted by: dcshungu on February 2, 2008 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton is actually better than Obama on foreign policy.

Why did Clinton show bad judgment in supporting the AUMF? Because she wanted to be president. Well once she is president we don't have to worry about the number one reason Clinton has shown poor judgment. Obama on the other hand has shown no judgment. He doesn't convene his subcommittee, he misses votes and when he does vote it is exactly like Clinton. Now Obama is saying since he is brown, opposed the war, and lived in Indonesia as a kid that Muslims and foreign leaders will love him. Clinton might be bad but Obama is ridiculous.

Posted by: what does this button do? on February 2, 2008 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Napeta,

I just stumbled on this:

Barack Obama Speech on Religion

It's the most thoughtful, sincere, and inspiring speech I've ever heard on the subject. This man may be too intelligent to be President. LOL

Posted by: Sharon on February 2, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Sharon and nepata,
let me, if I may add my two cents to your interesting discussion on the importance of the Iraq war vote in 2002 to choosing between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as both have the same position on the war now.

First, I agree with you, Sharon, that an Obama candidacy is worrisome because he is unvetted and lacks HRC’s experience on the world stage and her seasoned familiarity with the ins and outs of Washington ways. When JFK, or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton became President, the country could afford time it took for the new President to learn the ropes. I am not sure that we can afford a learning period now.

I too am about your and nepata’s age. I guess I would be considered a liberal democrat in political thinking and philosophy (though I have learned to accept the reality that American politics is such that I can't have my way in all things). And, because I see myself as a liberal Democrat, I'm more than a little disturbed by Obama's call for Republicans to support his bid for the presidency. Is Obama the liberal Democrat his voting record in the Senate shows him to be, or is he a closet Repub whose real political agenda will not become known until after we pick him to become our nominee.
I too have always strongly opposed the Bush/Cheney Iraq adventure In fact, all the way through the build-up to the war in since early 2002, I saw and feared what was coming and bitched about it around the kitchen table to anyone who would listen. I was extremely upset at the Senate resolution that gave Bush the authority to potentially declare war on Iraq and very, very disappointed in all the Democrats who voted for that resolution. Like many. Many others, I did not trust Bush/Cheney and the neo-cons and looked upon the Senate resolution as acquiescence and approval for an immoral, disastrous war that would dangerously and unnecessarily destabilize the Middle East. Actually, unlike most people, I was never that convinced that Saddam Hussein really had WMDs of any significance and/or that he had any plans use them (if he had them) against the US or our allies in any reasonably near future. I felt strongly (and still do) that the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war under those circumstances was unjustified, wrong, immoral and stupid and I was very upset with all the Democrats in the Senate, including HRC, who did not stand locked in a united front against Bush and his disastrously hawkish policies that put the US at odds with most of our friends around the world.
But, you know what, I got over my anger at that 2002 Senate vote. It’s in the past now, and we can’t change the past. It’s silly and non-productive to be fixated on what we cannot change. We must learn from the past, but go forward Moreover, good judgment is not measured by one call. How many bad judgment calls has Obama made? We don’t know. He has confessed to at least two that I know of.
Furthermore, I’m particularly willing to forgive those errant Senators who quickly realized what folly it was to give Bush, prematurely, authority to make war against Iraq and have since then taken steps to try to reverse their vote or to limit or contain that catastrophic Bush War. I have come to recognize that not every Senator who voted to approve that fateful 2002 Senate resolution acquiesced to a war with Iraq. Some, maybe many, thought their vote for the resolution was not a vote for war, but a vote to strengthen Bush’s diplomatic hand against Saddam, and thereby avoid actual war. With perhaps a grain of salt or two, I chose to accept HRC explanation that her vote for the 2002 resolution was not a vote for war, but a vote to strengthen Bush’s diplomatic hand.
What do I think Hillary would have done if she were President in 2002? At the very least, I think she would have waited to let the inspectors finish their job –she would have waited for Blix’s final report. We know now that this wait alone would probably have avoided the war because there were no WMDs. Moreover, we also know now that in the days before the start of the Iraq war, there were diplomatic maneuvers underway whereby Saddam Hussein was offering/willing to leave Iraq, thereby further rendering unnecessary any need to invade Iraq
And, what would President HRC have done if the inspectors had uncovered undeclared WMDs in Iraq after all? I’m convinced she would, at least, not have gone it alone – she would have obtained a UN resolution for the war; and she would have consulted with our nation friends and would have negotiated for their cooperation and help in the effort. Short of getting such international advice, consent and cooperation, she would not have made preemptive war. Our recent experiences with Iran and North Korea, and the Clinton’s experience with the war in the Balkans, have proven the wisdom of employing of such international filters before rushing to war.
The fact is that the war in Iraq is the sad reality. For the purposes of choosing the next Democratic presidential nominee, it really doesn’t matter how we got here anymore. Both Obama and Hillary want to get us out of the mess as quickly as possible without making matters worse. The question for us now is, who has the best and most workable plan to do so. My personal conclusion is that Hillary is the one. She has the smarts, the seasoned experience and the connections to do it.

Posted by: Erika S on February 2, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Erika: It's your reasoned thinking that just messes up everbody's rationale. It's not fun to consider the "whole' rather than one or two idiotic issues to bitch about. We want to vote in anger not in an intelligent , honest consideration of what's best. It's off to La La Land and you're gonna miss out on the Party of Hope.

p.s. Maxine Waters said it best-"We don't need hope-We need help!"

Posted by: fillphil on February 2, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Obama wasn't nearly as definitive about opposition to the Iraq War in that 2002 speech as he would now have you believe. Read it, and you'll see that there are all kinds of caveats. And he really did remove it from his website when the war was very popular.
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Barack_Obama's_Iraq_Speech

He's a master at speaking in ways that members of every segment of the population can hear what they want to hear. Didn't we elect one of those once before?

Carolyn Kay
MakeThemAccountable.com
Chicago, IL

Posted by: Carolyn Kay on February 2, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Carolyn,

I just read the Obama speech to freshen my memory of it. I don't know what more you could ask from an anti-Iraq War speech. Obama is not a pacifist, that's clear. But I see no caveats at all! Perhaps you could point them out?

Posted by: nepeta on February 2, 2008 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

"It’s in the past now, and we can’t change the past. It’s silly and non-productive to be fixated on what we cannot change"

It would be even sillier and less productive to ignore a candidate's former record and former judgment and pretend that these things don't matter.

Posted by: PaulB on February 2, 2008 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

nepata, RE OBama's famed anti-was speech:

One of the first things I notice about Obama’s anti Iraq war speech that gives me pause is that it was delivered AFTER the military use authorization resolution became a fait accompli. The house debated and passed the resolution on October 10, and the Senate on October 11. It was signed by Bush on October 16. Unlike others who spoke out at the time (like Ron Paul, who delivered his anti-war speech on October 8) Obama remained silent on the issue until October 26, 2002 when his stated views could no longer impact the vote that our elected representatives on the Hill were struggling with. WHY DID HE WAIT SO LONG? Did he make his position known to the legislators who had to take a stand on the issue in a timely manner? If not, why not? Anybody know? In view of his tardiness in speaking out, his short speech at an ant-war rally (after the fact) seems a little less than a sterling exhibition of courageous leadership and good judgment.
Moreover, if you analyze the speech it is indeed fraught with caveats and rhetorical, messianic-like hyperboles. For instance he says:
“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.”

As you can see, Obama expressly CONDITIONS his anti-war stance on four CAVEATS:
1. that Iraq poses no imminent and direct threat to US or his neighbors
2. that Iraq has an economy in shambles
3. that Iraq’s military is a fraction of its former strength
4. that the international community acting in concert can contain Saddam.

*Note that Hilllary (and Bill) too thought that the last condition would work, if tried, so, Obama position on the war was and is essentially no different than Hillary’s!!!!!

I ask you, how did Obama KNOW on October 26, 2002 that Saddam posed no imminent threat? He may have guessed it, or suspected it (like the rest of us anti-war people), but he did not KNOW it. And, since he was not in the Senate at the time, and had no access to confidential intelligence on the matter, he had far less information on which to base his assessment. Moreover, since Obama is not the Messiah, he cannot in fairness claim to KNOW that international concerted action would have contained Saddam.

Posted by: Erika S on February 3, 2008 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Erika S,

I find the date on which Obama delivered his anti-war speech to be irrelevant. Remember, he was not a US senator at the time, just an Illinois Senate. I doubt that he would have been given much notice by anyone in the US Congress even had the anti-war rally been scheduled before the AUMF vote, which was beyond Obama's control in any case. US Senators themselves were speaking out against the war previous to the AUMF vote, e.g. Kennedy, Byrd, Sarbanes, etc.

Obama is not saying that he 'knows' that Iraq has no WMD. That was only a good probability for those of us who paid attention to all the reporting in the non-MSM media. The nuclear issue was the one of greatest importance to the US. But no enrichment centers or radioactive material had been found by inspectors in the 90's. Nuclear weapons can't be built or hidden in a small room somewhere. Even US experts were talking about the number of 'years' it would take for Iraq to have a nuclear weapon, assuming there was an active program or one 'on ice.' And Iraq had no means to deliver a nuclear weapon to the US and little reason to attack neighboring countries with a nuclear weapon or any other kind of WMD, given the conditions that Obama outlines, i.e., economic disaster, weakened military. So the operative word in Obama's 'I know' sentence is 'imminent.' Most of us knew an attack was not 'imminent,' despite the mushroom cloud rhetoric, hence why war now?

As to 'containment,' I personally (and many EU countries) had reached the point by the late nineties where we saw what the sanctions were doing to innocent civilians in Iraq, particularly children. And I might add that US documents available online clearly showed that the US 'knew' what listing chlorine as a dual-use substance would do to wreak havoc in Iraq. Well, who wouldn't know? So by 2002 I wanted the inspectors to return and settle once and for all the issue of WMD and if not found, then lift the sanctions. The inspectors did in fact return to Iraq, found nothing, and Bush, with the Authority to Use Military Force in place, invaded Iraq.

PS: Our definition of the word 'caveat' seems to differ. Here's the dictionary definition:

"To qualify with a warning or clarification: The spokesperson caveated the statement with a reminder that certain facts were still unknown."

Posted by: nepeta on February 3, 2008 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Erika S: Both Obama and Hillary want to get us out of the mess as quickly as possible without making matters worse. The question for us now is, who has the best and most workable plan to do so. My personal conclusion is that Hillary is the one. She has the smarts, the seasoned experience and the connections to do it

Thank you, Erika S, for your long and thoughtful analysis. It's been like Jacob wrestling with the angel for me since Edwards dropped out of the race. Like you, I've come down on the side of toughness and experience. (Please don't jump on me, folks. I'm not saying Sen. Obama is not tough or experienced. I'm saying Sen. Clinton is tougher and more experienced.)

Napeta, whom I respect very much, appears to have come down on the other side. She's a woman our age, a woman of abundant good will, good judgement, and good analytical skills. She could be as right as we are wrong or vice versa. In any case, decide we must unless we want to sit this one out...an option I reject as unpatriotic.

The thing that really whacked me upside the head was a rant I came across on another site (I think I quoted it above). WMCB said, "No, you fool, we need to get down to business and get the fecking country outta the ditch. We don't need a pretty prancing sparkly pony for that, we need a goddamn hard-working mule who can PULL all the day long." Though I wouldn't dismiss Sen. Obama as "a pretty prancing sparkly pony", the common sense in that statement is unassailable in my view.

I believe Barack Obama will play a huge, transformative role in America's future and I'm thrilled by the prospect. If we do this thing right, we could have a progressive Democrat in the White House for decades. It's not change v. experience. There will be big change regardless of who wins. It's experience v. more experience. It's competence v. competence potential. It's organizational skill v. inspirational skill. We need it all, but what do we need more at this juncture in history?

OT, there are too many on this site...you know who your are...who pounce on those they consider naive, ignorant or stupid and make vicious personal attacks. This is so unhelpful. Most of us are just trying to work a lot of difficult decisions out in our own minds. We all fall on a continuum somewhere between ignorant/naive/stupid and informed/sophisticated/brilliant. But all of us want to be less naive, more informed, and smarter. This is a conversation, not a war. I would really like to see the moderator exercise some control here.

Posted by: Sharon on February 3, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Napeta: Most of us knew an attack was not 'imminent,' despite the mushroom cloud rhetoric, hence why war now?

Very good question that no one of real influence in the press or the government seemed to ask in a persistent way at the time. I remember my own reaction when stop-Saddam-now reared its ugly head, "Duh, what does Saddam have to do with Afghanistan and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice?" The question...why now?...was lost.

Naively, I expected the inspectors' report to answer that question definitively. Most people did. The fact that Bush was unwilling to wait for the inspectors' report is a solid indicator to me that he knew beforehand there were no WMD of any significance. If that's not grounds for impeachment, what is?

Posted by: Sharon on February 3, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

" The fact that Bush was unwilling to wait for the inspectors' report is a solid indicator to me that he knew beforehand there were no WMD of any significance."

Sharon,

Yes! Absolutely right on this. I cynically believe Bush and cronies knew this from the very beginning. They wanted to go to war against Iraq, for any or all of the reasons outlined in other places, and they weren't taking 'no' for an answer.

Thanks for your compliments. I try to be courteous to those I disagree with here, but sometimes it IS difficult. (grin) You're another one who sticks to arguments and avoids personal attacks. I appreciate that. Although I must admit, it's sometimes 'fun' to watch others tear into each other (vicarious pleasure). So don't think I'm perfect by any means. I've always thought I could never be a politician because I wouldn't be able to control my temper with the day-in/day-out conflict they have to endure.

Posted by: nepeta on February 3, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Just one comment on 'toughness and experience.' I don't see these two traits as being the most important for the next president. I see 'vision' as being the most important. I see Hillary as being a mainstream Democrat with all the baggage that entails, debts owed to lobbyists, a well-formed national security position based on outdated ideology (one that I would disagree with), and a preference for sticking with old formulas in general. I can't say that Obama won't turn out to be similar to Hillary in these characteristics, but I'm hoping that he will. If you look at who their big donors are at opensecrets.org you'll see that Obama has accepted almost no lobbyist money ($77,000) while Hillary has accepted much more ($567,000). Donations by industry, e.g., insurance, oil & gas, pharma, etc. are also given there. But finally, Hillary's AUMF vote as well as her support for the war for quite a few years after the invasion is just an insurmountable problem for me. Obama became a Senator in 2005 and his votes for supporting the troops cannot be misinterpreted as supporting the war.

Posted by: nepeta on February 3, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta:

He says he's opposed to "dumb" wars, and that he doesn't think we should go to war "blindly", but never does he say, "I am against attacking Iraq."

Obama is a master at saying things in a vague way so that he has deniability. I don't call that leadership.

Carolyn Kay
MakeThemAccountable.com

Posted by: Carolyn Kay on February 3, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought I could never be a politician because I wouldn't be able to control my temper with the day-in/day-out conflict they have to endure.

You're better than I am, Napeta. I could never be a politician because I want to cry every time someone hurts my feelings. It's happened quite a few times since I started commenting here.

They wanted to go to war against Iraq, for any or all of the reasons outlined in other places, and they weren't taking 'no' for an answer.

Have you read Richard Clarke's book? He certainly makes that case convincingly.

Posted by: Sharon on February 3, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

"He says he's opposed to "dumb" wars, and that he doesn't think we should go to war "blindly", but never does he say, "I am against attacking Iraq."

Oh, Carolyn, this is just plain silly. Even if he weren't speaking at an anti-war rally, it's plain as day he's against attacking Iraq. I sure would like to see him spin that he wasn't really against attacking Iraq from that speech.

Posted by: nepeta on February 3, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Napeta, I guess the answer to the question "why now?" is that Bush had to launch the war through that small window of opportunity that existed before the inspectors found nothing.

The question now is, "When will he be impeached for his crimes, or, if impeachment is off the table, how can he be stripped of all the trappings of respect due to a former President...the library, the pension, etc.?" Perhaps he could be exiled to Quantanimo.

Posted by: Sharon on February 3, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Napeta, as I said, I'm a recent Clinton convert, so, please keep the good arguments coming. I'm not ready to cast a vote, and, thank goodness, I don't have to.

Posted by: Sharon on February 3, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sharon,

Don't let anyone here get to you. Your opinion is just as valid as anybody else's and just as well-based. When I get 'attacked' here I just get incredibly angry. Funny how people react differently, huh?

And yes, I have read Richard Clarke's book too. Looks like we have the same books lying around our houses! Oh, another one of value, although not connected to Iraq or Bush, is Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." A good subtitle would be: "Things you didn't learn in high school history classes."

Posted by: nepeta on February 3, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sharon,

Yes, if there was ever anybody that deserved to be impeached it is Bush, not just for Iraq but a myriad of other things. Aaargh. But how? Then you get Cheney as Prez. It's all just a quagmire. I can only hope his legacy turns out to read for generations to come "The Worst President Ever!" That's not a lot of comfort now, but I get the feeling it's all we can hope for.

Posted by: nepeta on February 3, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Napeta, you're my kind of woman. I was bowled over by Zinn's book. My kids were fortunate to have gone to a wonderful progressive boarding school in Arizona (Verde Valley in Sedona) and studied Zinn's book in high school. They are so far ahead of me. I'm frantically playing catch up. I spent a lot of years in a mommy fog. When I woke up...my youngest graduated in 2000...I couldn't believe the mess we'd gotten ourselves into.

Posted by: Sharon on February 3, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sharon,

Cool about your kids studying Zinn! And I understand what you mean about 'mommy fog,' I was in that fog through the 80's (along with being unable to watch Reagan on TV, similar to my antipathy towards Bush) and into the 90's. Bill Clinton's impeachment shocked me out of it. Then things just got worse...and worse...and worse.

Posted by: nepeta on February 3, 2008 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta: "Oh, Carolyn, this is just plain silly. Even if he weren't speaking at an anti-war rally, it's plain as day he's against attacking Iraq. I sure would like to see him spin that he wasn't really against attacking Iraq from that speech."

It's not silly to me. The spin was that he took it off his website when the war was popular. But he could also say, "Look, I never said don't attack Iraq."

It's similar to what he said about Reagan to a conservative Las Vegas newspaper. Some people took his comments to be praise of Reagan, but he was so mushy-mouthed that he was able to make some people believe that he didn't mean to praise. Of course, he didn't mean to bury, either. The worst part was the he specifically dissed Bill Clinton in that discussion, and when the Clintons defended themselves, they were considered the ones at fault.

Look, the guy is my senator. We progressives elected him to the Senate. Then he turned around and joined the Joe Lieberman wing of the Democratic Party.
http://www.crooksandliars.com/2008/02/01/national-journal-rates-obama-1-liberal-senator/

He'll win here tomorrow anyway, because most people just don't pay enough attention, but I'll vote for the candidate with the more progressive platform--Hillary Clinton.

Carolyn Kay
MakeThemAccountable.com

Posted by: Carolyn Kay on February 4, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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