Obama Says Next President Must Learn Lessons of Iraq War

DES MOINES – U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today said that America needs a President who will approach national security decisions with honesty and sound judgment and not repeat the tragic mistakes made when we invaded Iraq. Obama said that the same political excuses some politicians used to justify their vote for the Iraq war are now being used to give this Administration cover for potential military action in Iran. In his remarks, Obama specifically referenced a Senate amendment that said America should structure our military presence in Iraq to counter Iran and included language that could be used by the Bush administration to justify keeping our troops in Iraq or attacking Iran.

“Senator Clinton is the only Democratic candidate for president who supports this amendment,” Obama said. “She said, like she did five years ago, that it is a way to support diplomacy. I disagree. We all know that Iran poses a threat. We do need to mount international pressure to stop Iran’s nuclear program. We do need to tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime – particularly on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which supports terrorism. But this must be done separately from any saber-rattling about checking Iranian influence with our military presence in Iraq.”

“I don’t want to give this President any excuse, or any opening for war,” Obama said. “Because as we learned with the authorization of the Iraq War – when you give this President a blank check, you can’t be surprised when he cashes it.”

Obama said past judgments are the most important indication of how leaders will make future decisions about foreign policy. He credited Senator Edwards for renouncing and apologizing for his Iraq vote instead of claiming that the vote wasn’t for war, but criticized Senator Clinton for claiming the vote was for more diplomacy.

“Senator Clinton makes a different argument,” Obama said. “She says that she wasn’t really voting for war back in 2002, she was voting for more inspections, or she was voting for more diplomacy. But all of us know what was being debated in the Congress in the fall of 2002. We didn’t need to authorize a war in order to have United Nations weapons inspections. No one thought Congress was debating whether or not to conduct diplomacy. The headlines on October 12, 2002 did not read: ‘Congress authorizes diplomacy with Iraq’ – the headlines on October 12, 2002 read ‘Congress backs war.’”

Obama said that Congress cannot once again trust the Administration to do the right thing and fail to ask tough questions.

“The American people weren’t just failed by the President – they were failed by the Congress,” Obama said. “Too many members of Congress failed to ask hard questions. Too many members of Congress, including some of my opponents in this race, failed to read the National Intelligence Estimate for themselves – an intelligence report that was so unconvincing, and so filled with qualifications, that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee decided to vote against the war when he read it for himself. Too many Democrats fell in line with George Bush, and voted to give him the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day.”

Obama said that the Democratic candidate for President offer the American people a clear choice from the Republican nominee by opposing the war in Iraq, asking tough questions about Iran, and being willing to talk to our enemies.

5 years ago today, the October 12th edition of the Des Moines Register included the headline: “Now, It’s Up To The President; Congress Ceded Its Power To Declare War, But War Should Be The Choice Of Last Resort.”