Wash. Post falsely suggested Obama, Clinton made inconsistent statements on Iraq troop buildup


The August 22 edition of The Washington Post's The Trail, "A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008," cropped an August 21 comment by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) on the troop buildup in Iraq -- that "[i]f we put 30,000 additional troops into Baghdad, it will quell some of the violence short-term" -- and juxtaposed it with his January 5 comment -- that "an escalation of troop levels in Iraq was a mistake and that we need a political accommodation rather than a military approach to the sectarian violence there" -- to falsely suggest that the two statements were inconsistent. In fact, Obama reiterated his position from January on August 21, but the Post omitted the entirety of his comments: After saying what the Post quoted him saying, Obama added: "It [a troop buildup] doesn't change the underlying assessment, which is that there is not a military solution to the political dynamic in Iraq."

The Trail also purported to contrast Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) August 20 statement that "[w]e've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in al-Anbar province, it's working. ... We're just years too late changing our tactics," with her January 17 statement that, "Rather than an escalation of U.S. troops, which I do not believe will contribute to long-term success in Iraq, we should be beginning a phased redeployment of U.S. troops. ... The president's team is pursuing a failed strategy in Iraq as it edges closer to collapse." The Trail did not spell out the purported inconsistency.

Indeed, as Media Matters for America previously noted, Clinton linked the improvements in Al Anbar to new "tactics," not Bush's troop escalation. The New York Times reported in an August 21 article that "[a]ides to Mrs. Clinton said her remarks that military tactics in Iraq are 'working' referred specifically to reports of increased cooperation from Sunnis leading to greater success against insurgents in Al Anbar Province." And according to an April 29 Times article on improvements in Al Anbar, the progress there "began last September" -- months before Bush announced his plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

By contrast, The New York Observer's blog The Politicker reported Obama's full statement in an August 21 post:

"My assessment is that if we put an addition 30,000 of our outstanding troops in Baghdad it is going to quell some of the violence short term, I don't think there has even been any doubt about that," said Obama, adding "It doesn't change the underlying assessment which is that there is not a military solution to the political dynamic in Iraq."

Moreover, the Associated Press reported on August 22:

Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday the recent increase in American troops in Iraq may well have helped tamp down violence, but he insisted there is no military solution to the country's problems and U.S. forces should be redeployed soon.


Obama said in a telephone briefing, "If we put 30,000 additional troops into Baghdad, it will quell some of the violence short term. I don't think there is any doubt about that."

But that won't solve Iraq's critical political problems, he said in the call and again later in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"All of our top military commanders recognize that there is no military solution in Iraq," Obama said at the VFW convention in Kansas City. "No military surge can succeed without political reconciliation and a surge of diplomacy in Iraq and the region. Iraq's leaders are not reconciling. They are not achieving political benchmarks. The only thing they seem to have agreed on is to take a vacation."

He concluded, "That is why I have pushed for a careful and responsible redeployment of troops engaged in combat operations out of Iraq, joined with direct and sustained diplomacy in the region."

From the August 22 edition of The Trail:

A Post article from the same day also provided only cropped versions of Obama's and Clinton's quotes:

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.

"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."

Advisers to both said theirs were political as well as substantive statements, part of a broader Democratic effort to frame Petraeus's report before it is released next month by preemptively acknowledging some military success in the region. Aides to several Senate Democrats said they expect that to be a recurring theme in the coming weeks, as lawmakers return to hear Petraeus's testimony and to possibly take up a defense authorization bill and related amendments on the war.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
The Washington Post
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.