In a New York Times article, Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote that President Obama "never served in the military and campaigned as an antiwar candidate." In fact, Obama did not campaign as "an antiwar candidate"; Obama has repeatedly said that he doesn't "oppose all wars" but is opposed to "a dumb war" or "a rash war."
In a March 22 New York Times article, reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote that President Obama "never served in the military and campaigned as an antiwar candidate." In fact, Obama did not campaign as "an antiwar candidate"; as Media Matters for America has noted, Obama has repeatedly said that he doesn't "oppose all wars" but is opposed to "a dumb war" or "a rash war."
In an October 17, 2001, Chicago Defender article -- a year before his speech declaring his opposition to the Iraq war -- Obama was quoted as saying that a "military response and a criminal investigation" were necessary to "dismantle" terrorist organizations following the September 11, 2001, attacks. Further, in his October 2, 2002, speech, Obama specifically stated: "I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war." In an August 1, 2007, speech, he elaborated on the 2002 speech: "I did not oppose all wars, I said. I was a strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan. But I said I could not support 'a dumb war, a rash war' in Iraq. I worried about a 'U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences' in the heart of the Muslim world." Similarly, in a September 12, 2007, speech, Obama stated that "George Bush was wrong. The people who attacked us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist before our invasion." He later added, "Congress gave the President the authority to go to war. Our only opportunity to stop the war was lost. I made a different judgment. I thought our priority had to be finishing the fight in Afghanistan. I spoke out against what I called 'a rash war' in Iraq. I worried about, 'an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences.' "
In a March 19, 2008, speech, moments after Obama stated that "[t]he central front in the war against terror is not Iraq, and it never was," he stated: "[M]y presidency will shift our focus. Rather than fight a war that does not need to be fought, we need to start fighting the battles that need to be won on the central front of the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Additionally, during his August 28, 2008, acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Obama again distinguished his opposition to the Iraq war from "finish[ing] the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan":
For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.
And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.
That's not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.
You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice -- but it is not the change we need.
We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans -- have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.
As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.
I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.
In a July 14, 2008, New York Times op-ed, Obama wrote, "Ending the war [in Iraq] is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been." He later reiterated: "As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq."
From the March 22 New York Times article:
President Obama rarely, if ever, uses the phrase "war on terror." Like presidents before him, Mr. Obama has a top-secret intelligence briefing every day, yet it is not necessarily first on his schedule. And when he sent 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, he announced the news in a written statement, not a public address.
As he heads toward his next big decision as commander in chief -- a new strategy for Afghanistan, to be announced as early as this week -- Mr. Obama, by necessity and temperament, is wearing the role in ways distinctly different from former President George W. Bush.
Mr. Obama, of course, leads in very different times. Mr. Bush forged his identity as commander in chief during the crucible of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Obama faces not only two wars but also a crumbling world economy that his homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, has described as a threat to the nation.
But while Mr. Bush often called himself "a war president," that phrase seems to be missing from Mr. Obama's lexicon.
Now Afghanistan is high on Mr. Obama's agenda, and his new strategy for the war could define his presidency the way Iraq defined Mr. Bush's.
Top Obama aides said last week that they were still deciding how he would make the announcement -- whether in a speech, a White House ceremony or some other setting. If the past two months are any guide, the president, who never served in the military and campaigned as an antiwar candidate, will use the occasion to try to reach out to troops, all while forging a different path from his predecessor.
"After the attacks on 9/11, George Bush talked about the global war on terror as a kind of central theme of his thinking," said Lee H. Hamilton, a Democratic former congressman who was co-chairman of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and occasionally advises Mr. Obama. "And he viewed all of his actions, including the accumulation of executive power, even the phrase 'enemy combatants,' as flowing from the commander in chief's powers.
"With President Obama, conceptually it is very different."