Obama’s war plans

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 Senator Obama speech

photo by radiospike

Hat Tip: Dan Balz, Washington Post

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama today pledged an aggressive war against Islamic extremists, calling for the deployment of at least 7,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to combat the growing Taliban influence and promising to order U.S. forces into Pakistan if necessary to seek out and kill known terrorists.

“When I am president, we will wage a war that has to be won,” Obama told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. He added, “I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to the United States.”

Obama’s speech represented the most comprehensive outline of his approach to Islamic terrorism. He said ending the war in Iraq is crucial to success in the broader struggle against terrorism.

“The terrorists are at war with us,” he said. “The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real.”

The Illinois senator offered a biting critique of President Bush’s foreign policy decisions after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, while seeking to reassure Americans that his long-stated opposition to the war in Iraq would not make him hesitant to vigorously pursue extremists who threaten the United States.

He repeated a pledge to double U.S. foreign aid to $50 billion, provide $2 billion to combat the influence of Islamic madrassas and launch a more ambitious public diplomacy initiative that he said he would personally lead. He also called for additional steps to protect the homeland from possible attack.

Obama said that, as president, he would make U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on the success of President Pervez Musharraf’s efforts to shut down terrorist training camps and prevent the Taliban from using the nation’s territory as a staging ground.

“Let me make this clear,” Obama said. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Bush, he said, squandered national and international unity in a reckless war in Iraq that has compromised American values, undermined U.S. influence and left the country less secure.

“Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11,” Obama said.

He also took a thinly veiled swipe at his principal rival for the Democratic nomination, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with sharp words of criticism for the Congress, which he said had “rubber-stamped the rush to war” in 2002. “Congress became a co-author of a catastrophic war,” he said.”

Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war resolution, last week had described Obama’s willingness to meet with leaders of rogue nations without pre-conditions as “irresponsible and frankly naive.” That sparked a days-long argument between the two about diplomacy and the presidency.

In his speech today, Obama said the “lesson of the Bush years is that not talking [to hostile nations] does not work,” and signaled his desire to take a different approach.

“It’s time to turn the page on Washington’s conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward and that presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear,” he said.

Obama accused the Bush administration of undermining American values and said that if he becomes president, “we will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers and that justice is not arbitrary.”

He said he would prohibit torture “without exception,” assure that any intelligence gathering adheres to the letter of the law and close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama said he would end the Iraq war as president if Bush has not done so by the end of his second term. That, he said, would free up resources for fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. He pledged at least two additional brigades for the effort there and said he favored sending the Afghan government an additional $1 billion in non-military aid.

Cindy Sheehan arrested in capitol protest

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Hat tip: WASHINGTON (AP) — Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday at the Capitol for disorderly conduct, shortly after saying she would run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the California Democrat’s refusal to try to impeach President Bush.

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Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan says “Impeachment is not a fringe movement.”

Sheehan was taken into custody inside Rep. John Conyers’ office, where she had spent an hour imploring him to launch impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Conyers, D-Michigan, chairs the House Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment effort would have to begin.

“The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable, so we have to hold the Democrats accountable,” Sheehan said outside Conyers’ office after the meeting. “And I for one am going to step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi.”

Sheehan and about 200 other protesters had walked to Conyers’ office from Arlington National Cemetery. She said Conyers told her there weren’t enough votes for impeachment to move forward on the issue.

Forty-five of Sheehan’s fellow protesters also were arrested. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that after they are processed, the arrested activists could each pay a $50 fine to be released.

“Impeachment is not a fringe movement, it is mandated in our Constitution. Nancy Pelosi had no authority to take it off the table,” Sheehan told her group of orange-clad activists before they began their march from the national cemetery.

Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, has been saying for two weeks that she would seek to oust Pelosi from office by running against her as an independent in her San Francisco district if Pelosi didn’t change her mind by July 23 on trying to impeach Bush.

Conyers introduced a bill last term calling on Congress to determine whether there are grounds for impeaching Bush. Pelosi has steadfastly dismissed any talk of impeachment, saying Democrats should focus their efforts on ending the war in Iraq.

Obama’s political expediency is showing

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Hat Tip: By Philip Elliott, Associated Press

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea,” he said.

Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it’s likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.

“Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis,” Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. “There’s no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there.”

The greater risk is staying in Iraq, Obama said.

“It is my assessment that those risks are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnate for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions,” he said.

The senator has been a fierce critic of the war in Iraq, speaking out against it even before he was elected to his post in 2004. He was among the senators who tried unsuccessfully earlier this week to force President Bush’s hand and begin to limit the role of U.S. forces there.

“We have not lost a military battle in Iraq. So when people say if we leave, we will lose, they’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “We cannot achieve a stable Iraq with a military. We could be fighting there for the next decade.”

Obama said the answer to Iraq — and other civil conflicts — lies in diplomacy.

“When you have civil conflict like this, military efforts and protective forces can play an important role, especially if they’re under an international mandate as opposed to simply a U.S. mandate. But you can’t solve the underlying problem at the end of a barrel of a gun,” he said. “There’s got to be a deliberate and constant diplomatic effort to get the various factions to recognize that they are better off arriving at a peaceful resolution of their conflicts.”

The Republican National Committee accused Obama of changing his position on the war.

“Barack Obama can’t seem to make up his mind,” said Amber Wilkerson, an RNC spokeswoman. “First he says that a quick withdrawal from Iraq would be ‘a slap in the face’ to the troops, and then he votes to cut funding for our soldiers who are still in harm’s way. Americans are looking for principled leadership — not a rookie politician who is pandering to the left wing of his party in an attempt to win an election.”

An opponent of the death penalty, Obama said he would make an exception for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The first thing I’d support is his capture, which is something this administration has proved incapable of achieving,” Obama said. “I would then, as president, order a trial that observed international standards of due process. At that point, do I think that somebody who killed 3,000 Americans qualifies as someone who has perpetrated heinous crimes, and would qualify for the death penalty. Then yes.”

U.S. Senate backs troop withdrawal in ’08

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Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

HAT TIP: HUFFINGTON POST DAVID ESPO  |  AP  |  March 27, 2007 07:31 PM EST

WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled Senate narrowly signaled support Tuesday for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next March, triggering an instant veto threat from the White House in a deepening dispute between Congress and commander in chief.

Republican attempts to scuttle the nonbinding timeline failed, 50-48, largely along party lines.

The vote marked the Senate’s most forceful challenge to date of the administration’s handling of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops. It came days after the House approved a binding withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008, and increased the likelihood of a veto confrontation this spring.

After weeks of setbacks on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid said the moment was at hand to “send a message to President Bush that the time has come to find a new way forward in this intractable war.”

“It is a choice between staying the course in Iraq or changing the course in Iraq,” he said.

But Republicans _ and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent Democrat _ argued otherwise.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a presidential hopeful, said “we are starting to turn things around” in the Iraq war, and added that critics “conceive no failure as worse than remaining in Iraq and no success worthy of additional sacrifice. They are wrong.”

Bush had previously said he would veto any bill that he deemed an attempt to micromanage the war, and the White House freshened the threat a few hours before the vote _ and again afterward. “The president is disappointed that the Senate continues down a path with a bill that he will veto and has no chance of becoming law,” it said.

Similar legislation drew only 48 votes in the Senate earlier this month, but Democratic leaders made a change that persuaded Nebraska’s Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson to swing behind the measure.

Additionally, GOP Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon sided with the Democrats, assuring them of the majority they needed to turn back a challenge led by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. “The president’s strategy is taking America deeper and deeper into this quagmire with no exit strategy,” said Hagel, the most vocal Republican critic of the war in Congress.

Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to the Capitol in case his vote was needed to break a tie, a measure of the importance the administration places on the issue.

The debate came on legislation that provides $122 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as domestic priorities such relief to hurricane victims and payments to farmers. Final passage is expected Wednesday or Thursday.

Separately, a minimum wage increase was attached to the spending bill without controversy, along with companion tax cuts that the Republicans have demanded as the price for their support of the increase in the federal wage floor. The House and Senate have passed different versions of the minimum wage-tax package, but they have yet to reach a compromise.

The House has already passed legislation requiring troops to be withdrawn by Sept. 1, 2008. The Senate vote assured that the Democratic-controlled Congress would send Bush legislation later this spring that calls for a change in war policy. A veto appears to be a certainty.

That would put the onus back on the Democrats, who would have to decide how long they wanted to extend the test of wills in the face of what are likely to be increasingly urgent statements from the administration that the money is needed for troops in the war zone.

“I hope he will work with us so we can come up with something agreeable for both” sides, Reid said at a post-vote news conference. “But I’m not anxious to strip anything out of the bill.”

As drafted, the legislation requires a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days, with a nonbinding goal that calls for the combat troops to be gone within a year.

The measure also includes a series of suggested goals for the Iraqi government to meet to provide for its own security, enhance democracy and distribute its oil wealth fairly _ provisions designed to attract support from Nelson and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

Despite the change, Pryor voted with Republicans, saying he would only support a timeline if the date were secret.

The vote was a critical test for Reid and the new Democratic majority in the Senate nearly three months after they took power. Despite several attempts, they had yet to win approval for any legislation challenging Bush’s policies.