Barack Obama’s Speech on Iraq – 2002

February 6, 2007 at 2:23 pm | Posted in American politics, Barack Obama, Iraq, War | 16 Comments

Good afternoon. Let begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil.

I don’t oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

I don’t oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.

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. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Roves to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

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.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the middle east, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Seems he was pretty prescient.

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16 Comments »

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  1. How do you reconcile this:

    Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

    He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

    with this:

    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.

    How is “thwarted UN inspections” and “defied UN resolutions” reconciled with containment? Was containment really working in light of the ISG findings?

    Or better yet, in light of the suffering felt by the Iraqi people by not only Saddam Hussein, but by the very sanctions that were supposed to contain him, is containment really the best strategy?

  2. Cameron,

    I wrote about this earlier, Colin Powell said in February 2001 the following about sanctions, containment and Iraq:

    We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions — the fact that the sanctions exist — not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq…

    Sanctions worked. Iraq was contained. It did not threaten its neighbors in 2001 or 2002 or 2003. The best question you need to ask yourself is this: were any of Iraq’s neighbors, including Israel, preparing for an imminent attack from Iraq at any time from the years 1992-2002?

  3. Ok, sanctions worked because Obama and Powell said they did. But that doesn’t answer the question. How do you reconcile the words of Obama that the UN sanctions and resolutions weren’t being adhered to, plus the findings of the ISG that the sanctions weren’t being adhered to and in fact were being actively pushed for removal through bribes to UN Security Council members; how do you reconcile that with a political statement that the sanctions were working?

    Or part two: How do you reconcile Obama’s statements that the sanctions were working to our interests with his statements that the Iraqi economy was in shambles, and the fact that the Iraqi people were being tortured and killed and lived in poverty? Is that in our best interests? Just as long as the “petty dictator” doesn’t attack anyone but his own people we don’t care? And what was going to happen when he “falls away into the dustbin of history”? Would that end the torture chambers and midnight desert slaughters? Or would a Saddam junior just take dad’s place and continue the “petty dictator” tradition of “butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.”?

    Is containment really the best strategy for dealing with countries like Saddam Husein’s Iraq?

  4. Is the killing of over half of a million people and the destruction of a sovereign nation so as to cause a civil war where the numbers of the dead mount even further really the best strategy in order to remove one dictator (that we used to like a lot, but suddenly decided we didn’t like any more when he ceased to be “our” dictator) from power?

    That’s one heck of a lot of collateral damage. Was Saddam Hussein really worth all that death and carnage? Would it be worth it still if your kids were included in the half a million dead?

  5. Cameron,

    Ok, sanctions worked because Obama and Powell said they did.

    Sanctions didn’t work because Obama and Powell said they did. They worked because they actually worked. People like Obama and Powell just saw reality.

    Of course Saddam was trying to get his nation off of sanctions. Every nation under sanctions would do the same. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t work. I’ve read the full report which showed that Saddam’s military was significantly degraded due to the sanctions. While you’re hyping up the parts of the report that show he was trying to get out of the sanctions, you avoid the rest which shows that Saddam’s Iraq was very weak and corrupt, near breaking point in 2002.

    How do you reconcile Obama’s statements that the sanctions were working to our interests with his statements that the Iraqi economy was in shambles, and the fact that the Iraqi people were being tortured and killed and lived in poverty? Is that in our best interests?

    You’re trying to take the high road, which is commendable, but alas, history is against you. The United States has time and again used sanctions against nations, sanctions that punish the civilian population far more than the people in power. Take Libya for example. Just what did sanctions do to the people vs. what it did to the leadership? How many Libyans died of starvation while Qaddhafi remained in power? He’s still in power, mind you, and still (as of 2003) into terrorism (he was involved in a failed attempt to assassinate a Saudi prince).

    Don’t think the interests of the United States government are noble when it comes to international relations. Our interests are very selfish and usually come at the cost of innocent lives. This is common and accepted, but never portrayed as such, because most Americans have accepted that those are some of the prices others have to pay for our interests to proceed further.

    Is containment really the best strategy for dealing with countries like Saddam Husein’s Iraq?

    Yes, actually it is. Just look at America’s policy towards North Korea, a far worse state than Saddam’s Iraq. I don’t hear you crying for the plight of the North Koreans and how we should do all we can to topple Kim Jon Ill’s regime. Why not?

  6. Mark,

    I understand the point you are trying to make, and I don’t discount it. But it cannot stand alone.

    How many died in our own civil war? Was the Union worth the destruction of the South and the hundreds of thousands killed in combat, not to mention the hardships faced by civilians? Or even the Revolutionary War, lots of people suffered and died then, was that worth it? Or the Mormon pioneers’ trek west, was that worth the cost in time, talent, money, health, and even life?

    Just because it is hard does not make it wrong.

    Was Saddam worth it? Maybe we should ask that question of this anonymous witness in one of Saddam’s trials:

    It was dark when they brought a group of people (prisoners) in front of the vehicle. The drivers got out of our vehicles and turned on the headlights,” he said.
    Some prisoners tried to grab an automatic rifle from a guard, but failed because “we were so weak,” he said.
    Soldiers then opened fire. “I ran and fell into a ditch. It was full of bodies. I fell on a body. It was still alive. It was his last breath,” said the witness. “It was really unbelievable, the number of people being killed like this.”
    Slightly wounded, he stripped off his clothes, thinking he was more likely to blend into the color of the sand if he were naked, the witness said. He then began running again.
    “As I was running, I saw many pits, I saw many mounds, and I saw lots of people who had been shot,” he said. “The desert was full of mounds that had people buried underneath.”
    The witness said he took refuge with Kurds living nearby, then traveled north. For the next 15 years he lived in hiding, moving frequently, until Saddam’s ouster.

    We could also ask Mutalib Mohammed Salman, who testified that,

    his wife and 32 relatives disappeared in 1988 after troops overran his village in northern Iraq.
    Salman said his wife’s body and the remains of two other relatives were found in a mass grave after Saddam’s regime was toppled in 2003

  7. Daniel,

    Take Libya for example…

    Exactly! You make my point for me. Sanctions don’t work. They didn’t work in Libya as you have made clear, and they weren’t working in Iraq for the very same reasons. How may Iraqis died of starvation while Saddam was in power? Saddam was still into terrorism (he was involved in a failed attempt to assassinate a former US President) and still buying weapons.

    And North Korea? Are we “containing” North Korea? Not when their entire economy is based on weapons trading, and they thumb their noses at the world while blowing up nuclear bombs.

    You also write, “he was trying to get out of sanctions…”

    The truth is, not only was he trying to get out of sanctions (and believed he was quite close to success), but he was going around them:

    Despite UN sanctions, many countries and companies engaged in prohibited procurement with the Iraqi regime throughout the 1990s, largely because of the profitability of such trade.

    Private companies from Jordan, India, France, Italy, Romania, and Turkey seem to have engaged in possible WMD-related trade with Iraq.

    The Governments of Syria, Belarus, North Korea, former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Yemen, and possibly Russia directly supported or endorsed private company efforts to aid Iraq with conventional arms procurement, in breach of UN sanctions.

    In addition, companies based out of the following 14 countries supported Iraq’s conventional arms procurement programs: Jordan, the People’s Republic of China, India, South Korea, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Georgia, France, Poland, Romania, and Taiwan.

    The number of countries and companies supporting Saddam’s schemes to undermine UN sanctions increased dramatically over time from 1995 to 2003 (see figure 54).

    A few neighboring countries such as Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Yemen, entered into bilateral trade agreements with Iraq. These agreements provided an avenue for increasing trade coordination and eventually led to sanctions violations.

    According to his former science advisor, ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, Saddam, by mid-to-late 2002, had concluded that sanctions had eroded to the point that it was inevitable they would be dropped.

    The Regime also sought diplomatic support for the lifting or easing sanctions by tying other countries’ interests to Iraq’s through allocating contracts under the OFF program and entering into lucrative construction projects to be executed when sanctions were lifted. In addition, Iraq held conferences to recruit and cultivate “agents of influence” to build pressure for lifting sanctions.

    Iraq negotiated a $40 billion agreement for Russian exploration of several oil fields over a 10-year period. Follow-on contracts called for the construction of a pipeline running from southern to northern Iraq. Performance would start upon the lifting of sanctions. Under OFF, 32 percent of the Iraqi contracts went to Russia. The Iraqis gave preferential treatment to Russian companies mainly to try to gain Russia’s support on the UN Security Council. The Russians, French, Ukrainians, and others succeeded in reducing the amount of OFF money Iraq paid to the UN Compensation Committee (for Gulf war reparations) from 30 to 25 percent thus adding significantly to Iraq’s income stream.

    The Regime sought a favorable relationship with France because France was influential as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and was in a good position to help Iraq with lifting sanctions.

    Iraq awarded short term contracts under OFF to companies around the world. As of June 2000, French companies had contracts totaling $1.78 billion.

    ‘Aziz personally awarded several individuals substantial oil allotments. All parties understood that resale of the oil was to be reciprocated through efforts to lift UN sanctions, or through opposition to American initiatives within the Security Council.

  8. How many died in our own civil war? Was the Union worth the destruction of the South and the hundreds of thousands killed in combat, not to mention the hardships faced by civilians?

    Well, given what I’ve read over the years, I’m no longer the big fan of Abe Lincoln that my elementary school teachers (or Walt Disney) might have hoped I would always be.

    We split from England, and the founding fathers believed that secession was a necessary good thing, a human right. England disagreed. Nearly a hundred years later, the South tries to secede from the United States, taking the words of the US Constitution seriously…

    “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…”

    … and suddenly the right of a free people to “throw off such Government” becomes null and void. (The War Between the States did not happen because Abe Lincoln felt it necessary to end the evils of slavery; as always, it came down to money. Someone has said that “Lincoln didn’t ‘save’ the Union so much as he destroyed it as a voluntary association”.)

    Or even the Revolutionary War, lots of people suffered and died then, was that worth it? Or the Mormon pioneers’ trek west, was that worth the cost in time, talent, money, health, and even life?

    The Mormon trek westward was a forced secession. If only Lincoln had been as kind to the southern Confederacy.

    If it had been the other way around, with the Mormons deciding to leave Nauvoo with the citizens of Illinois forcing them to stay at gunpoint, it might be a good comparison.

    Just because it is hard does not make it wrong.

    Hard? Apparently it wasn’t hard at all for us to have established the conditions that have led to the deaths of an additional half million people in Iraq. Only 3,000 of our own have had to pay the ultimate price for having accomplished that. Our technology has enabled us to make sure that at least 166 Iraqi human beings (men, women and children) have died for each individual of our own military that has died thus far.

    If you think the war in Iraq has been hard on us, put yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi.

  9. Mark, Daniel would disagree with your assessment of the Civil War.

    As for the Mormons, only those members in Illinois were forced to go. What of the next couple of decades?

    You have also completely missed the point about the Iraqis themselves. Did you ignore the witness testimony on purpose? Saddam committed acts of genocide far greater than what happened even in Bosnia.

  10. [...] with Barack Obama. Both spoke out, quite forcefully, in 2002 against the war in Iraq. Barack Obama said in a speech: After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I [...]

  11. It’s hard to know where to start when everyone has a political agenda.

    To begin with, note in the 2002 speech by Obama – Barack Mohammad Hussein Obama – that he did mention that Hussein was dealing in chemical and biological weapons. As did the intelligence services of seven nations – as did Bill Clinton when he bombed Iraq in Desert Storm in his own words to ‘get rid of Iraq’s WMD”.

    It seems Mr. Obama was okay with the 500,000 dead in the Civil war because it won Blacks their freedom from slavery. He was okay with WWII because we were bombed but he doesn’t take into account the fact that the Democratic Adm of FDR did a great deal to anger Hitler (lend lease) and to entice the Japanese to bomb us so we COULD get into the war, justified or not. Of course FDR was a democrat so there you go.

    Obama also didn’t mention that millions were killed in WWII or that we bombed two Japanese cities into near extinction or that Hitler tried to do the same to London etc etc. Wars are hell.

    Mr Obama who as far as I know has accomplished very little on the world scene, sets himself up as judge of what is a SMART war and which ones are DUMB war. These judgements are usually via hind sight since few wars that are won are considered dumb and few that are ‘lost’ are considered smart. No comment on those in which we just cut and run which Democrats almost always recommend.

    Has Mr. Obama noticed that al Queda has been on the run for some time now? That many of their assets have been destroyed? That there is a strong possiblity that they have lost their foothold in Iraq? That the odds are good that OBL is dead and gone (see my website: “Looking for bin Laden? Try the graveyards.”) Or that unlike the Clinton years, there have no successful al Queda attacks on us or our friends since 2002?

    You mentioned the half million that have died in Iraq. That would be laughable if the subject matter wasn’t so serious and sad. Cut out the propaganda crap. To begin with, wars are hell. We all know that. People die, usually more civllians than military. We all should know that. And wars have been around for 3,500 years or longer and we all should know that too. Nations have armies and armies fight wars and in wars, people die. It’s a civics class.

    We dropped two A-bombs on two cities and killed almost a quarter million people in a week. People die in wars. If you want to rail against ALL wars, do so but let’s not be so selective as to criticize only those which will help get us to get elected.

    The number of dead Iraqi’s which includes many who were killed by their national compatriots, is set by an international observer group as under 100,000, a horrible number but far short of the half million you like to quote. That number is a farce concocted by an anti-war group trying to sell a pig-in-a-poke.

    As I said, wars are hell. We lost half a million in our own Civil War. Were the half million dead Americans worth it? Today we’d say sure. Then, maybe not.

    Are the 100,00 Iraqi dead worth it. If the country becomes a democracy with freedom and the right to vote for all its citizens, the people there will say “yes” in a few years as we say to all those many wars we engaged in since our inception.

    As to American casualties, the war in Iraq has caused fewer deaths than any war in our history. One death is too many but then, people do die, wars or no wars.

    Somtimes dying for something is not too bad. Lots of people die for nothing. Check the inner cities of America – mostly run by Democratic mayors. The kids killed there far outnumber the kids kiilled in Iraq. And as I said they died for nothing.

    Colin Powell seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth but that doesn’t matter because we all have opinions. And we can afford them because when we guess wrong, there are no penalties for us to pay. Unfortunately, Presidents don’t have that luxury just as they don’t have the luxury of hindsight. So they do what they do.

    Obama is a joke. He is a preacher and that’s it. I read his speed in 2002 and I had to laugh. The only thing he did was to tell us all the problems of the world. We had 8 years of Bush and 8 years of Clinton – one from each party – and most of those problems including Iraq and WMD, existed througout both administrations. Solutions are anything but easy. You hear him say we need to free ourselves from the need for foreign oil while he supports those that prevent us from drilling our own oil thereby forcing us to send 400 billion dollars overseas every year. (Is that the reason for preventing us from drillining? The distribution of wealth from us to the rest of the world?)

    But Obama know what to do: just avoid DUMB wars. Well folks, all wars are dumb. And all of our wars had people in favor and against them including the Revolutionary and the Civil war and both World Wars.

    As for places like Korea or Viet Nam or now Iraq, cutting and running has been advocated in every one of those conflicts and mostly by Democrats. Generally they hold it up as a badge of honor. (I think most of our wars were started with a Democrat in office.)

    You ask who was threatened by Hussein and Iraq? You must be kidding or you have a very selective memory.

    Was Iraq about to attack us? Nope. How about Israel? Who knows, he was developing weapons to reach that country and he didn’t mind fighting with Iran. Who knows what a mad man might do. Plus one of Bill Clintons advisors on Iraq published a book in which she said Iraq intelligence wsa behind the first bombing of the WTC.

    Still if we could go back in time we might reconsider what we did or we might do it differently or better. Who knows? You have to be in that time and place and under those circumstances to know what you’d do the second time around.

    Obama says he is not in favor of dumb wars but he is in favor of smart ones. Of course, only he knows which is which. And usually in hindsight. But I know and I will share it with you: smart ones are the ones you win and dumb ones are the one you lose or tie.

    Finally there is this: Radical fundamentalist Islam is our enemy. Most of this guy’s family consists of Sharia-law radical Muslims. He alone is the Christian in the family. (I am not sure what his mother was or is, if she is alive. I do know she married two Muslims.)

    His background is why Obama refers to the “Kingdom” and once said: “the call to prayers at sunset is the most beautiful time of the day”.

    Muslims have the call to prayer at Sunset, do they not?

    Look at England folks. Look at all of Western Europe. What is the biggest problem over there today?

    On February 8th, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “Sharia law in England is inevitable.”

    Omar Kadafi said: “In fifty years, Europe will be a Muslim continent without a shot being fired”.

    Back in the cold war, a Russian leaders
    said: “The way to bring America to its knees is from the INSIDE”.

    Prophets all.

    Please excuse any typos. I don’t feeling like proof-reading I am sick at what has happened to this once proud nation

    We gave away our jobs, we gave away our heritage, we are now giving away our country.

    And the Caucasian race is dying all over the world.

    So how smart are we.

    Joey

    http://journals.aol.com/chonors686/JoeyPage1

  12. Joey, Arabs are Caucasians, genius (as are Turks and Persians, but they’re not Arabs). Get used to the term–PRESIDENT OBAMA! Yeah, baby!

  13. [...] removed: Barack Obama’s Stirring 2002 Speech Against the Iraq War However, this site doesn’t:Barack Obama’s Speech on Iraq – 2002 The Good Democrat Neither does this one: Brent Budowsky: Obama’s Speech Opposing The Iraq War – Politics on The [...]

  14. Barack Obama will make it and Amerika will show a new face to the world. Regards, Erik

    ——————————————-
    la vie est belle :-)

  15. Nice post, thank you!

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