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“I have some news, Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda -- It’s called Al Qaeda in Iraq…I don’t understand how Senator Obama would say he would go back to Iraq if Al Qaeda were there when Al Qaeda is there and everybody knows it,” -- Sen. John McCain on the campaign trail.
“I’ve got some news for John McCain -- he took us into a war, along with George Bush, that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged.” -- Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign trail.
This exchange highlights the difference between Republicans and Democrats regarding the Iraq war. Republicans believe we should stay there until we are successful, until Iraq is secured from the terrorists and insurgents and can stand on it's own. Democrats believe we should never have gone in, and we should get out ASAP. Obama has pledged to withdraw all troops in 2009 if he is elected president. McCain's statement that we might stay in Iraq for 100 years has been hyped to the rafters by Obama, even though McCain wasn't talking about fighting another 100 Years War, he was talking about a residual non-combatant force staying in Iraq, such as we have in Japan, Germany, Korea, Bosnia, etc. McCain's position is to finish the job in Iraq.
Obama's stated foreign strategy is not pacifism, however. He wants to withdraw from Iraq and send more troops to Afghanistan. He has also said he would strike Pakistan if he had "actionable intelligence" (and apparently, Bush has already struck Pakistan).
I think almost all americans wish the Iraq war was over. That is a given. I don't know of many who enjoy war, and I'd wonder about the sanity of anyone who did enjoy it. We hate the cost in human life the most. We hate the monetary costs as well. Obama continually talks about what he could do with the $12 billion we are spending in Iraq each month. He says it could go toward health care, schools, infrastructure (Hey, it just occurred to me. Nobody talks about paying down the debt anymore. Strange. That seems important...but I digress).
I also want the Iraq war to be over, but I don't want Iraq to descend into chaos by a premature american withdrawal either. After all that has been sacrificed to remove Saddam Hussein, push back Al Qaeda, fight the insurgency, secure the country, reconstruct the country, and get to where political reconciliation finally seems to be creeping forward, I would hope our next president would be responsible enough not to risk throwing all that away just to score some political points.
This brings me back to the quotes I repeated at the beginning of this post. Obama's point that we should never have gone into Iraq is MOOT, not to mention that it avoids McCain's point about Al Qaeda. The fact is, we ARE in Iraq. The fact is, Al Qaeda IS in Iraq. The decision the next president might have to make is -- where do we go from here ? Obama has gotten a lot of mileage out of saying he was against the Iraq war back in 2002, even though he never had to vote on it, since he wasn't in the Senate. He's used that non-voting opposition to beat Hillary and Edwards in the primaries (who both were in the Senate and voted for the war, as did the majority of Democrats), and it appears he's going to use the same tactic against McCain. Notice how Obama has already started saying "McCain took us to war, along with Bush", as if it was all really McCain's idea. That's a politician for you. For a candidate who says this election is about the future, Obama seems to be the one talking about the past an awful lot. Read those quotes again. McCain is the one talking about the present. McCain is the one talking about where we go from here. That's what presidents have to do. The rest is politics. Obama is good at politics, good at speeches, and real good at getting a total free pass from an adoring media when he makes a mistake, as he did here.
When I watched Hillary's commercial with the little girl sleeping, where the phone rings at 3am and something has happened in the world, (a very valid question to ponder when electing a president, btw, not "fearmongering" as Obama wrongly claimed), the president I wanted picking up that phone wasn't Barack Obama. Hillary had that much right. Unfortunately for Hillary, she wasn't the name that popped into my mind either. It was John McCain, the one with military experience, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the one who was first elected to the Senate in 1982. Experience DOES count. The Dems thought military experience was so important in 2004 that they dressed John Kerry up in a uniform and had a bunch of his fellow Vietnam soldiers lined up behind him onstage at the Democratic National Convention. It was "John Kerry, reporting for duty" back then. As ridiculous and ironic a spectacle as that was, the message was clear. No chickenhawks for president (even though Bush WAS in the service, oddly enough). Well, now it's 2008, Dems. Obama wasn't in the military. We have one candidate with military experience versus one chickenhawk who wants to become a wartime president and who wants to attack Afghanistan and Pakistan. What say you now, Dems ? Were you lying in 2004, or are you lying in 2008 ?