Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama Flip Flops on Afghanistan and Iraq

Patrick Bell of the Washington State Republican Party sent along this exhaustive fact check of Rep. Adam Smith's (D-WA) statements about Obama's views on Afghanistan and Iraq from last Wednesday's Hannity & Colmes.



Obama Surrogate Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) Claimed Obama Has Been To Many Hearings And Spoken To Many Commanders To Form His Views On Iraq And Afghanistan:

Smith Claimed Obama Had “Been To Many, Many Hearings” On Iraq And Afghanistan, And “Has Talked To Many Generals, To Many Of Our Troops About The Position There.” Smith: “Senator Obama has taken the position on Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been to many, many hearings on both issues. He has talked to many generals, to many of our troops about the position there. The idea that someone would run for president without having thought seriously, listened, and learned on the issue is ridiculous. You can point to one aspect of it and say well, he didn't do that. He has articulated a clear position on Iraq, on Afghanistan based on his belief, and that belief is very straightforward. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the central front in the war. That is where we need to be concerned. We have taken our eye off the ball and placed too much emphasis on Iraq.” (Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes,” 7/23/08)

Obama Failed To Hold A Hearing As Chairman Of The U.S. Subcommittee Overseeing The NATO Mission In Afghanistan, And Missed 2 Of 3 Full Committee Policy Hearings On The U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan:

Obama Has Served As Chairman Of The Subcommittee On European Affairs From 2007 - 2008. (U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Website, www.senate.gov, Accessed 2/15/08)
  • The Subcommittee On European Affairs Has Jurisdiction Over The Countries Of Europe As Well As NATO Activities. “Jurisdiction: The subcommittee deals with all matters concerning U.S. relations with the countries on the continent of Europe ... and with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.” (U.S. Senate Committee On Foreign Relations Website, foreign. senate.gov, Accessed 2/27/08)
  • However, Obama Has Held Zero Hearings As Chairman Of The Subcommittee On European Affairs. “Doubts about Barack Obama’s presidential credentials have crystallized during the past two weeks over his stewardship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on European Affairs, which has convened no policy hearings since he took over as its chairman last January.” (Joe Conason, “Obama’s European Problem,” www.salon.com, 12/29/07)
  • Obama Could Have Held Hearings On The Role Of NATO In Afghanistan. “[A]mbassador John Ritch, who served for two decades as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s senior staffer on European affairs and East-West relations ... [P]oints out that as subcommittee chair, Obama could have examined a wide variety of urgent matters, from the role of NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq to European energy policy and European responses to climate change...” (Joe Conason, “Obama’s European Problem,” www.salon.com, 12/29/07)
  • In March, The Hill Reported Obama Missed Three Of Four Meetings On Afghanistan, Two Policy Hearings And A Nomination Hearing. “But since joining Foreign Relations, Obama has missed three meetings on a ‘new strategy’ in Afghanistan, a country he has never visited. Obama was absent from a January 31 meeting this year, and also was not present for a hearing on Sept. 21, 2006. He did attend a March 8, 2007 hearing on a new Afghanistan strategy. On Feb. 15, 2007, Obama also missed a committee hearing on U.S. ambassadors to Iraq and Afghanistan.” (Sam Youngman, “Obama Absent At Afghanistan Hearings,” The Hill, 3/1/08)

    Obama’s Overseas Trip To Afghanistan Was His First Ever, After Skipping An Opportunity To Visit Afghanistan In 2006:

    The Obama Campaign Pointed To His Trip To Iraq In Response To Criticism For Not Holding Any Oversight Hearings On Afghanistan.CNN’s Jessica Yellin: “Obama’s campaign points out the senator has visited Iraq...”(CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” 2/27/08)

    “Obama’s Second Trip Abroad As A U.S. Senator Starts In Qatar And, In Addition To Iraq, Will Include Stops In Kuwait,Jordan, Israel And The PalestinianTerritories, According To A Statement From His Washington Office.” (“Obama To Visit Middle East, Including Iraq,”The Associated Press, 1/4/06)

    “[Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN)] Is Traveling With U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Sen. Christopher ‘Kit’ Bond, R-Mo., And Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn. Their Weeklong Trip Including A Stop In Israel For Meetings With Israeli And Palestinian Officials. Other Stops Included Kuwait, Qatar,Afghanistan And Pakistan.”
    (Rick Callahan, “Bayh: Next Six Months Crucial To Iraq’s Future,” The Associated Press, 1/7/06)
  • “After A Two-Day Iraq Tour, Obama Is To Travel To Jordan And Israel On His Own.” (Jeff Zeleny, “Obama Making 1st Visit To Iraq,” Chicago Tribune, 1/5/06)
  • Obama Voted Against Providing Funding For Operations In Afghanistan:

    Obama Voted Against Providing $94.4 Billion In Critical Funding For The Troops In Iraq And Afghanistan. (H.R. 2206, CQ Vote #181: Passed 80-14: R 42-3; D 37-10; I 1-1, 5/24/07, Obama Voted Nay)

    The Emergency Supplemental Provided The Following For U.S. Operations In Afghanistan:

    $40 million for new power generation
    $314 million for rural road rebuilding
    $155 million for rural development
    $19 million for agriculture
    $174 million for Provincial Reconstruction Teams
    $25 million for governance capacity building
    $10 million for a Civilian Assistance Program
    $79 million to support Diplomatic and Consular Programs
    $16 million for Migration and Refugee Assistance
    $16 million for International Disaster and Famine Assistance for Internally Displaced Persons Assistance
    $47 million for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement activities
    (Stephen Daggett, Amy Belasco, Pat Towell, Susan B. Epstein, Connie Veillette, Curt Tarnoff, Rhoda Margesson, and Bart Elias, “FY2007 Supplemental Appropriations For Defense, Foreign Affairs, And Other Purposes,” Congressional Research Service, 7/2/07)


    At A Hastily Arranged Press Conference, Obama Denied His Statement That He Would “Refine” His Policies Meant He Would Alter His 16 Month Timetable To Withdraw Troops. Question: “What did you mean when you said you might refine your Iraq policies? Does that mean no 16-month timetable?” Obama: “No that's not no, not refine the 16-month timetable, what I just referred to. For example, there's been a major debate in terms of how we should structure training for Iraqi military and police what kinds of troop presence will we need in order for that to occur. What kind of troop presences will we need in order for that to occur? What kind of troop presence do we need in order to provide a counterterrorism strike force in Iraq that assures that al Qaeda does not regain a foot hold there? Those are all issues that obviously need to be determined by facts on the ground.” (Sen. Barack Obama, Press Conference, 7/3/08)

    Smith Claimed Obama Has Been Consistent In Calling For Withdrawal From Iraq:

    Smith Claimed Obama Has Said “Clearly” That He Would Withdraw U.S. Troops, But Added “Now, Is That Going To Be 16 Months Or 18 Months Or 17 Months? He Supports Getting Us Out Of Iraq.” Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “He said 16 months. Then he said he'd listen to the generals. Then he said he'd refine his position, and then he went back.” Smith: “He's going to. He believes clearly.” Hannity: “And you say he never changed his position.” Smith: “He believes -- he believes clearly...” Hannity: “Clearly.” Smith: “... that we need to draw down our forces in Iraq. Now, is that going to be 16 months or 18 months or 17 months? He supports getting us out of Iraq. (Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes,” 7/23/08)

    But Obama Has Shifted Positions On The Pace Of His Withdrawal Plan And Whether He Would Listen To Commanders On The Ground:

    In April, Obama Committed To Withdrawing Troops From Iraq In 16 Months, Agreeing It Was A “Rock-Hard Pledge” Regardless Of The Advice He Received From Commanders On The Ground. ABC’s Charles Gibson: “And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, ‘When he is’ -- this is talking about you – ‘When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that.’ So you’d give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?” Obama: “Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie. That’s not the role of the generals. And one of the things that’s been interesting about the president’s approach lately has been to say, ‘Well, I’m just taking cues from General Petraeus.’ Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission.” (Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Philadelphia, PA, 4/16/08)

    In July, Speaking To The Military Times, Obama Said He Would Withdraw Troops “At A Pace That Is Determined In Consultation With General Petraeus And The Other Commanders.” Obama: “If current trends continue and we’re in a position where we continue to see reductions in violence and stabilizations and continue to see some improvements on the part of the Iraqi army and Iraqi police, then you know my hope would be that we could draw down in a deliberate fashion in consultation with the Iraqi government, at a pace that is determined in consultation with General Petraeus and the other commanders on the ground and it strikes me that that’s something we can begin relatively soon after inauguration. If on the other hand you’ve got a deteriorating situation for some reason then that’s going to have to be taken into account.” (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks To The Military Times Editorial Board, 7/2/08)
  • The Next Day, Obama Said He Would “Refine” His Iraq Policy Based On Conditions On The Ground. Obama: "I've always said that I would listen to commanders on the ground. I've always said that the p ace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability. That assessment has not changed. And when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies." (Sen. Barack Obama, Press Conference, 7/3/08)
  • 1 comment:

    John Maszka said...

    The really disappointing aspect of Obama is that he was supposed to be the peace candidate. But everything that he appeared to stand for- multiculturalism, religious toleration, peace, diplomacy- all are overshadowed by this foolish idea of moving the war to Pakistan.

    Moving the war on terror to Pakistan could have disastrous consequences on both the political stability in the region, and in the broader balance of power. Scholars such as Richard Betts accurately point out that beyond Iran or North Korea, “Pakistan may harbor the greatest potential danger of all.” With the current instability in Pakistan, Betts points to the danger that a pro-Taliban government would pose in a nuclear Pakistan. This is no minor point to be made. While the Shi’a in Iran are highly unlikely to proliferate WMD to their Sunni enemies, the Pakistanis harbor no such enmity toward Sunni terrorist organizations. Should a pro-Taliban or other similar type of government come to power in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda’s chances of gaining access to nuclear weapons would dramatically increase overnight.

    There are, of course, two sides to every argument; and this argument is no exception. On the one hand, some insist that American forces are needed in order to maintain political stability and to prevent such a government from rising to power. On the other hand, there are those who believe that a deliberate attack against Pakistan’s state sovereignty will only further enrage its radical population, and serve to radicalize its moderates. I offer the following in support of this latter argument:

    Pakistan has approximately 160 million people; better than half of the population of the entire Arab world. Pakistan also has some of the deepest underlying ethnic fissures in the region, which could lead to long-term disintegration of the state if exacerbated. Even with an impressive growth in GDP (second only to China in all of Asia), it could be decades before wide-spread poverty is alleviated and a stable middle class is established in Pakistan.

    Furthermore, the absence of a deeply embedded democratic system in Pakistan presents perhaps the greatest danger to stability. In this country, upon which the facade of democracy has been thrust by outside forces and the current regime came to power by coup, the army fulfills the role of “referee within the political boxing ring.” However, this referee demonstrates a “strong personal interest in the outcome of many of the fights and a strong tendency to make up the rules as he goes along.” The Pakistani army “also has a long record of either joining in the fight on one side or the other, or clubbing both boxers to the ground and taking the prize himself” (Lieven, 2006:43).

    Pakistan’s army is also unusually large. Thathiah Ravi (2006:119, 121) observes that the army has “outgrown its watchdog role to become the master of this nation state.” Ravi attributes America’s less than dependable alliance with Pakistan to the nature of its army. “Occasionally, it perceives the Pakistan Army as an inescapable ally and at other times as a threat to regional peace and [a] non-proliferation regime.” According to Ravi, India and Afghanistan blame the conflict in Kashmir and the Durand line on the Pakistan Army, accusing it of “inciting, abetting and encouraging terrorism from its soil.” Ravi also blames the “flagrant violations in nuclear proliferation by Pakistan, both as an originator and as a conduit for China and North Korea” on the Pakistan Army, because of its support for terrorists.

    The point to be made is that the stability of Pakistan depends upon maintaining the delicate balance of power both within the state of Pakistan, and in the broader region. Pakistan is not an island, it has alliances and enemies. Moving American troops into Pakistan will no doubt not only serve to radicalize its population and fuel the popular call for Jihad, it could also spark a proxy war with China that could have long-lasting economic repercussions. Focusing on the more immediate impact American troops would have on the Pakistani population; let’s consider a few past encounters:

    On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid.

    On October 30, 2006, the Pakistani military, under pressure from the US, attacked a madrassah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan. Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced that the US military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted “Death to America!” Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam.

    On November 7, 2006, a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, adding that terrorism will be eliminated “with an iron hand.” The point to be driven home is that the attack on the madrassah was kept as quiet as possible, while the suicide bombing was publicized as a tragedy, and one more reason to maintain the war on terror.

    Last year trouble escalated when the Pakistani government laid siege to the Red Mosque and more than 100 people were killed. “Even before his soldiers had overrun the Lal Masjid ... the retaliations began.” Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center. Guerrilla attacks that demonstrated a shocking degree of organization and speed-not to mention strategic cunning revealed that they were orchestrated by none other than al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri; a fact confirmed by Pakistani and Taliban officials. One such attack occurred on July 15, 2007, when a suicide bomber killed 24 Pakistani troops and injured some 30 others in the village of Daznaray (20 miles to the north of Miran Shah, in North Waziristan). Musharraf ordered thousands of troops into the region to attempt to restore order. But radical groups swore to retaliate against the government for its siege of the mosque and its cooperation with the United States.

    A July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concludes that “al Qaeda is resurgent in Pakistan- and more centrally organized than it has been at any time since 9/11.” The NIE reports that al-Qaeda now enjoys sanctuary in Bajaur and North Waziristan, from which they operate “a complex command, control, training and recruitment base” with an “intact hierarchy of top leadership and operational lieutenants.”

    In September 2006 Musharraf signed a peace deal with Pashtun tribal elders in North Waziristan. The deal gave pro-Taliban militants full control of security in the area. Al Qaeda provides funding, training and ideological inspiration, while Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Tribal leaders supply the manpower. These forces are so strong that last year Musharraf sent well over 100,000 trained Pakistani soldiers against them, but they were not able to prevail against them.

    The question remains, what does America do when Pakistan no longer has a Musharraf to bridge the gap? While Musharraf claims that President Bush has assured him of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Senator Obama obviously has no intention of honoring such an assurance. As it is, the Pakistanis do just enough to avoid jeopardizing U.S. support. Musharraf, who is caught between Pakistan’s dependence on American aid and loyalty to the Pakistani people, denies being George Bush’s hand-puppet. Musharraf insists that he is “200 percent certain” that the United States will not unilaterally decide to attack terrorists on Pakistani soil. What happens when we begin to do just that?

    In 2002 Musharraf was reported to have told a British official that his “great concern is that one day the United States is going to desert me. They always desert their friends.” Musharraf has more reason now to skeptical of his American allies than ever.