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Monday, July 14, 2008

Barack Obama: My Plan for Iraq

It is refreshing and exhilarating that the Democratic Party presumptive nominee is Barack Obama. I predicted in the summer of 2007, the presidential Democratic Party nominee would have to be someone other than someone who had voted to get us into this war. I supported Obama right away. By the narrowness of margins my prediction held out. We can thank the voters of Iowa for grilling Hillary on this point. Given Clinton power in the Party, but for that unrepentant vote, she would no doubt be the Party’s nominee. Like John Edwards she could have said her vote was under duress, but in retrospect she would not have voted the authorization. Facing the possibility of being labeled being unpatriotic, Democratic presidential hopefuls were coerced into voting for that authorization on heels of the 9-11 attack. But having been packaged as the next Commander-in-Chief, the war in Iraq, with corrections, became her mission. As good a nominee as Hillary would have been, she was tied to the war in Iraq and a politics of the past.

Fortunately for the sake of real change, the confluence of events in the primary season has presented us with the best possible Democratic Party nominee. In every way, Barack Obama represents a break with the past. As Camus said in the Rebel, “The first stage of the rebellion is when the slave says no!” A Barack presidency is the best chance for change in America. He is not rooted in the ruling class or those whose main mission is to protect that class by befuddling America’s working classes with right wing ideology. An Obama presidency will be in itself real change in America and the world. Imagine having a person of color, an African American, as the “leader of the free world.”

For starters, among its “The Coolest Brothers of All Time,” Ebony named Barack Obama to be in that group. Understand we are talking about not only Denzel Washington Samuel L. Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jordan and Billie Dee Williams but Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis, Walt Frazier, Ed Bradley, Adam Clayton, Jr. and the man who changed Black America, Malcolm X! Now if having a president who is among the “coolest brothers” of all time in Ebony is not a change, tell me what is? But it's not just Ebony, Rolling Stone endorsed him early on and just recently put him on its cover for a second time. Among the questions he responded to was "What's on your IPod?"

“When I was in high school, probably my sophomore or junior year, I started getting into jazz. So, I’ve got a lot of Coltrane, a lot of Miles Davis, a lot of Charlie Parker. I’ve got all the artists we’ve talked about [including Springsteen, Grateful Dead, among others], but I’ve got everything from Howlin’ Wolf to Yo Yo Ma to Sheryl Crow to Jay-Z [another of Ebony’s Coolest of all time].” (I doubt that John McCain even knows what an IPod is. Since I am a few months his senior, I feel free to make that comment. It not about age it’s about knowing what’s going on in this world.)

How cool is that Ebony, Rolling Stone and an IPod???!!!

The “coolest” thing he has done is to be in opposition to this war and seek change for more just America. The people are speaking. They want opposition to warmongering for the sake of profits. The war in Iraq was based on lies and it will be up to Barack’s to bring it to an end. 80% of the country says the country is going in the wrong direction. This war and this administration have trampled America’s image. America and the world want a nation with more integrity. Barack’s plan to get us out of Iraq is just the beginning of the change. RGN

July 14, 2008

Op-Ed Contributor

My Plan for Iraq


CHICAGO — The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.

In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda — greatly weakening its effectiveness.

But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

The good news is that Iraq’s leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

Ending the war 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. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.

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.

In this campaign, there are honest differences over Iraq, and we should discuss them with the thoroughness they deserve. Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face. But for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender.

It’s not going to work this time. It’s time to end this war.

Barack Obama, a United States senator from Illinois, is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

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