With the possibility that Barack Obama could win the Democratic presidential nomination I have been curious about his anti-war positions. Unlike Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and John Kerry, he was not in the U.S. Senate at the time and did not vote on any of the Iraq war resolutions.
The primary evidence that many cite for his anti-war stands is a speech given in October, 2002 at an anti-war rally at the Federal Plaza in Chicago. Obama was at that time a state senator. For those of you who have never read the speech there are copies at The Network Journal and About.Com
The speech itself was strong and had both anti-war and hawkish overtones.
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 fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil.
I don’t oppose all wars. After September 11, 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. 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 [former Pentagon policy adviser] Richard Perle and [Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, 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 [chief Bush political adviser] Karl Rove 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.
In a somewhat anti-Obama 2004 articleby Eric Ruder in CounterPunch quotes how Obama said there was not "much difference" between his position on Iraq and that of George Bush the day before his convention speech.
The day before his speech, Obama told reporters, "On Iraq, on paper, there's not as much difference, I think, between the Bush administration and a Kerry administration as there would have been a year ago." He added, "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who's in a position to execute."
The speech itself took Bush to task for lying about the reasons for war and for invading and occupying "without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world." In other words, Obama, the great liberal hope, thinks that Bush should have sent more troops--and that the Democrats are more capable of seeing the war on Iraq through to victory.
Clinton, Edwards, and Kerry voted for the Iraq war when Bush misled Congress. While Obama's statement about the Bush administration lying about the justification for the war would appear to generally be in line with theirs the "without enough troops" aspect would seem much more conservative.
Ruder wrote about how Obama "echoed conservative themes attacking big government--but with a seductive liberal wrapper".
"[People] don't expect government to solve all their problems," Obama said. "They know they have to work hard to get ahead, and they want to. Go into the [suburban] collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn."
We can all probably agree that Obama's carefully articulated words attract liberal and conservatives and he is making a fast rise to possibly become the candidate of the progressive netroots. What I find harder is to figure out in my mind if Obama is a liberal, moderate, or conservative.