Obama’s Selective Memory on His Anti-War Stance

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An old friend writes in on Obama:

I arrived home late last night in somewhat of a glum mood thanks to gray skies, constant drizzle and stress from work to find a Barack Obama fundraising letter in my mailbox. (I’ve given a small donation, so it wasn’t a surprise that they had my address and were trying to
hit me up for more.)

Included with the plea for continued donations was the text of his October 2002 speech against the war in Iraq. Like many fundraising letters, key portions were highlighted, yet I noticed two occasions of ellipses used in one of the paragraphs about Saddam Hussein. What’s Obama trying to hide? I wondered.

Here’s the text from the letter:

“Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butcher his own people to secure his own power…. 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… and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls into the dustbin of history.”

I haven’t tracked this to an authentic primary source, but here’s what Wikisource says is missing:

The first ellipse: “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 second: “that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength”

The first omission, particularly, is a bit striking. The thrust of his speech is still on point. His foresight was still an exercise in good judgment. Thankfully, he was not parroting stronger anti-Saddam talking points about WMDs as many Democrats did, but still… why the
omission?

Why the omission indeed? I’d bet the first the omission is all about one phrase: “developed chemical and biological weapons.” Now, that could be referring to Iraq’s production of WMDs in the late 80’s and early 90’s or the alleged production in recent years that turned out to be false, but either way it looks like Obama bought the administration’s line about Iraq possessing WMD but wanted to avoid war anyway. Does America want a leader that is okay with rogue states possessing weapons of mass destruction? Obama obviously thinks it doesn’t.

The second omission might just be one of economy; keeping the quote short and all that. Perhaps Obama views it as embarrassing that he said the “Iraqi military [is] a fraction of its former strength” when the insurgency continues to rage, but pretty much every American knows the Iraqi military and the insurgency are different things.

Is Obama still the only major candidate who opposed the war from the beginning? Of course. Is he being a bit of a politician here? Again, of course. I’ll forgive him this one. I’d say it’s interesting, but not a major sin.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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