Part I: Obama Versus McCain on National Security, Obama’s Position

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After 9/11, our calling was to write a new chapter in the American story. To devise new strategies and build new alliances, to secure our homeland and safeguard our values, and to serve a just cause abroad. We were ready. Americans were united. Friends around the world stood shoulder to shoulder with us. We had the might and moral-suasion that was the legacy of generations of Americans. The tide of history seemed poised to turn, once again, toward hope.

But then everything changed.

We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists’ base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland.

You make it sound like that is easy Senator? One question? Have you ever served in the military? Do you know anything about military strategy? Are you an expert on surveillance and military technique?

Instead, we got a color-coded politics of fear. Patriotism as the possession of one political party. The diplomacy of refusing to talk to other countries. A rigid 20th century ideology that insisted that the 21st century’s stateless terrorism could be defeated through the invasion and occupation of a state. A deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

If you recall, that was not at all clear at the time. Iraq appeared to be a major supporter of terror, had attempted to invade Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabian borders. They continually resisted UN demands for inspections and scoffed at UN attempts at diplomacy.

And so, a little more than a year after that bright September day, I was in the streets of Chicago again, this time speaking at a rally in opposition to war in Iraq. I did not oppose all wars, I said. I was a strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan. But I said I could not support “a dumb war, a rash war” in Iraq. I worried about a ” U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences” in the heart of the Muslim world. I pleaded that we “finish the fight with bin Ladin and al Qaeda.”

We would like to see a transcript of your stand at the time. You seem very clear on your position in hindsight, but what we see here is that a single vote of yours against the war is your hallmark to fame. To us one correct vote in Congress does not make a President.

The political winds were blowing in a different direction. The President was determined to go to war. There was just one obstacle: the U.S. Congress. Nine days after I spoke, that obstacle was removed. Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the President the broad and open-ended authority he uses to this day. With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war. And we went off to fight on the wrong battlefield, with no appreciation of how many enemies we would create, and no plan for how to get out.

So, now you criticize all government and hold yourself above our form of government? We should just give Obama the vote and be damned with any other elected officials or the Constitution.

Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11.

Again, then why have there been no terrorist attacks on US Soil since 9/11. Seems pretty safe to us.

According to the National Intelligence Estimate, the threat to our homeland from al Qaeda is “persistent and evolving.” Iraq is a training ground for terror, torn apart by civil war. Afghanistan is more violent than it has been since 2001. Al Qaeda has a sanctuary in Pakistan. Israel is besieged by emboldened enemies, talking openly of its destruction. Iran is now presenting the broadest strategic challenge to the United States in the Middle East in a generation. Groups affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda operate worldwide. Six years after 9/11, we are again in the midst of a “summer of threat,” with bin Ladin and many more terrorists determined to strike in the United States.

But that has nothing to do with Iraq. You are jumping around a bit too much to let us get the gist of what you would do about it. Iran was a threat in 2001 and cheered the attacks against America. Al Qaeda has been in Pakistan for years. Israel has been besieged by enemies since its inception. Summer of threat? Senator, it has run for decades!

What’s more, in the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantanamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power. A tragedy that united us was turned into a political wedge issue used to divide us.

Making a connection between Abu Ghraib and the President is just stupid Senator. Guantanamo may or may not be a great tactic on our part, but what would you have done with suspects at the time? Had them stay at your grandmother’s house?

It is time to turn the page. It is time to write a new chapter in our response to 9/11.

Just because the President misrepresents our enemies does not mean we do not have them. The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real. They distort Islam. They kill man, woman and child; Christian and Hindu, Jew and Muslim. They seek to create a repressive caliphate. To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for.

OK, who is that? Did you get their license plate number?

The President would have us believe that every bomb in Baghdad is part of al Qaeda’s war against us, not an Iraqi civil war. He elevates al Qaeda in Iraq – which didn’t exist before our invasion – and overlooks the people who hit us on 9/11, who are training new recruits in Pakistan. He lumps together groups with very different goals: al Qaeda and Iran, Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. He confuses our mission.

Really, how? Al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq prior to our invasion because there was no motivation, and Iraq was ruled by a ruthless and murderous dictator there before we arrived. Are you endorsing Hussein, his attacks on Kuwait and threats against Saudi Arabia? Are you endorsing the genocide he used to strike fear against anyone who dare speak against him? We figure that was a great deterrent against Al Qaeda. Are you suggesting we try it here? What was your middle name again Senator?

And worse – he is fighting the war the terrorists want us to fight. Bin Ladin and his allies know they cannot defeat us on the field of battle or in a genuine battle of ideas. But they can provoke the reaction we’ve seen in Iraq: a misguided invasion of a Muslim country that sparks new insurgencies, ties down our military, busts our budgets, increases the pool of terrorist recruits, alienates America, gives democracy a bad name, and prompts the American people to question our engagement in the world.

Would bailing and leaving Iraq in the throws of civil war improve our name or make us look like cowards? You say we were wrong to leave Afghanistan when we did, but you want to bail on Iraq. How is that different?

By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

Really? The Surge resulted in a vastly improved situation in Iraq with Iraqi’s once again walking the streets. It resulted in the death or capture of a huge number of insurgents and terrorists. Is that what the terrorists really wanted? If I were a terrorist, I don’t think I would have voted for it. But hey, I don’t know terrorists as well as you.

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