A group of military officials who served in Iraq -- some from Iowa -- will campaign in the state next week in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
And Tuesday in Des Moines, Obama will outline ways that he says millions of American families are suffering with such problems as inadequate health coverage partly because of the $250 million-a-day cost of the war.
Together, it’s a one-two punch aimed to knock out notions that the Illinois senator is weak on defense because of his longtime stand against the war and his call to bring troops home.
Obama wants people to see his plan for defense as smarter and stronger, he said Monday in an exclusive Des Moines Register interview.
"Have no illusions, I think that we live in a dangerous world and that there are going to be situations in which it’s absolutely critical for us to be able to deploy our military in a swift and effective way," Obama said. "Our military is our most precious resource . .. we can’t squander that resource on the basis of ideology as opposed to strategy." Obama opposed the war as an Illinois state senator in 2002, before hundreds of thousands of troops were sent to Iraq. At that time he said Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat and predicted the United State’s military action would drag on with dire consequences.
Obama has called the Bush administration’s Iraq policies "tragically misguided." In January, he introduced legislation that, had it been approved, would have removed all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008.
Ankeny resident Nathan Simpson, 26, returned from Iraq in November after serving about a year there as an ammunitions specialist for the Army. He will attend some of the dozen or so campaign stops the group of military officials will make next week to urge Iowans to vote for Obama.
"I think there might be some people who might say it’s unpatriotic to oppose the war but, In my mind, opposing the war is different from opposing the troops and opposing the military," Simpson said. "Opposing the war is the only option for me. I don’t feel we can make any greater difference militarily in the region. We need to pursue a diplomatic solution." Retired Air Force Major Gen. Scott Gration will also campaign in Iowa for Obama. Gration, a St. Charles, Ill., native, traveled with Obama in Africa last year. Obama, whose father is from Kenya, traveled to the continent to highlight its importance to the United States and to the rest of the world.
He said that trip showed him how well Obama interacts with leaders of foreign countries.
"I think it’s so important that you understand that there’s a whole compliment of general officers and flag officers who believe Senator Obama is the best leader to be our next commander in chief," Gration said.