“I’m here today because it’s not too late to come together as Americans. Because we’re not going to be able to deal with the challenges that confront us until we end this war. What we can do is say that we will not be prisoners of uncertainty. That we reject the conventional thinking that led us into Iraq and that didn’t ask hard questions until it was too late. What we can say is that we are ready for something new and something bold and something principled."
Obama will also take aim at the notion that D.C. "experience" is a quality that should be desired in the next President, saying that such "experience' perversely left pundits and politicos in thrall to the conventional wisdom that to oppose the war would leave them "looking weak."
"Conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war," Obama will say. "The pundits judged the political winds to be blowing in the direction of the President. Despite -- or perhaps because of how much experience they had in Washington, too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war. Our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.”
Note Obama's interesting formulation here: That "despite -- or perhaps because of" their Washington experience, pundits and politicos made the wrong choice to support the war. Obama, clearly, is seeking to expand his indictment of the D.C. political and foreign policy establishment, amplifying his argument that for all their Washington experience, many Beltway elite figures were unable to exercise sound judgment and oppose the Iraq folly. Also noteworthy and unusual in a Presidential candidate: Obama's direct targeting of the D.C. punditry.
Obama will also propose that withdrawal from Iraq begin immediately, to be completed by the end of next year, as well as proposing a new constitutional convention in Iraq, to be convened with the United Nations.
More speech excerpts after the jump.
“Conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. The pundits judged the political winds to be blowing in the direction of the President. Despite – or perhaps because of how much experience they had in Washington, too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war. Our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.”
“There is something unreal about the debate that’s taking place in Washington… The bar for success is so low that it is almost buried in the sand. The American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We’ve had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet. We’ve had enough of mounting costs in Iraq and missed opportunities around the world. We’ve had enough of a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged.”
"I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. I introduced a plan in January to remove all of our combat brigades by next March. And I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now.”
“Let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq’s leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year – now. We should enter into talks with the Iraqi government to discuss the process of our drawdown. We must get out strategically and carefully, removing troops from secure areas first, and keeping troops in more volatile areas until later. But our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year.”
“Some argue that we should just replace Prime Minister Maliki. But that wouldn’t solve the problem…The problems in Iraq are bigger than one man. Iraq needs a new Constitutional convention that would include representatives from all levels of Iraqi society – in and out of government. The United Nations should play a central role in convening and participating in this convention, which should not adjourn until a new accord on national reconciliation is reached.”
“The President would have us believe there are two choices: keep all of our troops in Iraq or abandon these Iraqis. I reject this choice... It’s time to form an international working group with the countries in the region, our European and Asian friends, and the United Nations…. We should up our share to at least $2 billion to support this effort; to expand access to social services for refugees in neighboring countries; and to ensure that Iraqis displaced inside their own country can find safe-haven. …. Iraqis must know that those who engage in mass violence will be brought to justice. We should lead in forming a commission at the U.N. to monitor and hold accountable perpetrators of war crimes within Iraq.”