Delivering a speech on Iraq to mark the fifth anniversary of the war, Barack Obama returns to the fundamental issue argument of his campaign:
History will catalog the reasons why we waged a war that didn’t need to be fought, but two stand out. In 2002, when the fateful decisions about Iraq were made, there was a President for whom ideology overrode pragmatism, and there were too many politicians in Washington who spent too little time reading the intelligence reports, and too much time reading public opinion. The lesson of Iraq is that when we are making decisions about matters as grave as war, we need a policy rooted in reason and facts, not ideology and politics.
Now we are debating who should be our next Commander in Chief. And I am running for President because it’s time to turn the page on a failed ideology and a fundamentally flawed political strategy, so that we can make pragmatic judgments to keep our country safe. That’s what I did when I stood up and opposed this war from the start, and said that we needed to finish the fight against al Qaeda. And that’s what I’ll do as President of the United States.
On the question of “too little time reading the intelligence reports, and too much time reading public opinion” I often wonder what public opinion might have looked like had the war met with more vigorous opposition. Certainly to me the fact that Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, etc. were supporting the war was an important consideration. If Bush was lying about the intelligence, I figured that those people, who had access to classified data, would be exposing the lies not going along with them. Obviously that doesn’t look like very smart reasoning in retrospect, but I can’t have been the only one who was swayed, in part, by the very fact of bipartisan support for the war. If Democratic leaders had opposed it, I imagine the war would have been much less popular.