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Fact Checking Obama on the Surge (Updated)

John on July 29, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I’m stealing this from Ed at Hot Air. ABC’s Jake Tapper has called Obama on the carpet over his oft-repeated claim that he always knew the surge would end the violence in Iraq:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, on January 10 2007 predicted (watch HERE) that the surge of troops in Iraq would fail. “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he told MSNBC. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”

Four days later he told CBS’s Face the Nation, that “we cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war. And until we acknowledge that reality — we can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops, I don’t know any expert on the region or any military officer that I’ve spoken to privately that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.”

Asked about these predictions on Sunday’s Meet the Press, Obama told NBC’s Tom Brokaw that “I know that there’s that little snippet that you ran,” referring to the MSNBC clip, “but there were also statements made during the course of this debate in which I said there’s no doubt that additional U.S. troops could temporarily quell the violence. But unless we saw an underlying change in the politics of the country, unless Sunni, Shia, Kurd made different decisions, then we were going to have a civil war and we could not stop a civil war simply with more troops.”

This has become an Obama meme — that during the debate over the surge he acknowledged that more US troops would mean a temporary reduction in violence.

But is it true?

I asked the Obama campaign to provide me with any information of Sen. Obama saying the surge would reduce violence “during the course of this debate” over the surge.

The earliest quote they provided from Obama suggesting the surge might reduce violence came in March 2007, when Obama told Iowa’s WQAD that “I don’t think there’s been any doubt that if we put U.S. troops in that, in the short term, we might see some improvement in certain neighborhoods because the militias are going to fade back into the community. That’s one of the characteristics of what we’ve seen. The problem is that we don’t see any change in the underlying dynamic which is Shia militias infiltrating the government, Sunni insurgents continuing the fight, that’s the essence of the problem and unless we say that we’re going to occupy Iraq indefinitely, we’re gonna continue to see problems. I would disagree the bombings and the deaths that have been occurring over the last several weeks, you hadn’t seen any real significant difference over what we’ve seen in the last year.”

From there, it doesn’t seem he made any comments along those lines until August 2007.

As Ed notes, one statement made to a minor media outlet in Iowa doesn’t cut it, especially when his best case was that violence in “certain neighborhoods” might go down temporarily. His larger point was still that the surge was still a failure and could only be a failure in the future. This statement, the best he has to offer, was hopelessly pessimistic and, as it turns out, wrong.

Obama continues to run his campaign on “judgment” while the biggest issue he has faced in his brief career shows his judgment to lead to be very questionable. His attempt to cover up this failure by sidestepping his own statements and ignoring reality in Iraq is even more troubling.

Update: Ed Morrissey has a follow up to his earlier post. It references a speech Obama made in November 2006. Here’s a sample, click on the link above for video and the full transcript:

There is no reason to believe that more of the same will achieve these objectives in Iraq. And, while some have proposed escalating this war by adding thousands of more troops, there is little reason to believe that this will achieve these results either. It’s not clear that these troop levels are sustainable for a significant period of time, and according to our commanders on the ground, adding American forces will only relieve the Iraqis from doing more on their own.

Bad judgment.

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