Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama speaks on the campus of DePaul University in Chicago. (AP photo)
Five years after he first staked out his opposition to the Iraq war, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois today commemorated his "judgment" by drawing his sharpest distinction yet with his leading Democratic presidential rivals, who were early backers of the invasion.
Obama returned to Chicago to mark the five-year anniversary of his speech to an Oct. 2, 2002 antiwar rally, at which he warned that a war in Iraq would only "fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda." Soon after that speech, Congress -- with the assenting votes of Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina -- authorized President Bush to go to war.
"So there is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand," Obama said in today's speech at DePaul University, according to prepared remarks. "They should ask themselves: Who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong?"
He continued, "This is not just a matter of debating the past. It's about who has the best judgment to make the critical decisions of the future."
Obama offered a thinly veiled critique of his Democratic opponents, especially Clinton, whom he hit for not reading pre-war intelligence that cast doubt on Bush's case for war. "No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as the co-equal branch the Constitution made it," he said. "That is why it is not enough to change parties. It is time to change our politics."
Rival campaigns and the Republican Party both sought to throw water on Obama's speech, pointing reporters to Obama's past votes and statements suggesting a more nuanced record on the war. But Obama has made his early opposition to the invasion a cornerstone of his primary campaign.
Obama yesterday also called for a multi-lateral elimination of nuclear weapons; giving the national intelligence director a fixed term, to put it outside of politics; and a greater commitment to declassifying government documents.
Tomorrow in Portsmouth, N.H., Edwards is set to lay out his plan to end the war in Iraq.