I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil.
I don’t oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil.
I don’t oppose all wars. After September 11, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.
I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by [former Pentagon policy adviser] Richard Perle and [Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like [chief Bush political adviser] Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. … The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors … and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will 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.
I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that … we vigorously enforce a nonproliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.
Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. He delivered the above remarks at an antiwar rally on Oct. 26, 2002, in Chicago. TNJ previously ran this article in September 2004.
By Barack Obama