Yesterday’s “Symbolic” Gesture Is Today’s Long-Held Political Stance

Yesterday morning, the White House explained that it hadn’t prioritized legally ending the Iraq War because doing so would be just a symbolic act.

But “the Iraq AUMF is no longer used for any U.S. government activities and we therefore would fully support any move to repeal it,” a senior administration official told Yahoo News Tuesday. “However, we have not prioritized proactively seeking to repeal it, because the effect would be entirely symbolic and we have many more pressing priorities to take up with Congress.” [my emphasis]

Later in they day, Robert Gates’ memoir came out, with the claim that he witnessed a conversation between Hillary and Obama in which the “President conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political.”

Which elicited this defense, from Jay Carney, of Obama’s consistent opposition to the Iraq War.

What I don’t understand about that is, anybody who has covered Barack Obama, going all the way back to his race for the Senate, knows that he was opposed to the Iraq War. That was his view running for the Senate, it was his view as a Senator, it was his view as candidate for the Presidency, so it would be entirely inconsistent for him not to hold the position that he held with regards to the surge.

Carney’s right: Obama has claimed opposition to the Iraq War since 2002.

So why would legally ending it be no more than symbolic?

5 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    Because Obama has supported the Iraq War since 2002. Upon arriving in the Senate, Sen. Obama supported every funding bill for Iraq, some $300 billion, until he started running for President. [2005 Vote # 117, HR1268, 5/10/05; 2005 Vote # 326, S1042, 11/15/05; 2006 Vote # 112, HR4939, 5/4/06; 2006 Vote # 239; 2006 Vote # 186, S2766, 6/22/06; HR5631, 9/7/06]

    Obama also, in the Senate, teamed up with Hillary Clinton to pass a bill expanding the size of US ground forces.

    As president, he tried (unsuccessfully) to avoid the Dec 2011 US military withdrawal mandated by a Bush agreement with Iraq.

  2. TedWa says:

    David Bromwich : Karl Eikenberry: Commander of Combined Forces in Afghanistan before he was made ambassador, Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general, had seniority over both Petraeus and then war commander General Stanley McChrystal when it came to experience in that country and theater of war. He was the author of cables to the State Department in late 2009, which carried a stinging rebuke to the conduct of the war and unconcealed hostility toward any new policy of escalation. The Eikenberry cables were drafted in order to influence the White House review that fall; they advised that the Afghanistan war was in the process of being lost, that it could never be won, and that nothing good would come from an increased commitment of US troops.

    Petraeus, then Centcom commander, and McChrystal were both disturbed by the cables—startled when they arrived unbidden and intimidated by their authority. Obama, astonishingly, chose to ignore them. This may be the single most baffling occasion of the many when fate dealt a winning card to the president and yet he folded. Among other such occasions: the 2008–09 bank bailouts and the opening for financial regulation; the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the opportunity for a revised environmental policy; the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns and a revised policy toward nuclear energy; the Goldstone Report and the chance for an end to the Gaza blockade. But of all these as well as other cases that might be mentioned, the Eikenberry cables offer the clearest instance of persisting in a discredited policy against the weight of impressive evidence.

  3. TedWa says:

    David Bromwich : Robert Gates: A member of the permanent establishment in Washington, Gates raised to the third power the distinction of massive continuity: first as CIA director under George H.W. Bush, second as secretary of defense under George W. Bush, and third as Obama’s secretary of defense. He remained for twenty-eight months and departed against the wishes of the president. Gates sided with General David Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen in 2009 to promote a massive (called “moderate”) escalation of the Afghanistan war

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It’s hard to see how opposition to the war in Iraq, or anywhere else, could be anything but political, even if morally or ethically based. Perhaps what Mr. Obama means by “political” is opportunistic partisanship, another form of politics with which he is familiar, but which he seems to practice more against the nominal left in his own party than against the GOP.

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