Obama Web site removes `surge' from Iraq problem

July 15, 2008 7:05:21 PM PDT
Barack Obama's aides have removed criticism of President Bush's increase of troops to Iraq from the campaign Web site, part of an effort to update the Democrat's written war plan to reflect changing conditions.

Debate over the impact of President Bush's troop "surge" has been at the center of exchanges this week between Obama and Republican presidential rival John McCain. Obama opposed the war and the surge from the start, while McCain supported both the invasion and the troop increase.

A year and a half after Bush announced he was sending reinforcements to Iraq, it is widely credited with reducing violence there. With most Americans ready to end the war, McCain is using the surge debate to argue he has better judgment and the troops should stay to win the fight. Obama argues the troop increase has not achieved its other goal of fostering a political reconciliation among Iraqi factions.

After Bush delivered a nationally televised address on Jan. 10, 2007, announcing his plan, Obama argued it could make the situation worse by taking pressure off Iraqis to find a political solution to the fighting.

"I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," the Illinois senator said that night, a month before announcing his presidential bid. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Obama continued to argue throughout 2007 that the troop increase was a mistake. By the early part of this year, he was acknowledging that it had improved security and reduced violence, but he has stuck by his opposition to the move.

In a speech Tuesday, he argued that since the surge began, the strain on the military has increased, the United States has spent another $200 billion in Iraq, Afghanistan has deteriorated, the Taliban and al-Qaida have rebuilt and Iraqis have not made political progress. "That's why I strongly stand by my plan to end this war," Obama said.

McCain said Obama is failing to acknowledge success. "Today, we know Sen. Obama was wrong" to oppose the surge, McCain said.

As first reported Tuesday by the New York Daily News, Obama's campaign removed a reference to the surge as part of "The Problem" section on the part of his Web site devoted to laying out his plan for Iraq.

The change was part of many broader changes that Obama spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said were made to reflect current conditions. She provided the full text of the old site and the updated version, which includes a new section on the recent resurgence of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and another on this year's negotiations over a Status of Forces Agreement that would detail the legal basis for the ongoing presence of U.S. military forces operating in Iraq.

The changes stress that Obama's plan to end the war is responsible and designed to improve national security. They include: ? An updated Obama quote at the top of the page. The previous quote stressed how Obama had the judgment to oppose the "rash war" from the start. This was a popular message among Democratic voters and was meant to draw distinctions with primary rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, who initially supported the war. The new quote focuses on how ending the war will make Americans safer ? a message aimed at general election voters who are more likely to trust McCain on issues of national security, according to polling.

? A description of Obama's plan as "a responsible, phased withdrawal" that will be directed by military commanders and done in consultation with the Iraqis. Previously, the site had a sentence that has since been removed that flatly said, "Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq." Morigi said that his plan hasn't changed, but they wanted to expand the description. "There's not an intent to shift language," she said.

? A new sentence that says Obama "would reserve the right to intervene militarily, with our international partners, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq."

Only one of his plan's subheads remains unchanged, the first one ? "Judgment You Can Trust." That's a message the campaign wants Americans to embrace.


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